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December 11, 2006

Santa Barbara Biltmore Re-Do

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Actually it's in the town of Montecito, adjoining Santa Barbara to the east.

And, technically, it's now a Four Seasons Resort. (The Web page is here, and has a link to more photos than I provide below.)

To me it's the Santa Barbara Biltmore and will remain so even if they put up a Motel 6 sign in front.

Nancy and I drop by the Biltmore nearly every time we're in the Santa Barbara area. Sometimes it's just to see the place, but we've also done lunch and dinner there and once went to a New Year's Eve party the hotel put on.

The hotel was designed in the Spanish style by architect Reginald D. Johnson and opened in 1927. Since then it has been modified, but for the most part, changes have been modest. Perhaps the greatest change to the main building was the conversion of the South Patio to an enclosed dining room, albeit with lots of glass to provide some sense of being outdoors.

The Biltmore was re-done again over the winter of 2006. The patio dining room was altered to make it more outdoorsy and the bar was re-oriented to the lounge area, largely returning that area to its 1927 dimensions. So far as I noticed, other changes were comparatively minor.

Here are two photos I took early in November.


Biltmore Interior - 2.JPG
View across the lobby. Registration desk to the right.

Biltmore Interior - 3.JPG
The latest incarnation of the former patio.

The Biltmore's a lovely place. Now if I only could figure out a way to afford a room for a night...



posted by Donald at December 11, 2006


It is a lovely place. And the people who design, build, craft, and re-fit lovely places deserve a lot more recognition than they get.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 12, 2006 11:46 AM

Agree totally about the building. Unfortunately, shortly after Four Seasons bought it, they painted over a big mural in the ballroom by important minor (or minor-major, or major-minor) early 20th C Spanish painter, Moya del Pino (illustrator of many of the books by Spain's Joyce--Ramon del Valle-Inclán.)

Posted by: Bob on December 12, 2006 12:08 PM

I stayed at the Arizona Biltmore for five days. I could afford to because it was August, and the high every day was 115º, which does tend to limit visitors. (And you know how they say, "But it's dry heat"? Well, August is the "monsoon" season: it doesn't rain much, but it's humid.)

I was driving cross country, with two dogs in the back. The guidebook On the Road Again with Man's Best Friend said rooms cost $100 to $500. I correctly deduced that the $100 rate must be in August and checked in. Travelers with dogs could only stay in the cottages designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, which was fine with me. I visited Wright's Taliesin West while I was there, and enjoyed it. The cottages were nice too.

The main hotel was designed by a student of Wright. It's quite a nice place.

I'm still in Coral Gables, winding up the semester at the University of Miami. Out my window I can see the tower of another Biltmore, a terrific hotel with a wonderful lobby, a terrific courtyard restaurant, a beautiful pool that's said to be the largest in America (and within walking distance is the Venetian Pool), and some wonderful outdoor spaces too. Choose a slow time and you can get a room for just under $200.

Some of the Biltmores were designed by the New York architects Schultze & Weaver. A recent book about them shows quite a few of their hotels.

Posted by: john on December 12, 2006 1:14 PM

Never spent the night there but have had cocktails many times. I'll never forget the first time I was there drinking martinis on the south terrace while watching dolphins frolic off the beach across the street. Recommended for anyone!

It's always reminded me of an expanded version of La Fonda in Santa Fe.

Posted by: Reid Farmer on December 13, 2006 12:47 AM

The Santa Barbara Biltmore was the Marriott Biltmore in the early-mid 80's when my wife and I spent 3 anniversaries in a row there. But the last was the last for good reason.

February was a slow month in Santa Barbara then and Marriott had an annual "rainy season deal" of $90 a night for their usually $250 a night rooms $250 was tremendously expensive in 1985). The first two years that we went ('84 and '85) we enjoyed a very nice weekend in luxury: a beautiful room, the beach, and priveleges at the ultra-exclusive Santa Barbara Health Club across the street.

Going again in February '86, our second night was interrupted at 4:15 am by the fire alarm over the bed. My wife and I jumped out of bed. I called the front desk, who told me not to worry, there was no fire - it was the alarm that was broken, and it had been "fixed" several times in that room recently, he said. Sure enough a maintenance man came to the door in the next 30 seconds, bringing a ladder. My wife, not knowing what to do, had crawled back into bed, and stayed there while the maintenance guy worked on the ladder standing over the corner of the bed. A few minutes later, he said that the Santa Barbara Fire Dept was on it's way - even though there was no fire, SBFD needed to sign off on the repair. So, with the Fire Dept on its way, My wife asked if I would run a bath for her. Going into the bathroom, I turned on the gold-plated tub faucets, only to watch the spigot fly off the wall at the water pressure. The water flew out in a hard straight line to the wall on the opposite side, and - you guessed it- I could not turn the water OFF! I called the front desk again - from the bathroom phone next to the toilet - while I pulled every towel I could find to sop water pouring onto the bathroom floor and bedroom carpet. A (different) maintenance man arrived in about another minute and went to work on the bathroom. My wife was still in the bed with the covers up to her chin.

After the water was off in the bathroom, the maintenance man told us to not use the bathroom till he got back - the water was off. Less than 30 seconds after he left, the SBFD arrived - 3 guys (how many fireman . . .). They used the ladder to inspect the alrm over the bed - while my wife was still in bed under the covers. When they left after about 3 minutes, here comes the maintenance crew to fix the bathroom.

I called the front desk (I also need to use the bathroom!) and asked if ther might be different room we could switch to - I was told no, the rooms were all "booked". 45 minutes after coming to our room, the bathroom was "done". I went back to sleep, but my wife stayed awake, and was furious to find that the bathroom water was back on - except for the tub and shower. Of course then I couldn't sleep either. I called the front desk again, and was told that maintenance could get to the tub with new parts in about 2 hours. We went to a local diner for breakfast.

Returning to the hotel's lobby, I asked if the tub was done. I was told they would need about another hour. I asked for a room change again and was told that it would be at least 3-4 hours before one was available. I then decided to check out, and asked for the manager. He was in a "meeting". I paid the bill and left.

In a reply to my complaint letter to the President of Marriott, Bill Marriott wrote that he was sorry for "less than expected" high levels of service. No offer of anything, not even an apology. He was "sorry" but not wrong.

We started going to the Santa Barbara Sheraton after that.

Posted by: Brent on December 16, 2006 4:43 AM

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