The completion of the Santa Fe Railroad line in 1887 from Los Angeles to San Bernardino marked the birth of San Dimas as a major citrus farming community. The San Jose Ranch Company, formed by Moses Wicks and four partners, laid out town sites after the company acquired most of the land that would later become San Dimas. Mr. Wicks created a promotional program to induce people to buy town lots and agricultural acreage for fruit production. This gave rise to the need for temporary housing where interested buyers would be able to stay while company officials showed them the area.
Pine logs from Oregon and redwood from Northern California were floated down the coast in large log rafts to the port of San Pedro. From there, the logs were hauled by horse and wagon to a site east of San Dimas Avenue, south of the railroad tracks. A sawmill was built and the lumber for the San Dimas hotel, the original Santa Fe railroad depot, and numerous other buildings was milled.
The construction of the hotel building began in 1885 and was completed in 1887. The building was designed by the prominent San Francisco architects of Joseph and Samuel Newsom noted for designing many of California’s finest buildings of that era. The structure is considered an excellent example of the Eastlake variation of the Queen Anne style, Queen Anne Revival.
Landscaped by Mr. Meserve, a pioneer nurseryman of Pomona, the hotel’s massive Deodar cedar and Hoop pine trees are among the tallest and oldest species in California and date back to the time of construction.
The siding and all woodwork inside of the house are redwood. The 13,200 square foot hotel contained 30 rooms with ceiling heights of 12 feet. Originally lit by kerosene lamps, electricity was introduced in 1902. The building was heated by 14 fireplaces, sharing 7 chimneys. In later years a coal furnace was installed that consumed a ton of coal per week during chilly Southern California winters.
Unfortunately, by the time the hotel was completed, the land boom had collapsed. Only twelve lots were initially sold in downtown San Dimas. Accordingly, the San Dimas Hotel was never used as a hotel. The only occupants were Mr. Wicks and his partners. It never had a paying guest.
In the fall of 1889, James and Sue Walker of Covington, Kentucky, purchased the hotel and a 40-acre ranch west of the town for $25,000. The Walkers moved in, and soon this gracious and hospitable couple became known as Aunt Sue and Uncle Jimmy. Their home became the center of most of the little town’s activities. The town’s first private school held classes in the basement, the first church services in the living room, and the early clubs met there in the only building big enough to hold the people. From 1889 to 1978, Walker family descendants lived in this Victorian home once destined to be a hotel.