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History of Our Boutique Hotel in Santa Barbara, CA

Like its characteristic red-tiled rooftops, crystal blue waters and rolling green hills, Santa Barbara’s history is colorful. From the time it became an American town in the mid-19th century, it has gone through numerous transformations, from a Wild West outpost to an upper-class health resort and a hub for silent film production.

The Holiday Inn Express Santa Barbara’s Historic Landmark Site, previously known as the Hotel Virginia, dates back to 1917. After a devastating, cityscape-altering earthquake in 1925, an opportunity to transform the city arose and a plan to rebuild Santa Barbara as what Carlton Winslow called “the most romantic, beautiful and best planned city in Western America” was crafted. It was the beginning of the “City Beautiful” movement, a program established to encourage “architectural thematic consistency” in numerous California cities. Nowhere was this movement more successful than in Santa Barbara, and, arguably, no building was more responsible for its local success than the Hotel Virginia.

The original Hotel Virginia consisted of two unremarkable structures, which were damaged, but still erect following the quake. Combined together and reconstructed in Spanish Colonial Revival style, the hotel became one of the first Santa Barbara buildings to adopt this architectural theme that now defines the city. With its arched openings, ceramic tile, decorative moldings and wrought iron balconies, recessed store fronts, and plaster rosettes, the Hotel Virginia was held up as the quintessence of this new style, guiding architects who designed some of Santa Barbara’s most beautiful structures including the world-famous Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Over subsequent decades, the hotel became a Santa Barbara institution, hosting countless visitors, who flocked here to relax or do business under the sunny, southern California skies. As the past century drew to a close, the legendary, yet aging Hotel Virginia faced demolition. In 1998, a saving grace in the form of an extensive $5 million renovation from Holiday Inn Express, including an earthquake retrofit to ensure the highest safety standards, along with the addition of many modern comforts, revived this treasured landmark hotel in Santa Barbara. A second renovation was completed in January 2005 to preserve the hotel’s historical integrity and maintain the high quality standards that it was founded upon.

As you walk through the arched doorway into the lobby of the Holiday Inn Express Santa Barbara and gaze at our lovely tile fountain, you will see echoes of our rich history. Come stay with us and become a part of a memorable and special place with a illustrious heritage

Read more about our unique Santa Barbara hotel on Wikipedia and view our National Register of Historic Places certification to learn more about our fascinating legacy.