Built in 1897 by former slave Albert Robinson and his wife Margaret, today’s Julian Hotel honors the memory of its original owners with charming hotel rooms and cottages, thoughtful amenities and an ideal location in the midst of Julian, California — one hour and twenty minutes from San Diego.
Update 6/16/2020: Good news! If you are looking for a cool country escape after the long coronavirus lockdown, and you feel comfortable and healthy enough for travel, Julian Hotel is open! I just received this today: “CLEAN + SAFE CERTIFIED. The Inn has earned The California Hotel and Lodging Association Clean + Safe Certification, a safety seal of approval provided to hotels which complete a rigorous checklist of protocols for guests, employees and cleaning procedures.”
I was pining for a taste of fall in Southern California. I have been longing for the kind of autumn I used to have when growing up in Ohio. Unable to get back there this fall, I started thinking about places that could give me that fall flavor without having to get onto a plane. And then Andy and I remembered Julian, California.
Make no mistake; we still stand by the idea that a Saturday in October is only for those who love crowds and are genuinely determined (as we wrote after our first visit). However, a mid-week writing retreat sounded like exactly what we both needed. So, we packed up our laptops and our good intentions to get some serious work done on our thriller script and headed southeast.
We booked two nights at the thoroughly charming Julian (Gold Rush) Hotel. Ideally set in the middle of all the action in Julian, the hotel grants visitors the perfect perch from which to explore the town. How perfect? We were there for two days and never moved the car. And the world-famous Julian apple pie is only a short walk away.
The History of the Julian Hotel
Thought to be the oldest continuously operating hotel in Southern California, the Julian Hotel began on the foundations of the Robinson Restaurant and Bakery, the first successful business of Albert Robinson, born into slavery in Missouri, and his wife Margaret (nee Tull). Margaret’s parents gifted the couple land in Julian – the same land that now houses the Julian (Gold Rush) Hotel. As it went from restaurant to hotel, its influence grew. The hotel became a social hub for everyone from gold rush settlers to visiting senators. If you want to read more about the history of the Julian Hotel, read their website and an excellent piece over at Black Past.
The Common Rooms
From the moment you step into the hotel from the gracious front porch, you feel like you have stepped back into time. No electronic swipes or check-ins here; you meet an actual person (and she was lovely). We got a little bit of history, some advice about things to do and the tips about their delicious two-course breakfast and delightful tea. The front rooms are filled with cozy seats, games, books and historical photos. It’s too bad we weren’t writing historical fiction because this would be the place to do it!
The parlor is dotted with tables boasting parlor or board games. It also offers tempting books and fascinating glimpses into Julian’s past (both the town’s and the hotel’s). We loved listening to songs from yesteryear over breakfast and chatting with other travelers at tea. I didn’t hear anyone giving the 1914 Kayton piano a go, but it is there waiting. As they mention on the website, you are dining at “linen covered tables in the same room once frequented by historic figures such as James Joyce and Lord Curzon.”
Julian Hotel’s Honeymoon House
Andy and I knew that we need a quiet space to work while we were in town. After taking a look at the website, we booked the Honeymoon House. Not only would it give us privacy and provide a relatively quiet place to work, but it had a delightful living room with a work/dining table perfect for our cause.
Pro Tip: Book directly through the Julian Gold Rush Hotel during the week for some terrific, discounted rates.
While set slightly apart from the hotel, the décor carried the theme of days gone by in it. My favorite touch was the fireplace/stove in the living room. While the temperatures were still in the low 70s last week, the evening temperatures were already down in the low 40s at night. As October goes on, you will be very grateful for that fireplace!
Our second favorite thing was the super-speedy Wi-Fi! Seriously, that was something we were not expecting, but it came in very handy.
As I mentioned earlier, when you book your stay, either in the main hotel or in the cottages, you will get a chance to enjoy their two-course breakfast in the parlor and afternoon tea. Breakfast ran from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., and it was delicious! From the homemade granola cereal to the eggs Florentine and waffles, we loved every bite. They will ask if you have any food issues, and you should definitely tell them (they will adjust as they can). I forgot to tell them about my lactose sensitivity, but they bagged up my homemade granola for a snack throughout the day (which we happily enjoyed). Do not miss their date raisin nut bread!! I think we’d make the two-hour-and-forty-minute drive from Los Angeles just for that.
Afternoon tea is also in the parlor. Scones, coffee cake, pastries, pound cake, cookies, fruit and more are waiting for guests every day. Andy made a beeline for the tea, and I sampled the lemonade. Tea runs from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. It can be a social hour, or you can take your drink and nibbles to your room or out onto your deck chairs/porch to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine.
Overall Impressions of the Historic Julian Hotel
While the leaves on the trees had not yet started to turn in Julian, California, it ended up being the escape that Andy and I both needed. We got some solid work done on our script, and we still had time to enjoy the hotel and the sights around town.
Everyone at the Julian Hotel was lovely, from the woman who greeted us at registration to the person who brought us breakfast. Everything felt cozy and welcoming – exactly what you want when visiting a historic town. The location is incredible – everything you want to do is close to the hotel.
The only downside is that when you are stuck on what your heroine should do in a scene, you will look at people heading into the Blue Door Winery with envy. I’m just kidding – you’ll feel an urge to go whether or not you are stuck on a scene (and yes, stay tuned for our article on the Blue Door Winery).
Have you made your plans to visit the Julian Hotel yet?
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Related Article: Things to Do in Julian, California (Other Than Apple Picking)