The former Hotel Lyndon may be the most notable Los Gatos landmark lost to history. This magnificent hotel was built by one of our town’s earliest and most prominent citizens John Weldon Lyndon who many consider to be the “Father of Los Gatos.”
With velvet carpets, custom made maple furnishings and a wide front porch, the hotel proudly boasted 60 deluxe bedrooms and “strictly first class accommodations.” It replaced John Lyndon’s Los Gatos Hotel, a handsome New Orleans Colonial-style inn which burned to the ground only eight years after it opened.
Despite having no insurance, Lyndon made a rapid recovery and wasted no time building what many considered to be the finest hotel in the area. When the Hotel Lyndon opened with great fanfare on June 1, 1899, nearly the entire town turned out for a day-long celebration.
The two-story hotel occupied 175 feet of frontage on South Santa Cruz Avenue at the intersection of West Main Street. It was painted white with a distinctive red shingle roof and was conveniently located directly across the street from the train depot. In addition to rooms of various sizes, there were cottages for rent in the spacious gardens behind the hotel. An exclusive gentlemen’s sitting room known as the Indian Room featured genuine Navajo hangings, rugs, baskets and pottery. The hotel also offered a genteel ladies parlor with comfortable easy chairs and a piano. The building was constructed with more than 300,000 feet of Santa Cruz mountain redwood from John’s brother James Lyndon’s Los Gatos lumberyard.
The Hotel Lyndon held an important place in the cultural identity of Los Gatos for over 60 years. Local newspaper accounts of the day suggested that almost anything of significance in town happened at the hotel. It was the site of countless banquets, weddings, dances, recitals, celebrations and meetings, and was “the place to be seen” in Los Gatos. If you stopped for a drink at the bar, you might have encountered author and local resident John Steinbeck, or perhaps Charlie Chaplin on one of his moviemaking visits to the area.
There were two large dining rooms, the more formal of which was described as the finest dining establishment in Los Gatos. In 1963, the Chef’s Special complete dinner, including hors d’oeuvres, soup, salad, and roast chicken with mushroom dressing and gravy cost $2.25. The most expensive item on the menu was a New York Cut Steak at $4.50. A children’s dinner with soup and salad plus a choice of veal cutlet, prawns, or roast chicken followed by ice cream and milk was offered for $1.25. These prices may seem ridiculously low, but they’re just about average in today’s dollars.
Sadly, the hotel had fallen into disrepair by the time these meals were being served. Although some old-timers favored restoration, it was the beginning of the Space Age and most people preferred sleek, modern design. Very little thought was given to historic preservation, so a demolition permit was issued on March 30, 1963. After the hotel was bulldozed, the nondescript Lyndon Plaza office and retail complex took its place. Today, if you enjoy dining on the outdoor patio at either Willow Street Pizza or Main Street Burgers, you’ll be seated in the shade of one of the two palm trees that John Lyndon planted more than 120 years ago to grace the entrance to his namesake hotel.
Content and photos from “Discover LOST Gatos” historical walking tours by Alan Feinberg, Peggy Conaway-Bergtold, and Sandy Decker. Download the free mobile app from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Contact us at [email protected].