Hotel del Coronado: Wikis


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Hotel del Coronado
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
Hotel del Coronado
Hotel del Coronado is located in California
Location: 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, California, 92118
Coordinates: 32°40′51.44″N 117°10′42.3″W / 32.6809556°N 117.178417°W / 32.6809556; -117.178417Coordinates: 32°40′51.44″N 117°10′42.3″W / 32.6809556°N 117.178417°W / 32.6809556; -117.178417
Built/Founded: 1887[2]
Architect: Merritt Reid & James Watson Reid
Architectural style(s): Late Victorian
Governing body: Private
Added to NRHP: October 14, 1971
Designated NHL: May 5, 1977[3]
NRHP Reference#: 71000181 [1]

The Hotel del Coronado (also known as the The Del to local residents) is a beachfront luxury hotel in the city of Coronado, just across the San Diego Bay from San Diego, California. It is one of the few surviving examples of an American architectural genre: the wooden Victorian beach resort. It is one of the oldest and largest all-wooden buildings in California and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.[3]

When it opened in 1888, it was the largest resort hotel in the world and the first to use electrical lighting. It has hosted presidents, royalty, and celebrities throughout the years. The hotel has been featured in numerous movies and books.

The hotel received the Four Diamond rating from the American Automobile Association,[4] and was listed by USA Today as one of the "Top 10 Resorts In The World".[5]



San Diego land boom

In the mid-1880s, the San Diego region was in the midst of one of its first real estate booms. At that time, it was common for a developer to build a grand hotel as a draw for what would otherwise be a barren landscape. The Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, California, the Raymond Hotel in Pasadena, the Del Monte in Monterey, and the Hotel Redondo in Redondo Beach California were similar grand hotels built as development enticements during this era.[6]

Coronado Beach Company

Restored photochrom print of Hotel del Coronado by William Henry Jackson, c. 1900

On December 19, 1885, Elisha S. Babcock, retired railroad executive from Evansville, Indiana; Hampton L. Story, of the Story and Clark Piano Company of Chicago; and Jacob Gruendike, president of the First National Bank of San Diego, bought all of Coronado and North Island for $110,000.

Main building of the Hotel del Coronado

A 24-page prospectus with the title "Coronado Beach. San Diego, California" asserted that "The Coronado Beach Company has been organized with a capital of One Million Dollars …." The officers were Babcock, Story, and Gruendike. Also involved with the company at this early stage were three men from Indiana: railroad baron Josephus Collett of Terre Haute, lumber merchant Heber Ingle of Patoka, and John Inglehart, a miller, who later became famous through the development of Swansdown flour.

The men hired architect James Reid, a native of New Brunswick, Canada, who had practiced in Evansville and Terre Haute. His younger brother Merritt Reid, a partner in Reid Brothers, the Evansville firm, stayed in Indiana, but brother Watson Reid helped supervise the 2,000 laborers.[6]

Babcock's visions for the hotel were grand:

"It would be built around a court…a garden of tropical trees, shrubs and flowers,…. From the south end, the foyer should open to Glorietta Bay with verandas for rest and promenade. On the ocean corner, there should be a pavilion tower, and northward along the ocean, a colonnade, terraced in grass to the beach. The dining wing should project at an angle from the southeast corner of the court and be almost detached, to give full value to the view of the ocean, bay and city."[7]


Lobby of the Hotel del Coronado

Construction of the hotel began in March, 1887 "on a sandspit populated by jack rabbits and coyotes".[8] Among numerous problems to overcome if the hotel were ever to be built, was the absence of lumber and labor in the San Diego area. The lumber problem was solved with contracts for exclusive rights to the West's largest lumber company, Dolbeer and Carson. Planing mills were built on site to finish the raw lumber shipped from the north.[6]

Labor was provided largely by Chinese immigrants from San Francisco and Oakland.[6]

Reid's plans were being revised constantly and added to. To deal with fire hazards, a freshwater pipeline was run under San Diego Bay. Water tanks and gravity flow sprinklers were installed. Reid installed the world's first oil furnace in the new hotel. Electric lighting in a hotel was also a world first. The electric wires were installed inside the gas lines, so if the "new-fangled" electricity didn't work, they could always pipe illuminating gas into the rooms.[6] Thomas Edison inspected the final electrical installation and returned in 1904 to oversee the nation's first illuminated outdoor Christmas tree, which was placed on the hotel's lawn.

The Crown Room was Reid's masterpiece. Its wooden ceiling was installed with pegs and glue. Not a single nail was used.[9]

Grand opening and real estate bust

When the hotel opened for business in February, 1888,[10] 1,440 San Diegans traveled across the bay. News reports of the new grand hotel were wired across the county, but just as the hotel was nearing completion, the Southern California land boom had turned bust. Babcock and Story needed additional funds at a time when many people were deserting San Diego. Babcock turned to sugar magnate John D. Spreckels, who loaned them $100,000 to finish the hotel. By 1890 Spreckels bought out both Babcock and Story. The Spreckels family retained ownership of the hotel until 1948.[6]

The original grounds had many amenities, including an Olympic-sized salt water pool, tennis courts, and a yacht club with architecture resembling the hotel's grand tower. A Japanese tea garden, an ostrich farm, billiards, bowling alleys, hunting expeditions, and deep sea fishing were some of the many features offered to its guests.[6]

Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson

On April 7, 1920 Edward, Prince of Wales, was honored with a grand banquet in the Crown Room. There has been speculation that it was at this event that he first met his future wife Wallis Spencer, later known as Wallis Simpson, who lived in Coronado at the time.[9] However, most historians believe they did not meet at that time,[11] and both Edward and Wallis wrote in their memoirs that they met much later.[12]

View from the Cabrillo National Monument

Hollywood's playground

The popularity of the hotel was established before the 1920s. It already had hosted Presidents Harrison, McKinley, Taft, and Wilson.[13] By the 1920s Hollywood's stars and starlets discovered that "the Del" was the "in place" to stay. Many celebrities made their way south to party during the era of Prohibition and used the Hotel Del as their personal playground. Tom Mix, Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, and Ramon Navarro were a few of the many actors who stayed at the hotel during weekend getaways.[14]

World War II, middle age, and rebirth

During World War II, many West Coast resorts and hotels were taken over by the U.S. government for use as housing and hospitals. The Hotel del Coronado housed many pilots who were being trained at nearby North Island Naval Air Station on a contract basis, but it was never commandeered. Then-general manager Steven Royce convinced the Navy to abstain from taking over the hotel because most of the additional rooms were being used to house the families of officers. He pointed out that "the fathers, mothers and wives were given priority to the rooms because it may be the last time they will see their sons and husbands." Ultimately the Navy agreed, and the hotel never was appropriated.[15]

The hotel was designated as a "wartime casualty station". It began a victory garden program, planting vegetables on all spare grounds around the hotel.[16]

Barney Goodman purchased the hotel from the Spreckels in 1948.[17] From the end of World War II until 1960, the hotel began to age. While still outwardly beautiful, neglect was evident. In 1960, local millionaire John Alessio purchased the hotel and spent $2 million on refurbishment and redecorating.[18] Alessio sold the hotel to M. Larry Lawrence in 1963.

Lawrence's initial plan was to develop the land around the hotel and ultimately, to demolish it.[19] Lawrence later changed his mind. During his tenure, Lawrence invested $150 million to refurbish and expand much of the hotel. He doubled its capacity to 700 rooms. He added the Grande Hall Convention Center and two seven-story Ocean Towers just south of the hotel. The Lawrence family sold the hotel to the Travelers Group in 1996 after the death of Lawrence.[20] The Travelers Group completed a $55 million upgrade of the hotel in 2001, which included a seismic retrofitting.[21]

The Hotel today

View from the surf showing the Beach Village to the left, the Victorian Building in the center, and the California Cabanas and Ocean Towers to the right

While retaining its classic Victorian looks, the hotel continues to upgrade its facilities.

In 2003, Travelers sold the property to current owners CNL Hospitality Properties Inc. and KSL Recreation Corp (CNL/KSL). The current ownership group completed a $10 million upgrade of 381 rooms in June, 2005.

In July 2005, the hotel obtained approval to construct up to 37 limited-term occupancy cottages and villas on the property. They also received approval to add up to 205 additional rooms.[21]

Notable guests

Notable guests have included Thomas Edison, L. Frank Baum, Charlie Chaplin, Vincent Price, Babe Ruth, Veronica Covance, and Reggie White.

The following presidents have stayed at the hotel: Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.[13]

Front of the Hotel del Coronado
Dragon Tree located at the Hotel del Coronado
Old building of the Hotel del Coronado

Another famous "resident" of the hotel is the purported ghost of Kate Morgan. On November 24, 1892, she checked into room 304 (then 3318, now 3327), to meet with her husband who was a doctor and he was going to give her medicine for her stomach cancer, but he never arrived. She was found dead on the steps leading to the beach three days later. The case was declared a suicide. She had shot herself. Ever since then, some guests that have checked into room 3327 have reported flickering lights and floating objects.[22]

Books, film, and music

L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, did much of his writing here, and is said to have based his designs for the Emerald City on the hotel.[23] (However, other sources say the Emerald City was inspired by the "White City" of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.[24][25])

Ambrose Bierce used the hotel as the setting for his short story, An Heiress From Redhorse.

The hotel first was featured in a film during 1927 when it was used as a backdrop for the film The Flying Fleet. Since then, it has been featured in at least twelve other films, including: Some Like It Hot (which starred Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis), The Stunt Man (which starred Peter O'Toole), the 1973 film Wicked, Wicked (which was completely filmed on location there), and the 1990 version of My Blue Heaven (which starred Steve Martin).[26]

It also was the setting for the 1975 novel Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson; however, for the movie version, Somewhere in Time, the story setting and filming were moved to the Grand Hotel (Mackinac Island) on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

The initial story inspiration for the movie and book 1408 came from a collection of real-life news stories about parapsychologist Christopher Chacon's investigation of a notoriously haunted room at the famous Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, California. The book is written by Stephen King.

The hotel was the setting for the video to Dashboard Confessional's single "Stolen".

Further reading

See also


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places, Hotel del Coronado; Coronado, California. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.  
  2. ^ Starr, Kevin (2002). The Dream Endures: California Enters the 1940s. US: Oxford University Press. p. 496. ISBN 0195157974.,M1.  
  3. ^ a b "National Historic Landmarks Program: Hotel del Coronado". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 1977-05-05. Retrieved 2008-06-18.  
  4. ^ "AAA Four Diamond Lodging Winners 2008" (PDF). Automobile Association of America. Retrieved 2008-10-20.  
  5. ^ "Hotel del Coronado Awards and Accolades". Lauren Donoho. Hotel del Coronado. 2008-01-01. Retrieved 2008-10-21.  
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Ormsby, Burke (1966). "The Lady Who Lives By The Sea". The Journal of San Diego History. San Diego Historical Society. Retrieved 2008-10-20.  
  7. ^ "A Grand Lady Turns Ninety-Five". The Journal of San Diego History. San Diego Historical Society. 1983. Retrieved 2008-10-20.  
  8. ^ Caughman, Madge (1987). California Coastal Resource Guide. US: University of California Press. p. 384. ISBN 0520061861.  
  9. ^ a b Historic American Buildings Survey: 5
  10. ^ "Historic American Buildings Survey: Hotel del Coronado query". American Memory Collection. Library of Congress. 1977. Retrieved 2008-10-21.  
  11. ^ Journal of San Diego History, Summer 1992
  12. ^ San Diego Union Tribune, October 13, 2009
  13. ^ a b "Presidential visitors at the Hotel del Coronado" (PDF). Hotel del Coronado. Retrieved 2008-10-20.  
  14. ^ Medved, Harry (2006). Hollywood Escapes. Macmillan. p. 432.,M1. Retrieved 2008-10-20.  
  15. ^ "How The Del avoided US Military takeover during WWII". The Hotel del Coronado. 2008-01-01. Retrieved 2008-10-21.  
  16. ^ "WWII Life in Coronado". The Hotel del Coronado. 2008-01-01. Retrieved 2008-10-21.  
  17. ^ Historic American Buildings Survey: 3
  18. ^ "Hotel del Coronado Records, 1887-1977". San Diego State University. 2005. Retrieved 2008-10-20.  
  19. ^ Williams, Jack (1996-01-10). "M. Larry Lawrence". San Diego Union-Tribune. p. A-1. Retrieved 2008-10-20.  
  20. ^ "Historic Hotel del Coronado acquired by Travelers affiliate". (Business Wire). 1996-09-12. Retrieved 2008-10-20.  
  21. ^ a b Zuniga, Janine (2005-07-25). "Hotel Del Coronado ready for expansion". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2008-10-20.  
  22. ^ Belanger, Jeff (2005). Encyclopedia of Haunted Places: Ghostly Locales from Around the World. US: Career Press. p. 359. ISBN 1564147991.  
  23. ^ Rogers, Katharine M. (2003). L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz. US: Da Capo Press. p. 336. ISBN 0306812975.  
  24. ^ Chicago Tribune, August 30, 2009
  25. ^ Larson, Erik, The Devil in the White City, page 373, Vintage Books, New York, 2003, ISBN # 0-375-72560-1
  26. ^ Gordon, WIlliam A. (1995). Shot On This Site: A Travelers Guide to the Places and Locations Used to Film Famous Movies and TV Shows. US: Citadel Press. p. 274. ISBN 0306812975.  

External links

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