During a stay at The Langham Huntington in Pasadena, California, the outside world almost appears to disappear. For that thank the nigh-pastoral property’s spacious, nine-hectare footprint that feels uncluttered in a way that few hotels a 15-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles manage to do. At other times, the south-facing rooms and the restaurant terraces at this Spanish Mission–Revival landmark evoke the sensation of being in a far-flung village, with a band of morning mist hovering between the distant mountaintops and the imprint of civilization filling the valley below, where spindly palms and cypresses rise as markers of time.
The grande dame, which celebrates its centennial this year, professes a rich history. It first opened in 1907 as Hotel Wentworth, named for its Civil War veteran owner, but after a rainy winter season decimated business, Wentworth shuttered the hotel. Railroad magnate Henry Huntington—shortly after completing his nearby Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens—needed a place for visiting friends and family to stay, so he snapped up the property in 1911. He enlisted local architect Myron Hunt to redesign the structure and opened it as The Huntington in 1914. That name has remained with the property throughout its storied, century-long run since, even enduring changes in ownership and a rebuild. The caliber of guests attest to its pedigree: President-elect Bill Clinton played saxophone at a surprise birthday for his friend, TV producer Harry Thomason here in 1992. Desperate Housewives star Marcia Cross got married in the courtyard in 2006, and James Franco, Angelica Huston, Michael Jackson, Helen Mirren, Liev Schreiber, and Rachel Weisz have all spent the night.
But this monument isn’t resting on its laurels. Old Masters-style portrait paintings still line the halls, high-ceilinged rooms have classic European-style furnishings and mustard-colored walls, the gardens remain precise and radiant. The hotel seems to organically merge into the surrounding residential neighborhood as always, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t keeping up with the times. In 2012 the hotel became animal-friendly, and in March 2013 The Royce restaurant morphed form French fine-dining to hip steak house serving meats cooked on an oak- and hickory-burning grill. The spa just underwent a multimillion-dollar makeover and reopened in June 2014 as a Chuan Spa, with a more Asian aesthetic and treatments that embrace Traditional Chinese Medicine. And to mark its 100th anniversary, the property is offering Proposal of the Century, a US$100,000 package that includes exclusive use of the 100,000-seat Rose Bowl stadium, a custom 2.5-carat diamond ring, and a two-night stay at the 3,200-square-foot Tournament of Roses presidential suite.
For those already hitched (or with slimmer wallets), more timeless pleasures beckon. Joys like renting a bicycle from the fitness center and wheeling past the local architecture: adobe and Federalist- and Arts and Crafts–style mansions; standing on the bridge in the hotel’s Japanese garden while listening to the calming timbre of the small brook underneath; looking out onto the Horseshoe Garden, with its roses and cacti and birds of paradise flowers, while an intimate, heart-warming wedding ceremony takes place under another cloudless, cerulean California sky. —Sanjay Surana