Hit the Road: Hotel Temecula has authenticity, colorful history — but no ghosts

Hit the Road: Hotel Temecula has authenticity, colorful history — but no ghosts
Built in 1883, the original Hotel Temecula (then called the Welty Hotel) burned down in 1891. The townspeople pitched in to build a second one on the same foundation. For many years, the hotel was the center of Temecula’s social life. Photo by Jerry Ondash

Let’s set the record straight: The Hotel Temecula is NOT haunted; there are no ghosts.

But what the historic hotel in Old Town Temecula does have is authenticity and a colorful history that offers much more than ghost stories.

“She’s called the Grand Old Lady and it really fits,” says co-owner Richard Beck, referring to the hotel. Book a room and he’ll keep your attention with numerous tales about the hotel, its various owners, the town and lots of fascinating minutiae about the colorful characters that walked through the story of Temecula Valley.

Beck and a sibling purchased the hotel and nearly everything in it from the Parker family in 2014.

“We like to say that the Beck brothers bought the hotel from the Parker sisters,” he adds.

In fact, more money was offered to the Parker family by a developer who wanted to demolish the hotel, but “(the Parkers) finally got what we were trying to do. This was once the social center for the whole town and we just couldn’t let it be destroyed.”

Richard Beck, co-owner of the historic Hotel Temecula, has collected many photos of the hotel and the town of Temecula. He uses them to help illustrate the history of the hotel when he welcomes guests.  Photo by Laurie Brindle

Richard Beck, co-owner of the historic Hotel Temecula, has collected many photos of the hotel and the town of Temecula. He uses them to help illustrate the history of the hotel when he welcomes guests. Photo by Laurie Brindle

 

The original hotel was built in 1883, then burned in 1891. The Welty Hotel, as it was known then, was rebuilt on the same foundation and was the only lodging for miles in what was then San Diego County. (Riverside County was created in 1893 from parts of San Diego and San Bernardino counties because area settlers wanted a closer county seat.)

Toiletries from another century line the shelves in the Ladies Bathroom at the Hotel Temecula.  Photo by Laurie Brindle

Toiletries from another century line the shelves in the Ladies Bathroom at the Hotel Temecula. Photo by Laurie Brindle

Over the next 125 years, the hotel also served as a general store, schoolhouse, town hall, telephone office and post office. Beck and his wife, Chris Greer, are only the fourth owners.

Both recently retired attorneys, the couple raised their five children in the area and felt a connection with the town of Temecula; however, they had no idea that they would pour hearts and souls into the hotel’s restoration or reach so far into its history.

The many photos on the dining room wall tell much of the area’s history.

“(It’s important to) document and share the real stories that bring the hotel and Old Town to life,” says Beck, who has spent countless hours researching in libraries, historical societies, newspapers, old documents and online to put together a narrative about the hotel.  (Note: Beck’s cell phone ring is the Eagles’ “Hotel California.”)

This outhouse, which sits on the back lot of the Hotel Temecula, reminds us that indoor plumbing was unknown in these parts in the early 20th century.  Photo by Laurie Brindle

This outhouse, which sits on the back lot of the Hotel Temecula, reminds us that indoor plumbing was unknown in these parts in the early 20th century. Photo by Laurie Brindle

Beck also discovered that Temecula was the backdrop for about a dozen movies, and Old Town and valley wineries have been featured on “American Idol,” “Desperate Housewives” and the Food Network.

Greer has worked hard to stage the hotel’s furnishings, accessories and artifacts.  Most items are originals — headboards, chairs, lamps, carpet, wallpaper, dishes, knickknacks and doilies. The former kerosene ceiling lights have been converted to electric “without compromising their integrity,” she explains.

Greer continues the hunt for authenticity. On this Saturday morning, she is hoping to score at the quilt show and auction later today.

The Hotel Temecula was built in 1883 by R.J. and Mary Jane Welty to serve railroad workers and passengers.  Mary Jane, 4 feet 11 inches tall, came west to California from Indiana in a covered wagon in 1864.  Courtesy photo

The Hotel Temecula was built in 1883 by R.J. and Mary Jane Welty to serve railroad workers and passengers. Mary Jane, 4 feet 11 inches tall, came west to California from Indiana in a covered wagon in 1864. Courtesy photo

“They are all beautiful, but many quilts nowadays are made with machines,” she explains. “I want to find some that were sewn by hand — you know, where all the women get together and make the quilts (in a sewing circle).”

With the hotel’s central location on Main Street, guests can park their cars and walk to the shops, restaurants and galleries.

Weekends now bring millennials who come for the live music and the farm-to-table cuisine. Beck and Greer are glad to see it, but they are grateful for their “hotel oasis” where they can escape at any time of day.

“It can be crazy out there at night, and you can come in here and everything is peaceful,” Beck says. “And it’s nice to sit out on the porch in the morning with a cup of coffee and watch the town wake up.”

For more information, visit thehoteltemecula.com/.

To see more photos of the Hotel Temecula and the restaurants and shops of Old Town, visit facebook.com/elouise.ondash.

Next: Wineries of Temecula Valley.

E’Louise Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at eondash@coastnewsgroup.com

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