Barry Pollack’s “Going Places”The Seal Beach Inn and Gardens
Seal Beach is sandwiched between the busy maritime harbor of Long Beach and thechic seaside towns of Newport and Laguna. Its heyday was perhaps during Prohibition whenit lured the wealthy with its glitzy dance halls and offshore gambling ships, and the PacificElectric Red cars shuttled thousands to the beach every weekend.Today, Seal Beach advertises a lone remaining red car as a local museum and offshoregambling ships have given way to offshore drilling platforms. While driving to Seal Beach, Iexperienced the one great horror of Southern California – the 405 Freeway. But turning off the freeway on Seal Beach Boulevard, I drove down one of the seaside town’s residentialstreets and discovered another glory of its past -
The Seal Beach Inn and Gardens
.Call 1-800-HIDEAWAY and you’ll reach the Seal Beach Inn. It is a perfect phonenumber for a charming bed and breakfast – a hideaway for romance, business, or simplyrelaxation - situated but one block from the beach and two blocks from main street and the pier. The Inn is a 70 year old historic landmark, advertised to be the oldest bed and breakfastcountry inn in Southern California. But when it was purchased in 1977, it was a derelicthotel. Marjorie Bettenhausen Schmaehl, the inn’s new owner, transformed it into theremarkable garden “hideaway” it is today.Eclectic is the best description for the character of this inn. A vintage neon “HOTEL”sign stands incongruously beside a brick entryway. The entry is surrounded by lightposts thatonce graced San Francisco streets before the 1906 earthquake. The central gardens andfountains are reminescent of a Mediterranean villa. Ornate wrought iron railings draped withvines remind one of New Orleans’ French Quarter. There are twenty-three guest rooms with private baths, each elegantly furnished with country estate furniture, many with four poster beds from Southern Plantation homes. Each room bears a floral name - such as Wisteria,Bougainvillea, Gardenia - with surrounding gardens featuring that flower. In the earlyevening the inn’s formal dining room and library are set for an English tea. And eachmorning the inn serves its breakfast specialty of fresh baked quiche and homemade Belgianwaffles.