Lancaster's Western Hotel Museum, once known as the Western Hotel, is the oldest structure in downtown Lancaster. The century-old historic structure recently underwent the first of a multi-phase beautification process to restore the treasured facility to its original glory.
Everything on the first level of the hotel, from the floors to the window trim, has been restored, and new additions to the museum's collection, relevant to the hotel and the region, have been incorporated in an exhibit space to highlight the hotel's rich history.
The facility was not always called the Western Hotel. The structure was constructed around 1888 on land owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad, however, when Louis Von Rockabrand, the first known owner of the hotel, took over ownership, it became known as the Antelope Valley Hotel. The hotel changed ownership a few of times in the following years and so did its name. Former names include the aforementioned Antelope Valley Hotel and the Gilwyn Hotel. It became the Western Hotel when George and Myrtie Webber took over ownership in 1885.
Despite the changes in name, the Western Hotel, with its grand history, is one of the most visible links to Lancaster's heritage. Speculators, travelers, muleskinners and British lords are only a few examples of the various groups who used the hotel. In its early days, a stay at the hotel would set travelers back $1 per night.
At the beginning of the 20th century, members of the Los Angeles-Owens River Aqueduct construction crew stayed at the hotel, making it a hub of social activity and commerce in the area. Some of Lancaster's most historic residents spent time in the hotel including Maurice James Reynolds and his wife Jane Porter Reynolds, the namesake of the Lancaster's Jane Reynolds Park.
After the passing of George Webber, his wife, Myrtie Eveline Gibson-Sullivan-Webber, continued to run the hotel until her death in 1978 at the age of 110. Webber Pool at Jane Reynolds Park was named in her honor.
After Myrtie's death, the hotel fell into such disrepair that it was condemned, but was eventually rescued by the then newly-formed Western Hotel Historical Society, and reopened as a museum in 1988. The museum is now listed as a California Historic Landmark.
Presently, the Western Hotel Museum highlights Lancaster's historical past. Visitors can view the front parlor, dining room and a model hotel room on the first floor, as well as the backyard garden. Each room contains artifacts, pictures and signs with information about the hotel's history. The current exhibit features two organs, a piano, original hotel artifacts, a map from the 1920s, a crank telephone, a stove and other items representative of the era. The model room on the first floor holds a bed, chest of drawers and a washstand including a chamber pot.
In addition, there is a miniature scale model of the hotel in the dining room located just off the front parlor. The second floor, while currently closed, will be open to visitors as restoration efforts continue.
The Western Hotel Museum, located at 557 West Lancaster Boulevard and is open to the public on the second and fourth Friday and Saturday of each month from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be open during the upcoming Celebrate America eventBLVD on Saturday, Sept. 14, with tours starting every half hour from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Admission is free, but monetary donations are welcome. Additional information on the Western Hotel Museum is available on the Lancaster Museum of Art & History's website, www.lancastermoah.org.