April 1 or 2, 1910 —
Actors Mary Pickford (Ramona, center), Henry B. Walthall (Alessandro) and Kate Bruce (Mother) in front of Piru's Mountain View Hotel.
As of 2000, the registry at the Piru Hotel still shows that on the first two days of April, Mary Pickford was in town starring in D.W. Griffith's one-reel screen adaptation of Helen Hunt Jackson's classic 1884 romantic novel, "Ramona."
Pickford appeared in no fewer than 50 films in 1910, and this one was billed as the Biograph Co.'s "most elaborate and artistic movie yet." Set in the original location that inspired Jackson, the famous director Griffith used the hotel as well as the chapel, adobe and patio at Rancho Camulos as backdrops for this tale that idealized the Mexican-Spanish lifestyle of the early Californios.
Griffith's "Ramona" is the first film known to have been shot in the Santa Clarita Valley.
The white, Victorian-style Mountain View Hotel in Piru was built in the early 1870s during the time
of town founder David Caleb Cook. Unlike its contemporary — the Acton Hotel (both in date and style) —
this hotel is still standing as of the early 21st Century.
Ventura Free Press, 1899. Click to enlarge.
In the mid-1890s, Mrs. Alice Gay took over the management of the hotel. Business was booming to the point that she expanded it in April 1899 to 12 sleeping rooms. As reported in the Ventura Free Press of
July 28, 1899:
The Piru Hotel has been conducted by Mrs. Alice Gay for about five years in a very acceptable matter. Last April, in order to find accommodations for the steadily increasing business, the hotel was enlarged. Twelve sleeping rooms, bath room and store room were added, besides large dining and lunch rooms. The hotel has been freshly painted and put in order throughout. There are two wide porches, one down stairs and one above. Under Mrs. Gay's efficient management the hotel has become very popular. Guests feel at home and appreciate the politeness and attention shown. The Camulos ranch, famous as the home of Ramona, is only two miles distant and Piru City is the nearest point where hotel accommodations can be secured. Parties who wish to visit the home of Ramona should therefore stop at the Piru Hotel. Rates are very reasonable.