Ryde Hotel

Many of us growing up in Elk Grove ventured out of town and would frequent various spots in the Delta to enjoy tasty dinners with our families or take dates for a bit of river romance and dancing. Two very popular destinations were Al’s Place in Locke, or “Al The Wop” as it was known to us, and the Ryde Hotel for dinners and dancing.

The small town of Ryde (four buildings on the levy) is located on the Sacramento River in the Delta. It is across the river and down from Walnut Grove. In the early years the draw to the town was a restaurant, hotel, and speakeasy that many of the rich and famous would sale their yachts and boats to the pier on the river outside the hotel, climb the stairs on the bank, and enjoy the activities across the road.

To promote the area, several years ago the Ryde Gazette was published, extoling many popular spots in the Delta. Here is their story of the hotel.

Ryde Hotel

Once again the historic old Ryde Hotel has come to life! The sounds of laughter and music dance out along the Sacramento River as guests dine in an atmosphere steeped in history, reminiscent of days past where majestic river boats made their way up and down this waterway transporting freight and passengers from Sacramento to San Francisco.

Whether it be for excellent food and lodging or for tall stories of a downstairs Speakeasy, the reputation of the Ryde Hotel spread and wafted on the Delta breezes for miles either way! Pleasure boats came in by droves; the Delta King and Delta Queen made this port a regular stop. The forty hotel rooms and six private dining rooms were in great demand for overnight guests.

Oldtimers say this was not where the action was! Much more excitement was brewing beneath the hotel where “Speakeasy” was the word.  Entrance was only gained by knowing the ropes or the correct password. Here was a great casino and dance hall with slot machines banging away; the bar doing a land office business. Packaged bottles of whiskey were sold from a “revenuer-proof” room.

Legend goes on to say a tunnel, with an entrance camouflaged by basement showers and bathroom fixtures led some one-hundred and fifty feet underground to a building in the back. Allegedly the bootleg booze was transported through the tunnel for guests in the Speakeasy and private dining rooms.

Two large garage doors located on the ground level at the rear of the building permitted access to the Speakeasy by auto, thus providing camouflage from the “feds.” Local dignitaries and politicians could remain above suspicion and still frequent their favorite nite spot.

The place was raided three times during the 20’s; waitresses and busboys were regularly arrested for carrying bootleg booze upstairs in to the restaurant and hotel rooms. Those arrests carried a 30-day jail sentence.

In 1933 repeal of the Volstead Act ended prohibition and legalized alcohol. The original door with the “peephole” is now located in the hotel lobby.

The original Ryde Hotel was built in 1886 by Paul Giusti and brothers. It was actually located south a few yards past the present structure. The business functioned with sleeping rooms, bar, and small kitchen facilities until its demise in 1918 when it was destroyed by fire.
The second Ryde Hotel was rebuilt in the same location in 1918. It served the community well, operating in the same vein as its predecessor. The hotel was leased from Mr. Miller by the Giannetti family. The business boomed and a third Hotel Ryde was to be constructed. The second hotel continued to operate, but soon fell to the wayside. It functioned as a grocery store for some time and eventually closed its doors to be torn down in the 1930’s.
The present four-story was built and operated by Mrs. S Gianetti in 1926 to replace the smaller version. It was indeed a statement to the era! It touted 50 rooms with European style facilities; 13 bathtubs and convent showers down the hall.
Operating at the height of the prohibition Era, “Hotel Ryde” became notorious and surely enshrouded by a veil of exciting mystery. These days were not long lived. Three early raids on the Speakeasy discouraged business in the the late 20’s and a fourth, in 1930 led to the tunnel being sealed over forever and the bootleg booze went down the drain, both figuratively and factually speaking. While dinners were still served in the main dinning room, the hotel trade dwindled and the elegance faded. The lively riverboats, in time disappeared from the river taking with them much of the color and enchantment. The hotel was reduced to a dwelling place for migrant workers. The casino beneath became a massive storeroom where mounds of junk mingled with pieces of lovely imported furniture, boxes of small demitasse cups and other treasures, all growing moldy and dusty, guarding their well kept secrets from out of the past.
The larger wharf was destroyed in the mid 50’s by a passing barge and a smaller replacement was constructed in 1977 for hotel patrons enjoyment.