The Best Hotel Man in America

Building the Future
April 27, 2017
The Stand
June 5, 2017

The Best Hotel Man in America

 

Daniel Moore Linnard was a power player that helped put Pasadena on the map.

BY: Sara Smola

PHOTOS: Courtesy of the Pasadena Museum of History and John Fode

 

In early Pasadena history, the town was known for its resort lifestyle, where visitors traveled from all around to enjoy Pasadena’s desirable weather. One historic hotelier in particular, put Pasadena on the map, acting as a spokesperson for the city while running luxury hotels that attracted presidents and wealthy notables like Henry Huntington.

Daniel Moore Linnard perhaps didn’t intend to own hotels. He grew up on a farm in New Jersey and started his career as a building contractor. It wasn’t until moving to Pasadena and staying at La Casa Grande, a boarding house, that Linnard sweet-talked his way into partnering with the owners. “[Linnard’s] first interest in Pasadena was the La Casa Grande, it was like a great big home and it was on the northwest corner of Euclid and Colorado, just east of that would be where The Maryland Hotel was,” explains Pasadena Museum of History volunteer John Fode. “He got there, he was boarding and talked the husband and wife into some kind of deal and he bought into it, that was about 1902.”

After developing a taste for the hospitality business through his deal with the owners of La Casa Grande, Linnard began to focus his efforts on proving lavish accommodations for high profile clientele and building Pasadena’s reputation. To further his mission, Linnard became president of the Board of Trade (a precursor to the Chamber of Commerce) and joined the Tournament of Roses, where he also served as president. During his presidency, Pasadena experienced heavy rainfall during the winter and many wanted to cancel the Rose Parade but Linnard insisted the show (or in this case, parade) must go on, a tradition that still stands today.

Linnard’s gift of gab and his reputation enabled him to run (then later own) several properties—including properties in Pasadena as well as “exotic locations” like Atlantic City and New York—but despite his travels and business conquests, Linnard considered his home base Pasadena where he operated his luxury resort hotels including the Vista del Arroyo, the Huntington, the Green and the Maryland. Soon Linnard was referred to as “the best hotel man in America” by other hoteliers. He was known as a pioneer in many ways and came up with the idea of “throwing away the key” to his hotels, meaning that the once seasonal abodes would remain open year-round.

Linnard’s pampering his of guests enticed them to return year after year, spreading the word to their friends of Pasadena’s lush life. Some of Linnard’s guests were so captivated by Pasadena and its charm that they became full time residents. “Linnard brought a lot of enthusiasm as a promoter. The biggest thing he did was creating great resort hotels, or being involved in them if he didn’t build them. The people who would come to Pasadena stayed at his hotels just because of him and how he treated people. He paid a lot of attention to his clients and at times he’d just go out and meet his clients so he would know them, same with his son-in-law, Stephen Wheeler Royce. At one point whenever new guests came in, like on a caravan, he’d be out there meeting all of them—and people liked that touch. He knew how to stroke their egos,” says Fode.

The ego stroking paid off when Linnard got the attention and approval of wealthy railroad magnate Henry Huntington. When Huntington came to one of Linnard’s hotels (the Maryland), he requested a pepper mill to grind up his pepper for his meal. The Maryland staff did not have a pepper mill but tried their best to accommodate with a pepper shaker. When Linnard found out about Huntington’s request, he immediately sent one of his staff to get the nicest pepper mill they could find so that when Huntington came back for another meal, the pepper mill would be on his table. Huntington never forgot that gesture. Later, when Huntington was set to open his eponymous hotel, he asked if Linnard would be able to run it.

Though some were skeptical of Linnard’s ability to juggle running several hotels and had concerns over competition, Linnard’s masterful abilities soon won them over, making Pasadena into a destination for the wealthy. Fode says, “To say he was a good “pitch man” just [doesn’t do him justice] but he was really good at promoting. Pasadena could have still been a nice town and so forth but with the resort hotels catering to the wealthy as they did…Pasadena was really a draw and he just made it possible for people to come here and have nice places to stay.”

 

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