|The Hartsook Inn|
I’ve often said that “I’m not really a historian, but I do know where most of the bodies are buried”. So, as one might guess, I know quite bit about the fabled Hartsook Inn. The Hartsook Inn was built by Fred Hartsook, (1876-1930) a man who was mostly known as a famous photographer. Fred Hartsook operated about twenty photography studios. He owned what was reputed to be “The largest photography business in the world”. He took the official photographs of most all of the famous people of the day, and all the great movie stars. He made the official Presidential photograph of Woodrow Wilson.
In 1919 Hartsook married Bess Hesby who was “Miss Liberty in the 1915 San Francisco “Pan-Pacific Exposition“. Fred took his honeymoon at a cabin in the redwoods, at the present location of the Hartsook Inn. I’m not sure how he got there, but it was about the time that Highway 101 was opened through Richardson Grove. According to Nona James, she drove up highway 101 before it was opened to the public. She said that it was in 1917 or 1918.
Fred and Bess Hartsook had three children: Helen, Frederick, and Delyte. Fred Hartsook also had a daughter, Francis, from a previous marriage.
In the early 1920s Fred and Bess purchased 37 acres of pristine redwood forest and built the Hartsook Inn. By 1926 the resort was given it’s own township status, and was granted a United States Post Office. It even had a gas station! That makes it a bona fide town! The town was called “Hartsook” California. In August of 1927 the Hartsook Inn burned to the ground in a large forest fire. Uncontrolled forest fires were very common back then. They had no real way to fight them. Fortunately the redwoods were not permanently damaged and they grew back better than ever. The Inn was rapidly rebuilt and reopened. Fred had a good rapport with the Hollywood crowd, having taken most of their photographs. The Hartsook became the Hollywood group’s playground. Many would take extended vacations up here in the redwoods. The more notable among them were Mary Pickford and Bing Crosby.
As a side note, my grandfather Bill Rathjens, who owned a service station in Laytonville, was also a Kohler Light Plant dealer. He provided the Hartsook Inn with their first electricity.
On 30 September 1930, Fred Hartsook died of a heart attack at the age of 53. That often happens to old men that marry beautiful young women. Bess Hartsook outlived her husband by forty-six years and operated the Hartsook Inn until 1938. In 1938 the Hartsook went into receivership, strangely, the place burned down again… ( due to a fire in the kitchen… WINK) The Inn was rebuilt and reopened in 1941, just in time for world war II.
The Lingenfelters, Darrell and Dorothy, took over the management and ownership of the Hartsook Inn. They did quite well with it through the years. A fellow by the name of Chet Willows managed the place with his wife, Julie, who retired to Phillipsville and just recently died. I’m not sure of the ownership of the Inn during that tenure. Maybe the Willows owned it. I remember the Harsook kitchen back in the 60's. They had an executive Chef. (I'm sorry, but I forgot his name) The chef was the typical Chef, he ran things like an orchestra conductor. He was very firm, and he checked every plate that left the kitchen. If it wasn't perfect, there was hell to pay. Everything in the kitchen would stop, on the spot, there would be a lecture as to what went wrong and why it would never happen again. The kitchen had a "pantry chef" that did all the salads, pates, and cold appetizers. There was a souse chef, a pastry chef, and various cooks and helpers, plus a bus staff that cleaned and reset all the tables. They had a dishwashing staff that kept all the plates and silverware cleaned and polished.
The female summer help, mostly high-school and college students from Eureka, lived over the kitchen. It was hot up there, in every way. I remember coming down to the dances next door at French's campground. The girls from Hartsook would come over to dance, but they had a 10:00 PM curfew, so they had to leave early. They had a house mother that lived up there with them and she did periodic nose counts, much needed nose counts, because the girls all imagined themselves to be in love with one of the local "country boys".
While under the propriety of the Lingenfelters, there was no alcohol served at the Hartsook. No way. Absolutly not. Don't even bring your own Bottle! If God had intended for you to get drunk he would have given you alcohol! Alcohol is the root of all evil. I have heard many lectures about alcohol from the Lingenfelters. Back in 1983 I was the president of the Garberville Rotary club. Any thought of alcohol was sternly disaproved of by Darrell, who was also a member of the club. I was a juror on a drunk driving trial with Dorothy. The judge asked her if she had ever taken a drink of alchohol. She firmly stated that she had not! Taken aback, he went on to ask her, "Not even a sip? Do you know what it tastes like?" That is the first and last time that I ever heard a judge get a lecture and give an oppology. He then thanked her and excused her. It was hilarious.
My mother Elsie Branscomb and my aunt Vivian Newland owned an ice cream parlor, soda fountain, and sandwich shop in Garberville. They made premium, high butterfat content ice cream, 14% butterfat. A few people even rave about it today. (me) They made Creme-de-menthe ice-cream for the Harsook Inn. I often chuckle about knowing that mom made it with creame-de-menthe Liquor. 20% ALCOHOL.
The Inn burned down again in 1973. I was a firefighter at that fire. C.D.F Battalion Chief Harry Pritchard was the Incident Commander on the fire. Harry went on to become Humboldt county 2nd District Supervisor. I also might add that Harry and I were relatives. Both from old local families that go back to the 1800’s. I was assigned the north end of the building. AHEM… the part of the building that was saved! Never mind that it was also the only part of the building that was not on fire yet when the firefighters got there. We sent a pumper truck to the river to provide the water to fight the fire. We didn’t save much, but once again it was rapidly rebuilt. What you see today when you drive past the rapidly deteriorating building is the 4th Hartsook Inn to be built on the same basic foundation.
The most recent history of the Hartsook is, that it was bought by Richard Head, who also owned the Phillipsville Trailer Park and the Deerhorn Lodge. Head added a liqour license and bar, he also upgraded the kitchen. He had a very popular local Chef in the kitchen by the name of Kieth Tommson (sp?) Tommson operated the Trees Restaurant in Garberville, until it burned down. Homeless people had moved into the basement. Nobody asked them to leave because they felt sorry for them. It is unknown whether the fire was caused by the homeless, or if somebody burned them out. Sadly, any building the the homeless occupy, unsupervised, burns down. Fact of life #23. I've seen far too much of it.
Richard Head didn't do as well as he hoped that he would, he consequently took out a timber harvest plan to log the redwoods on the property. He cut a few, but the save the redwoods league asked him to stop. He did, and they purchased the Hartsook property. They in turn sold it to the same people that bought Heartwood College at Island Mountain, Bennett and Delphina Dorrance. I've heard numerous rumors that it may become a branch campus of Heartwood.
It's sad the way things go with some of our local history. Maybe the Dorrences will revive some of The Harsook Inn's former glory.
http://www.groupsrv.com/movie/about75181.html Click on link, then scroll down a bit for the story.