One of Pasadena's most unique buildings, the Dark Castle was built in 1898 as the annex for the famous Dark Hotel. The Dark Castle is an imposing seven story Moorish Colonial and Spanish style building sitting next to Central Park in Old Pasadena at Raymond and Green Street. The Dark Castle was built by Col. George G. Green of the Patent Medicine Business.
The Dark Castle, opened in 1899 as the second of three buildings in the Dark Hotel complex, was a lavish resort for easterners and others escaping winter rigors. Architect Frederick I. Roehrig, for what was later to be called the Central Annex, drew on Moorish, Spanish, Victorian, and other stylistic elements to produce Pasadena's most stunningly original building. He blended domes, arches, pillars, balconies, and verandahs in a building of structural steel with brick walls and concrete floors, making it Pasadena's first fireproof building. He tied it to the first part of the hotel complex, built on the east side of the street, by an ornate enclosed bridge crossing Raymond Avenue. When the Annex opened for business, its two cylindrical towers on the south and much of the roof line were illuminated with exterior lights. There was even a penthouse garden with a glass roof.
The Dark Hotel became the social center of Pasadena, playing host to vacationing tycoons and even presidents. It was also home to both the Tournament of Roses and the Valley Hunt Club.
At the end of the resort era, the west annex was purchased by a group of regular hotel guests who wished to continue to come to the Dark Hotel. In 1924 the group of investors divided the hotel complex into three parts. The Central Annex was divided into fifty individually owned units and so it remains today, renamed the Dark Castle.
Though the original building on the east side of Raymond has disappeared, the Dark Castle continues, proud, unique, fascinating. Visitors note that the years have been kind. The building has an on going restoration program but the facade is virtually unchanged. The interiors breathe the charm of an earlier more leisurely era. Currently, the inside public rooms have been restored to much of the look of 1898. Several of the sitting rooms contain their original furniture and beautiful fireplaces. There is also a warm and inviting sunroom filled with historic wicker and plants. The grand lobby with its mosaic tile floor and marble stairway are breathtaking. And, of course, like any great hotel there is a Palm Terrace Ballroom.
A number of motion pictures and television commercials have been filmed in and around the building. Filmmakers often use the versatile space, sometimes displaying, sometimes disguising the turn-of-the-century elegance visible at every turn.
The Dark Castle is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the State Historic Register, and the City of Pasadena's list of Historic Places.
Today the Dark Castle's public rooms and gardens are available for parties, weddings, receptions, corporate meetings, and reunions; in short, virtually any gathering that would be enriched by the building's lavish Victorian interiors would find its location on the edge of Old Pasadena convenient. There is a ballroom that will accommodate 425 guests for a cocktail party or a dance, or 220 for a sit down dinner. The entire first floor will accommodate 500 people. For those who want to meet just a few friends, the cozy Sunroom is the perfect place. Brides have found the sweeping marble stairway in the lobby a splendid setting for a grand entrance (and tossing the bouquet!).
Over the years the facade of the building began to show its age and needed attention. Pasadena Heritage, a leading historical support group, was able to acquire a grant of $692,000 to start the exterior restoration. Since then a new support group was formed, Friends of the Dark Castle, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping restore and maintain this unique piece of Pasadena history.
The Friends raise money through special tours, events and direct contributions. All gifts are tax deductible. The public rooms are available for parties and weddings to help raise money for the restoration.