The history of our gracious palace begins in 1899, when it was first built atop the cliffs of Pacific Grove as a true Victorian home with a cupola, dormers and grape arbors. Shortly thereafter it was purchased by Laura and James Parke of Parke Davis Pharmaceuticals as a family home. Laura is remembered as a reigning, regal lady who entertained many dignitaries in this beautiful home, overlooking the rocky coastline of Monterey Bay.
The house was remodeled almost constantly during this time: using the grape arbor as a foundation, its living and dining rooms were extended by six feet. The cupolas and dormers were also removed, the house was stuccoed, and six foot walls enclosing the estate were built. In the process it was converted from a Victorian to Mediterranean style house.
These remodelings were performed by Richard Chivers, with much of the molding, railings and cabinet work made with the water-driven equipment in his shop. Owner James Park, being fond of exotic wood, also employed Mr. Chivers to purchase wood in San Francisco to create Siamese Teak outside gates, a Spanish Cedar staircase, and Honduras Mahogany trim in the parlor and dining rooms.
The house had an Oriental fountain located in its courtyard, protected by a 14 foot high wall. A carriage house directly faced this courtyard; in past years the carriage house held various makes of cars, including a 1937 Packard Dual Cowl Phaeton. The Parkes’ nephew, James Oliver, was the chauffeur and caretaker.
Although the old staff call system no longer operates, its number box and bell still exist on the kitchen wall. Buttons were located in each room and under the dining room carpet—a pushed button caused the kitchen bell to ring. Servants would then check the number to see which room needed service.
In 1942 Mrs. Parke, along with many other Pacific Grove citizens, sighted submarines in the Bay. Mr. Parke was already in poor health, and the frightening experience of sighting the submarines took its toll. The Parke estate was sold to Nancy Ryan while the Parkes moved to the Forest Hill Hotel, living the rest of their lives there.
Norah and Homer Martine—and their son Don—purchased the Parke home in 1972. The great mansion was fully renovated twelve years later by Don Martine, who replaced the worn out plumbing, installed a new heating system with individual room controls and replaced the old knob and tube wiring. However, many authentic fixtures, including turn of the century antiques, push button light switches, claw foot tubs, brass fixtures, marble sinks, etc., were kept. The fine Victorian interior details were restored with great attention, with paint removed from the mahogany and oak trim, inlaid oak and mahogany floor stripped and refinished.
The inn’s ground floor ceilings were originally only 6½ feet high, which was fine at the turn of the century but unsatisfactory by today’s standards. To correct this the cement floor had to be removed and lowered two feet, requiring new foundations be poured for the front of the house. The game room, located in the former shuffle board and patio furniture area, was completed shortly after the inn’s opening in 1984.
After the completion of the building restoration, Don researched authentic Victorian wall coverings and paint colors to complete the luxurious interior design. Each room is entirely different in color, wall covering, fabrics, and furniture design.
After the building’s restoration was complete, Don researched authentic Victorian wall coverings and paint colors to complete the luxurious interior design. Each room has its own color, wall covering, fabrics and furniture design, with carefully selected furnishings that fit the style, size and ambience of that room. Most of the furnishings are museum quality, with a preference for American antiques from 1800 through 1890.
The search for these antiques led to some particularly outstanding bedroom suites: the Malarin Estates incredible Mahogany suite that was exhibited in the 1893 Chicago World’s fair; the magnificent Eastlake suite from the estate of C.K. McClatchley, which includes his bowl and pitcher set; Edith Head’s bedroom suite, including her early commissioned portrait; an 1860 Chippendale Revival four-poster bed with canopy and side curtains, highboy and lowboy; and others.
The goal of this process—design, furnishing, decorating and services—is to recreate the experience a guest would have had if they had been a guest of the Parkes at the turn of the century.