Douglas H. Strong, Book Review Editor
Historic Country Inns of California. By Jim Crain. San Francisco Chronicle Books, 1977. Illustrations. Maps. 205 pages. Softbound $4.95.
Reviewed by Gina Cesena, HOST Program Manager, San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau.
With this book, the author should cash in on the current popularity of both escape travel and nostalgia. Jim Crain, a San Francisco architect, beckons the reader to leave highway speed and neon and “relive the romance of an earlier era,” as he has, by rambling along the backroads of California and discovering its historic stagecoach inns.
Crain shares his delight with his “finds” in a breezy well-written guide for the unhurried tourist or vicarious traveler. He divides California, from Eureka to San Diego, into seven regions. Within the boundaries of the Northcoast, Wine Country, Bay Area, Central Coast, Gold Country, Sierra and Southland, he describes sixty-four transformed or well-preserved hostelries.
As he profiles each region, Crain provides an orientation map which locates the establishments he has selected in that area and the roads leading to them. The gossipy description of each inn and its history, e.g. who honeymooned or was murdered there, is followed by information useful for planning a trip or making a reservation. Crain catalogues phone numbers and addresses, directions, mileage, basic facilities, services, hours, rates (classified inexpensive, moderate or expensive) and what to do or see in the area. The food at each hostelry restaurant is highlighted, and the inns illustrated with photographs taken by Crain or loaned from historical collections.
Country Inns contains a few typographical errors and some of fact as in the statement (p. 197) that the Robinsons came to Julian in 1869 with the Baileys instead of in 1885. It is unlikely that Crain expects his book to be considered a definitive resource by either historians or travel agents. He doesn’t list historical sources, and seems to have accepted whatever was told him by innkeepers and people he met in restaurants. And he omits some landmark inns, including San Diego County’s Warner’s Resort and Carlsbad Twin Inns. Nevertheless, the book belongs in the library or glove compartment of readers and wayfarers who wish to become better acquainted with historic accommodations along California’s less beaten paths.