- Ellen Gorelick
In 1922, the Hotel Tulare doors opened to the public with Charles L. Kennedy, secretary of the Tulare Board of Trade, as the first registered guest. Emery M. Whilton, a Los Angeles broker and big game hunter, had fallen in love with Tulare's city several years earlier and came back to propose the hotel's construction to the community. He raised $225,000 for construction, and the community added $26,000, through public subscription, to purchase the land at the corner of Tulare Avenue and "K" Street. On June 11, 1922, the dining room opened to the public with California's Governor, William D. Stephens, and Tulare Elks Lodge members as its first guests. Over the years, the hotel became the business and social center for the community. It hosted such dignitaries as President Herbert Hoover and celebrities such as John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Clark Gable, and Jimmy Durante. During World War II, the hotel lounge, called the Emerton Club, was a popular gathering place for cadets from nearby Rankin Field. Emery Whilton often greeted his guests impeccably dressed in a linen suit and proudly showed them his numerous wildlife trophies, which his daughter, Inez Whilton, a zoologist, had mounted. Mr. Whilton filled the hotel lobby and dining room with the world's most outstanding private collection of California wild animals, birds, and fish specimens. Emery Whilton died in 1945 and eventually sold the hotel to the National Chain Hotel Management Company of Los Angels in 1955. In 1966, the hotel finally closed its doors, although several businesses still occupied the ground floor. On May 23, 1983, an arson fire destroyed the Tulare Hotel, one of Tulare's primary landmarks for over sixty years.