navarro by the sea center

History of Captain Fletcher's Inn and Navarro
Part 5

© by Hillary Adams, 2003

Gilmore Ownership (1923-31)

That same year, on December 27, 1923, all that remained of Capt. Fletcher's once thriving Inn property, described as approximately 1.05 acres, was sold to Maggie Gilmore, E. J. D. Gilmore [her husband] and Jerry Gilmore of Elk, Mendocino County for the same symbolic $10.00 (Deeds Bk. 178, p.63) Jerry is referred to as a “single man” in the deeds, and was apparently either a brother-in-law or son.

In an interview with Hillary Adams, Mrs. Frank (Geneva Linn) Ray, remembered the Gilmores as follows: “The Gilmores bought the inn...Maggie and Jay. They ran it as room and board and rented boats for fishing. People came from everywhere to stay in the rooms upstairs and fish. It was open year round...” ( May 29, 1995)

Perhaps under the Gilmore ownership, the Inn first became known as the “Navarro-by-the-Sea Hotel.” The Gilmores owned the property until 1931. They brought the Inn back to a sound condition and apparently made numerous changes to turn the old building into a “modern” hotel. The first covered front porch was probably added by the Gilmores, as was a wall for the kitchen, and a small toilet under the interior stair.14

To this period also, it would seem, belongs the conversion of several of the upstairs rooms on the east side into one large room for the owners, conveniently located across from a shared bath. The series of five individual and group cottages must have been begun during their ownership, and perhaps continued under the next.

navarro by the sea inn ca.1938
Navarro-by-the-Sea Hotel, ca. 1938.
Robert J. Lee Collection (Johnson/Racine)

Benkelman/Linn Ownership (1931-44)

On March 20, 1931, the Gilmores sold the Inn to Frank B. Benkelman (Mendocino County Official Records, Book 58, pp. 445-446 hereafter Official Records). Frank and his wife, Effie held the property until he died. It was a prosperous period for the Inn. Several local sources say that Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent part of their “honeymoon” at the Inn. It is possible that they spent some time at the Inn, after their marriage on March 29, 1939, since Gable liked remote places and enjoyed salmon fishing. According to Lyn Tornabene in her book, Long Live the King (New York: 1976 p. 279), Gable and Lombard spent many days fishing the Rogue River.

navarro by the sea inn ca.1938
Navarro-by-the-Sea Hotel, ca. 1938, showing bridge over stream.
Robert J. Lee Collection (Johnson/Racine)

The Benkelmans also conveyed a portion of the original property to the state of California for purposes of building a highway on May 16, 1940.(Official Records, Bk. 142, p. 266). After her husband's death, Mrs. Benkelman married a second time to Robert Linn, the father of Geneva Linn (Mrs. Frank Ray).

Sholin Ownership (1944-48)

Effie Benkelman Linn sold to George E. and Mabel L. Sholin of Alameda County, carrying back a mortgage for $6,000 dated August 28, 1944, to be paid in six years (Official Records, Bk. 178, pp. 32-33). The Sholins, referred to as “resort owners,” also took both a real property mortgage and a Mortgage of Chattels from the Bank of America National Trust and Savings Assoc. It is fortunate that they did so, for the Bank required a description of everything in the Inn and cottages, including the linoleum floor coverings. The list gives an excellent idea of how the Inn (now surely called the Navarro-by-the-Sea Hotel) was furnished in the 1930's and 40's.

navarro by the sea inn ca.1947
Navarro-by-the-Sea Hotel, ca. 1947
Robert J. Lee collection (Parker): 05707