Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Padre Hotel

{Bakersfield Gets A Makeover}

One of the highlights of the show was staying at the outrageous, fabulous, over-the-top Padre Hotel: a hip, funky place to nourish your stomach, bruise your liver, and rest your head. And -gasp- it isn't in San Diego, LA, or San Fransisco, and it doesn't cost a small fortune to luxuriate in its bounty. It's in dirty old Bako, just past the petroleum extraction plants and the ragged pistachio orchards, through the soup of ozone-rich tule fog, in the downtownest midst of urban decay. (I'm originally from New Jersey; I love this stuff.)

The hotel has a raucous history, and the highlights go like this: Built in 1928. Featured an infamous bar in which a scantily-clad woman lorded over the patrons from a rafter swing. By the sixties the Padre made the Chelsea Hotel look like a white-collar sobriety retreat center. When the Bakersfield city council tried to shut the place down the owner legally changed his name to *Spartacus,* declared war, and affixed a fake missile to the roof pointed in the direction of city hall. The Padre bar was the only place in the Central Valley where a transvestite prostitute and a god-fearing cattle rancher could down whiskey at the same bar without anyone batting an eyelash. City council declared anything above the second floor structurally unsound in the seventies. The place continued to fall apart. 

Until a few years ago when a San Diego architecture firm took a giant leap of faith and poured eighteen million dollars into the place. And it's awesome.
Think Spanish colonial revival on Ecstasy, with a cowgirl fetish and a fixation on quilted, studded leather. As seen on headboards, in mustard yellow.
And on walls, in sea-foam green.
And on Alice in Wonderland chairs, in shiny cat-woman black.


And the repurposing of farm equipment is most impressive. You really must go if you're ever inland. Even my mother, whose idea of heaven is crisp ironed sheets and afternoon tea service, LOVED it.


  1. But where was Buck Owens in this whole story?

    p.s. Lily - your recommendations duly noted. i googled all. i see very much what you mean! thanks for your enthusiasm (I still say you're a v. sweet girl - your hubby's so lucky) for my humble efforts and i love that you're from new jersey!!!! the new guv is putting it on a diet as we speak!

  2. Wow I will have to go here!! I love the photos and descriptions. Wishing you the best day.. xo!

  3. Oooh..making a note.

    (And, about breaking into my apartment - you would find it a dishearteningly easy task, due to my beloved/hated JALOUSIE WINDOWS. We have a person sized one right next to the front door. It's like - hey, come on in burglars!)

  4. Wow!!!
    I am amazed, Did I ever tell you I am an architect? it takes a huge leap of faith to invest that much money in a condemn structure, It was obviously well wort it ...


  5. I wanna stay there! All the details, and I really love it when they re-use tools, and old bits to make new objects/art. Must of made the trip that much better!

  6. Right. Clearly I need to abandon my job for a bit, and come on over to the US for a road trip, and I definitely need to get you to signpost the hotels I should stay in along the way.


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