Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Record -- Final Act

(Act I, Scenes 1 and 2 and Act II, Scene 1 are presented in yesterday’s blog.)

Intermission Ended

Act II, Scene 2. The Hotel Diamond lobby.

Chuck: A different reservationist was on duty when Steve and I entered the lobby. We were spared having to drop owner Wayne Cook’s name, since she okayed taking photos.

While I was taking photos, Steve learned that he and the reservationist had some friends in common.

Built in 1904, the Diamond was a luxury three-story hotel—“the only strictly first-class house in Chico, and the superior of any north of Sacramento.” It soon became the center of Chico’s fashionable social life, with dinner parties and dances fabulous enough to lure guests from as far away as San Francisco.

A fire in 1916 and a 1921 stint as a feed and seed store with rooms to let above the first floor store reduced its status from “luxury” to “modest” and eventually to the point that in 1986 it was partially demolished and abandoned.

Enter Wayne Cook. In spite of the Hotel being abandoned for over a decade, he could see what the building could become. He started the restoration project in 2001, planning to re-open the Hotel in two years. That goal and a second goal came and went. The extent of the damage combined with Cook’s desire to do the work perfectly kept moving deadlines back until it re-opened in May, 2005.

The inside of the Hotel is full of amazing details. From the carved golden ceilings

and detailed woodwork

to the perfectly placed antique furniture, the lobby has been restored to provide a sense of luxury only found in the past.

The presence of this safe in the lobby conveyed both a connection to the Hotel's history and a sense of security reminiscent of the past.

The hotel itself has 43 rooms on its second, third and fourth floors. The original hotel had three floors.

Besides the fourth floor, Cook has added a small fifth floor with an apartment, which he and his wife use as a second Chico home.

The best view, of course, is from the cupola on top of the fifth floor. This is reached by climbing metal stairs that serpentine up like stairs in a lighthouse. The cupola is only open to the Cooks and their personal guests.

I was happy to add these photographic images to my mental images of the Hotel and its lobby, but I was especially pleased to have met one of those visionary people who can realize their dream of restoring an abandoned Hotel to its original grandeur and in the process infusing the downtown merchants and the populace as a whole with a mindset of valuing their history.

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