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The History Behind Litchfield's



Courtesy of Anne T. Kent California Room/Marin County Free Library

 

The sign towers over the other buildings on East Francisco Boulevard, an enduring presence flanking a busy portion of the highway. Did it belong to a now-defunct grocery store? Far from it. Dubbed “California’s Las Vegas,” Litchfield’s Bermuda Palms was the place to be during the ’60s and ’70s. Built in the late 1940s by Irving “Whitey” Litchfield, a millionaire construction mogul, the resort had a luxury swimming pool, color television, nightly dancing and rooms for under $10 a night. In its prime, the on-site ballroom drew top music acts including Duke Ellington, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, Chuck Berry and many more. Litchfield’s also served as lodging for the glitterati — in 1954 Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Wayne and Robert Mitchum stayed there while filming Blood Alley at China Camp. And since Whitey was an amateur boxer, it once even served as a boxing training camp. In the ’70s drugs and prostitution proliferated in the area and the motel’s shimmer began to fade. The neighborhood grew dangerous and Litchfield claimed he lacked support from police. In 1988 he finally shut down the property and kicked out all tenants except those placed by the county welfare department. There was one final jab. On the motel’s marquee he left the message, “I have sinned. Please forgive me. I have created a haven for humans. Don’t judge me too harshly.”

 

 

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