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Hotel Fans Slip Away With Pieces of History

June 12, 1988|PAUL FELDMAN | Times Staff Writer

On the night that the Huntington Sheraton Hotel's venerable main building closed for good in 1985, Joe and Carol Lynch sipped a final cocktail in the lounge, then slipped away with a pair of Irish coffee glasses as memorabilia.

On Saturday, they returned to buy a used shower head and a pair of pillows.

The Tujunga couple were among hundreds of souvenir hunters, serious shoppers and scavengers who showed up for the opening day of a monthlong, floor-to-ceiling sale of the building's furnishings. The earthquake-unfit Pasadena landmark, subject of an unsuccessful 1987 referendum battle by local preservationists, is due to be demolished this fall to make way for a replica 395-room Ritz-Carlton hotel scheduled to open in mid-1990.

Bedspreads, bread baskets, chandeliers, shower rods, even several dozen toilet fixtures, were on display in the courtyard and in two large ballrooms. Prices ranged from a nickel for a Sheraton shoe cleaning mitten to $4,500 for the gold-and-blue rug in the Viennese Ballroom.

More than 100,000 items were available, including 500 pairs of drapes, six miles of carpeting and Lord knows how many Gideon Bibles (at $1 each).

"We can get one for each of the guest rooms in our house," joked Mike Maginot, 31, of Glendale, staring at the stack of Scriptures on display near a pile of pillows.

Also on sale were scores of queen-size ($89) and king-size ($145) beds--although it remained uncertain which ones were once slept in by such celebrated guests as Queen Elizabeth, Richard M. Nixon and The Beatles.

With a limit of 300 shoppers at a time, the eager throngs snaked around the sedate block, where a rather unlikely collection of cars were parked for what was billed on garish yellow signs as a "Demolition Sale."

"The name of the hotel, the prestige, that's why you see the Mercedes-Benz's and the Caddies," declared Earl L. Eiben Jr., who is directing the sale for a Michigan-based salvage firm that has previously liquidated hotels ranging from the LaSalle in Chicago to a Motel "6" in Lansing, Mich.

"We've had hundreds of telephone calls on this," beamed Russ Dazzio, president of R & R Hospitality Group, the firm managing the 110 hotel rooms in adjacent buildings that will remain open during the reconstruction. "I've noticed people coming in from as far away as San Bernardino. . . . And there are a lot of local people here, I just saw Merlin Olsen walk in."

Indeed, actor/football legend Olsen was among the many neighborhood residents returning one last time to pick up a souvenir or three. After browsing with his family for an hour, the casually dressed Olsen, who said he had spent several New Year's Eves at the Huntington, departed with a mirror, a rattan table and a waste basket stuffed with trinkets.

Although the community was once torn about whether to approve the demolition, most shoppers Saturday said they did not mind the imposing six-story, 81-year-old structure being leveled, since it is to be replaced by a first-class hotel. Once owned by railroad magnate Henry Huntington, the hotel, situated on a 23-acre knoll, has long served as Pasadena's social mecca, playing host to untold numbers of society weddings, benefit luncheons and British royalty during the 1984 Olympics.

"My high school prom was held here--for those who live in Pasadena this is like a home away from home. But I'm looking forward to the Ritz-Carlton. Pasadena deserves a five-star hotel," said Valerie Murphy, 40, who was carrying a handful of door knobs, shower massages and china.

"The new building is supposed to be a replica, and that will suffice," said brewer Joe Lynch, who warmly recalled bringing his grandchildren to the Huntington for the annual Easter Egg hunt.

Several sale-goers, though, expressed disappointment that most of the furnishings on display were more evocative of a roadside motel than an elegant Old World hostelry.

"You'd think they'd have antiques, but this is like a 1960s Howard Johnson's," groused Cheryl Saylor, 35, of Redondo Beach.

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