from Abandoned to Cherished
The Story of The Darling
about the Darling
The Darling Hotel began with a Visalia family’s dream to restore a beautiful, but timeworn building in the heart of California’s Central Valley. Initially built as an annex to the Tulare County Courthouse, this property has a rich history connected to Visalia’s past. The building occupied a part of the bustling block known then as Courthouse Square. This one city block attracted hundreds of people from throughout the county for work and entertainment. Unfortunately, due to wear, tear and ADA regulations, the building was abandoned decades ago.
When the Ainley family heard the county was putting the building up for sale in 2018, they knew they could turn it into a work of art that could revitalize the character that once defined Visalia’s downtown. “It’s hard to see this amazing building just sitting there abandoned and not being used,” lead developer of the project, Matt Ainley said. “I’m thankful we have the expertise and community support to be able to step in and take a chance to refresh and restore places like this in downtown Visalia.”
We are committed to helping Visalia not just be a place you drive through, but a place that stands on its own.
Slowly but surely, the dream of owning the abandoned courthouse became a reality. The team began to chip away at all the dust, dirt and rubble to reveal the true masterpiece that was hidden beneath: The Darling Hotel.
This is the perfect time to bring The Darling Hotel to Visalia because of the opportunity to breathe new life into the building and give the community surrounding the hotel a one-of-a-kind experience right in their own backyard. Everyone working on this project, from the construction workers to the photographers to the engineers, are born and raised in the Valley and believe in the future of this building and Visalia’s downtown. “We are committed to helping Visalia not just be a place you drive through, but a place that stands on its own,” Ainley said.
Why the Darling Hotel?
The Ainley family has always loved this building. Matt Ainley, his wife, and kids have been talking about this building for quite a while. But what really pushed them to think harder (and even dream a little bit bigger) about transforming the courthouse, was Matt’s daughter, Reese. The family often talked about the dream of one day owning the abandoned building and turning it into something Visalia would be proud of. Reese would daydream about how the building would allow her to stay near family. She would say to Matt, “Dad, we have to do something with this building. We can make it look nice, and I’ll even live on the top floor.” Cue the tears.
Once the building was put up for sale, Matt and his family tried to figure out a name for the project. It was then that Matt’s wife, Janelle, came up with the name, The Darling, and it just stuck, for more reasons than just a clever name. “We loved ‘The Darling’ because it is a play on Reese’s middle name, Darlene, who is named after our late birth mom,” Matt Ainley said. “So the ‘Darling’ name is like a family name. But it also stuck because we felt the name was appropriate to the time period when the building originated. We hope to create ‘The Darling of Downtown.’”
In order to submit a bid on the hotel, Matt and his brothers, Bob and Ben Ainley, quickly worked on a proposal to the County, while also enlisting the help of a few other local families. With the addition of the Mouw family, Robertson family, and Largoza family, the Courthouse Square Ventures was born. Since purchasing the property our families have been hard at work preparing the Darling to once again become a vibrant part of this community. The Darling Hotel is quickly becoming a special place that we cannot wait to share with you. Our hope is that The Darling can be a small part of your story as well.