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SANTA PAULA : Students Arrive at Reopened Glen Tavern Inn

July 11, 1993|PATRICK McCARTNEY

A vanguard of eight Japanese students arrived at Santa Paula's Glen Tavern Inn Saturday, the first class from Tokyo International College to return to the landmark inn since financial problems forced its closure last year.

Their return to the refurbished inn, which was closed most of this year because of plumbing and electrical problems, marks the reopening of the Tokyo school's Center for Western Studies.

Bought by Tokyo International College for $2.1 million in 1989, the Tudor-style Glen Tavern Inn served as the Tokyo school's American campus until last year, when financial problems forced the school to close the facility. The center had been the dream of Joseph Hoang, who founded the two-year vocational college in Tokyo that now has 13 campuses in Japan and elsewhere.

"Mr. Hoang's intention in opening the center was for students to experience local people in America, not just to be tourists in a big city," said Akiko Ohno, the school's director of education during a recent visit to Santa Paula.

"Their trip here is not for sightseeing, but learning the American experience," Ohno said. "It all started with the intention of creating goodwill by creating a bridge between our two countries."

During the first three years the center was open, about 200 students visited, taking five hours of English classes a day and attending cultural events.

The Japanese school had purchased the hotel where stars from Clark Gable to Rin Tin Tin stayed at the height of the California real estate boom.

But a fallout over finances with a previous manager prompted Tokyo administrators to close the facility, and put the historic building up for sale. Despite offering the building for $1.5 million--$600,000 less than the college paid for it, the Glen Tavern Inn remained unsold.

Efforts to sell the building were further thwarted when plumbing leaks and electrical problems led to enforcement action by the city of Santa Paula, which ordered the center fenced off to protect the public.

School officials finally authorized spending at least $50,000 to correct the problems, and in past weeks, the city allowed the school to reopen the downstairs portion of the 38-room inn.

This time, students attending the center will attend classes at Ventura College, where they will also join a wide range of athletic and social events, said Ohno.

If the new students enjoy the center as much as the former students did, Ohno said the program will be a success.

"Our first students had a great time in Santa Paula," Ohno said. "The people here are friendly and nice. They invited students to their homes to experience real American life."

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