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Western Hotel Museum undergoes phase one of restoration

Historic landmark receives makeover

OW Staff Writer | 9/6/2013, midnight
The city’s Western Hotel Museum (WHM), once known as the Western Hotel, is the oldest structure in downtown Lancaster at ...
Western Hotel Museum in Lancaster.

The city’s Western Hotel Museum (WHM), once known as the Western Hotel, is the oldest structure in downtown Lancaster at more than 100 years old.

This historic structure recently underwent the first of a multi-phase beautification process to restore the treasured facility to its original glory.

Everything on the first level, from the floors to the window trim, has been restored. New additions to the historic collection, relevant to the hotel and the region, have been incorporated into the exhibit space to return the focus to the WHM’s rich history.

The facility was not always called the Western Hotel. Like most historic landmarks, the site started out as an empty lot when it was first purchased by the Southern Pacific Railroad. However, after Louis Von Rockabrand, the first known owner of the hotel, took over ownership, it became known as the Antelope Valley Hotel. As ownership of the hotel changed hands, so did the name. Former names include the aforementioned Antelope Valley Hotel and the Gilwyn Hotel. In 1895, the name changed again to the Western Hotel after George Webber took over ownership.

Despite the changes in name, the Western Hotel has always had a grand history with numerous groups spending some time there. Speculators, travelers, mule skinners and British lords are only a few examples of the various groups who used the hotel. The cost to stay at the Westen Hotel was once $1 per night. In the beginning of the 20th century, members of the Los Angeles-Owens River Aqueduct construction crew stayed at the hotel. Thus it became a hub of social activity and commerce in the area. Some of Lancaster’s most historic residents spent time in the hotel including Maurice James Reynolds and his wife Jane Porter Reynolds. The latter is the namesake of a popular Lancaster park.

After George Webber died, his wife Myrtie Eveline Gibson Sullivan Webber continued to run the hotel until her death. Webber Pool at Jane Reynolds Park was named in her honor. However, after her death in the 1970s, the hotel fell into such disrepair that it was condemned. The hotel was eventually rescued by the then newly-formed Western Hotel Historical Society and other concerned residents. It reopened as a museum in 1988.

The museum is now listed as California Historic Landmark no. 658.

Presently, the Western Hotel Museum highlights Lancaster’s historical past. Visitors can view the front parlor, dining room and a model hotel room on the first floor, as well as the backyard garden. Each room contains artifacts, pictures and signs with information about the hotel’s history. The current exhibit features two organs, a piano, original hotel artifacts, a map from the 1920s, a crank telephone, a stove and other items representative of the era. The model room on the first floor holds a bed, chest of drawers and a washstand, and even includes a chamber pot.

In addition, there is a miniature scale model of the hotel in the dining room located just off the front parlor. The second floor, while currently closed, will be open to visitors as restoration efforts continue.

The Western Hotel Museum, located at 557 West Lancaster Blvd., Lancaster, is open to the public on the second and fourth Friday and Saturday of each month from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be open for tours during the upcoming Celebrate America event on the BLVD on Saturday, Sept. 14, every half hour from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Admission is free; monetary donations are welcome. Additional information on the Western Hotel Museum is available on the Lancaster Museum of Art & History’s website, www.lancastermoah.org.