Irvine is home to one of California’s most unusual hotels. Travelers come from all over the country to spend the night inside the La Quinta Inn at Old Town Irvine, where the guest rooms provide a unique look into Irvine Ranch history.
101 rooms of the La Quinta Inn were once the grain silos of Irvine’s former bean and grain warehouse, making it the most creative re-adaptive use of a building in the historic district. As Anne Davis-Johnson of the Irvine Historical Museum likes to say, “Where lima beans used to sleep, now human beings sleep.”
The bulk processing facility was built in 1949 to make warehousing, cleaning and shipping more efficient. James Irvine had resisted the switch from manual processing because he felt that he would be taking jobs away from ranch workers. But after Irvine’s death in 1947, plans for the new warehouse were given the green light.
The facility was part of a 50 member farmer’s co-op, known as the Irvine Bean and Grain Grower’s Association. All members shared expenses shared expenses and profit, based on the amount of produce they delivered. It cost $300,000 to build and an additional $50,000 for the machinery to clean and move the crops.
The new warehouse could hold up to sixteen million pounds of beans and barley in thirty-two concrete silos. The old method of hand-loading 100 pound sacks for transport could take hours. With bulk storage, a twenty ton truck could be loaded from the silo in five minutes and a railroad car in ten.
When Old Town Irvine preservation efforts began in the mid-1980’s, the old 1949 silos were listed on the National Register of Historic Places. La Quinta Inn, based in San Antonio, Texas, spent millions converting the building into a hotel. All changes had to conform with strict preservation guidelines.
Major design decisions included keeping an agricultural/industrial look to the granary. This involved using metal windows, keeping the original concrete surfaces visible wherever possible, and keeping the original tin at the top floor “Head House.” The silos were converted into hotel rooms and the center bays of the hexagonal silos became an interior corridor serving the rooms. More than 180 panels of concrete were saw cut out of the silo walls to provide openings for doors, window, and passageways.
The original tin shed at the west end was kept intact as a lobby. Today, it is where guests enjoy their breakfast. The lobby has a collection of historic images and an original man-lift on display.
Guests at the La Quinta Inn receive a hotel history guide when they check in, as well as a map of Old Town Irvine sites.
“It is very important to maintain the Old Silos because these are the roots that began Irvine’s growth into the great city it now is.” said Shane Herholtz, La Quinta Inn’s General Manager. “Sometimes we forget where we come from, and the Silos are great reminders in a world of cookie cutter houses.”
Old Town Irvine Walking Tours
The Irvine Historical Society leads walking tours of Old Town Irvine which include an inside view of the La Quinta Inn.
When: Second Sunday of each month 12-1pm
Where: Meet in La Quinta Inn Lobby
How: Sign up on the Irvine Historical Society website