THE DOOMED NORCONIAN

My favorite books these days are the “Images of America” series from Arcadia Publishing. The series includes more than three dozen titles of Inland Empire interest, and the latest is one of the best.
“The Norconian Resort,” by the Norco husband-and-wife team of Kevin Bash and Brigitte Jouxtel, tells the fascinating story of the doomed Norconian Resort Supreme, a gargantuan hotel, lake, spa and golf course that opened in west Riverside County in 1929, just in time for the Great Depression.
It was touted as the largest and most magnificent resort on the West Coast. Hollywood celebrities came to party, including Bob Hope, Joan Crawford, James Cagney, James Stewart, Cary Grant, Mae West, Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo.
A number of movies were shot there, including “Top Speed” and “Love in the Rough,” both in 1930.
Olympic champions trained and performed in the resort’s pools. Touring pros played at the resort’s golf course, as did celebrities such as Bing Crosby, Buster Keaton and Babe Ruth.
But the Norconian’s heyday was a brief one. It never made money, and in a few years it failed.
In World War II it was put to use as a naval hospital, and later it became part of the California Rehabiliation Center, a medium-security correctional facility. Finally, it was abandoned.
But it still stands, with original paintings on the wall, crystal chandeliers, marble floors and magnificent tile work intact. It is boarded up, however, and only rats, raccoons and feral cats wander its grand hallways.
Efforts are under way to save and preserve the Norconian. In fact, author Bash is the chairman of Norco’s “Save the Norconian” task force.
He and Jouxtel, his co-author and wife, will make an appearance and sign copies of their book at 1 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Norco Library, 3954 Old Hamner Road in Norco. Information: (951) 735-5329. Copies of the book will be available at the event.
“The Norconian Resort” (Arcadia Publishing, $19.99) also is available at area bookstores, gift shops and from online booksellers, as well as from the publisher. Visit online at www.arcadiapublishing.com.