Santa Fe Trailways buses stop off at the Lebec Hotel's coffee shop, color postcard, 1940s.
Back of postcard reads: C1059 — Lebec, California — Santa Fe busses [sic] crossing the mountains between Bakersfield and Los Angeles on
U.S. Highway 99, make a rest stop for passengers at this attractive point — Lebec.
Color Card / Kodachrome reproduction by / Mike Roberts Studios / Berkeley 2, California
About the Santa Fe Trailways:
The Southern Pacific Railroad had a lock on the coastal route from Los Angeles to San Francisco;
the Atcheson, Topkeka and Santa Fe was stuck with a route that took passengers through Mojave and Barstow. So in the 1930s, as the modern Highway 99 was replacing the nerve-rattling Ridge Route,
the ATSF saw an opportunity. Over the SP's protests, it convinced the California Railroad Commission to let it run a hybrid rail-and-bus line beginning July 1, 1939.
San Francisco-bound passegers boarded a bus — Santa Fe
Trailways — in Los Angeles and rode to Bakersfield, with stops in Hollywood, North Hollywood, Castaic and Lebec. At Bakersfield they boarded ATSF's fancy new diesel trains, called the Golden Gates. They rode the rails to Oakland
(with stops in Shafter, Wasco, Corcoran, Hanford, Fresno, Merced, Stockton, Richmond and Berkeley). At Oakland they switched back to a bus and
rode across the new Bay Bridge (opened 1936) to San Francisco. Santa Fe's chief competitor for bus service was a Southern Pacific affiliate at the time — Greyhound.
About the postcard publisher: Photographer Mike Roberts opened his studio in 1939 and was the first printer of photochrome postcards
using the new Kodachrome color film. He became a partner in the firm that issued them, Color Card. Mike Roberts
Color Products Inc. produced cards until the mid-1990s; in 1996 he moved his business to San Diego under the name Scenic Art Inc.
About the Lebec Hotel:
Harrison Scott in Californian Historian (Vol. 43 No. 4, Summer 1997) writes:
The last major structure in place during the highway's glory was the Lebec Hotel. Construction began Jan. 15, 1921, and it opened for business four months later, on May 21. The hotel was the brainchild of entrepreneur Thomas O'Brien, a saloon-keeper from Bakersfield. Financing for the opulent hotel was provided by Cliff Durant, an automobile manufacturer.
The Lebec hotel was a "complete gambling joint with a ball-room, rooms and apartments" during its heydays from 1925 to 1934. Clark Gable and his actress wife, Carole Lombard, as well as gangster Benny "Bugsy" Siegal, frequented the Lebec Hote1. A 1926 touring guide describes it: "Hotel Lebec is new and high class, 80 rooms, thoroughly modern single $2-$3, with bath $4, coffee shop open 24 hours."The Lebec Garage nearby was the largest and best equipped on the ridge. Labor was $1.75 an hour, increasing to $2.40 after 6 p.m.
Shortly after the hotel opened, Durant sold his interest to Foster Curry (son of the concessionaire at Yosemite) of San Francisco. Early postcards from this period show the hotel under its brief stint as "Curry's Lebec Lodge," once located along the west side of Lebec Road just north of the Lebec off-ramp.
The hotel fell into disrepair and was officially closed on November 13, 1968, in response to health department charges concerning its substandard water system and dilapidated condition. The hotel went into receivership and was purchased by the Tejon Ranch Company. They torched the hotel and demolished the remains on April 27, 1971, only two weeks after acquiring the property. Two tall Italian Cypress trees mark the former location.