Image above: Modern image of the Hotel, 1980-2006, Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy Library of Congress.
America's Best History Spotlight
On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.
Hotel del Coronado, California
It's majestic and iconic, perched on the rise above the seaside leading to the Pacific Ocean on an island outside San Diego called Coronado itself. It's mission, to beckon travelers to its rooms for one hundred and thirty years. The atmosphere is laid back Southern California charm laced with Victorian airs, if that makes any sense from a stylistic standpoint. Whether you agree with that comparison or not, you're certainly going to agree with the historic charm and hostelry history which the Hotel del Coronado exudes. So if you're in San Diego on a history trip, think Cabrillo National Monument or Balboa Park, to visit the great San Diego zoo, or just wander around the wonders of Southern California nature, take the opportunity to stay at the Hotel del Coronado if your budget allows it, or just walk through its lobby and grounds for an hour. Well worth any verson of that trip. Photo above: Hotel del Coronado, 1971, Historic American Buildings Survey. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Info, What's There Now, History Nearby
Hotel del Coronado
Yes, the Hotel del Coronado is a wooden Victorian beach resort, the second biggest wooden structure in the United States (Tillamook Air Museum in Oregon is the largest), and has been a National Historic Register building since 1977. Constructed in 1888 as the largest hotel in the world, Hotel del Coronado has survived when others of its brethren have not. The Hotel Redondo was another San Diego beach resort built two years later, but it closed in 1925. Today, the Hotel del Coronado is still one of the preeminent beach resorts of its kind.
When the resort opened in February 1888, there were three hundred and eighty-eight rooms. It has grown to seven hundred and fifty-seven today and is run by the Hilton Hotel group as of 2018.
Photo above: Historic photo of the Hotel del Coronado, 1900, William Henry Jackson, Detroit Publishing Company. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Where Is It
Hotel del Coronado is located at 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118. It's located across San Diego Bay from downtown over the Coronado Bridge on Route 75, a fifteen minute drive from the airport, and close to both Cabrillo National Monument and Balboa Park. In summer, there's a free Summer Shuttle Bus that takes you to various points around Coronado Island. The bus may be a better way to be transported there if you're not a guest or having dinner at the hotel. Ask the shuttle how or if that works well for you. Parking at the Hotel can be pricey.
What is There Now
Hotel del Coronado was the first ocean resort on the Pacific Coast in 1888, and today, remains much the same, perched beside a Pacific Ocean beach that will take your breath away. There's twenty-eight acres to explore. The Hotel del Coronado has 757 rooms.
When is the Hotel Open and How Much to Visit/Stay
Hotel del Coronado is open year round. It's expensive to stay there, from $300 up per night. Dogs and cats are welcome here, although there is an extra charge for them that's not cheap as well. There is also a dog beach about one mile away for their beach pleasure. If you can't stay, you can dine there. Seven restaurants plus other bars for your dining pleasure; 1500 Ocean, Sheerwater, Crown Room Brunch, Eno Pizza, Sun Deck, Babcock and Story Bar, Sunset Bar, and more. Variety of prices.
Parking for overnight guests is pricey as well. Between $39 and $49, depending on whether you want to park yourself. Parking for dining guests is cheaper, $5 for self park as long as you spend a minimum amount. Okay, yes, it's historic, but also posh.
Hotel del Coronado
Visiting or staying a night at the Hotel del Coronado means you're likely going to other San Diego and Southern California spots of interest. That'll certainly take you to the San Diego Zoo, perhaps a baseball game at Petco Park, or perhaps to some of the National Parks in the area. For some, they'll wander into Mexico. Remember to have your passport ready for that.
Photos, History, and More Spotlights
With a real estate boom in southern California beginning to spur in the 1880's, five investors purchased the whole of Coronado and North Island for $110,000. Two of those investors, E.S. Babcock and Hampton L. Story began the Coronado Beach Company and started to develop the area; a water company, a ferry company to get visitors from San Diego to the island, a railroad company, and a hotel. Construction on the Hotel del Coronado began in March 1887 with Chinese immigrant laborers imported from San Francisco. Architectural wonders were pursued, including the Crown Room with its wood ceiling crafted together with pegs and glue, but not one nail. An oil fired boiler, first of its kind. Electric lighting in a hotel, another first.
The original grounds had an Olympic sized pool, filled with salt water, tennis courts, an ostrich farm, and a yacht club. Between those amenities and its location south of Hollywood, the Hotel del Coronado attracted guests of all stripes, and has been the site of over a dozen films. The first film located there was the 1927 picture, "The Flying Feat."
Photo Above: Lithograph sketch of Coronado Island, 1888, E.S. Moore, Crocker and Company, Historic American Buildings Survey. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Aerial picture of the resort, 2016. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
Famous Visitors to Hotel del Coronado
Presidents, princes, Hollywood stars and starlets, and other famous folk have been guests at the Hotel del Coronado throughout its history. Four Presidents in the early days visited the hotel; Harrison, McKinley, Taft, and Wilson. Thomas Edison had a stay. In 1920, Edward, the Prince of Wales visited. During prohibition, it hosted Hollywood notables from Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, to Mae West.
Entertainers continued their legacy with the hotel, stepping into ownership in 1948 when Bennie Goodman, the Big Band leader, purchased the hotel and owned it for a dozen years. In the 1960's, there were plans to demolish the hotel and redevelop the area, but the owners at that time were convinced otherwise, eventually doubling its size and refurbishing the property. That proved positive as the trove of guests with famous pedigree continued to ply the halls; Oprah Winfrey, Kevin Costner, Madonna among them, plus more and more Presidents, a total of sixteen to date. The last President to visit, Barack Obama.
Photo above: Coronado beach and hotel, 1928, Keystone View Company. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Current view of the Hotel del Coronado pool and beach. Courtesy Hotel del Coronado.
Who was Coronado and is the Hotel Named After Him?
Francisco Vazquez de Coronado was the Spanish explorer who in 1540-1542 headed an expedition into New Mexico and the Great Plains states looking for one of the Seven Lost Cities of Gold named Cibola. He became the first European to site the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. The expedition crossed the boundaries of what today are eight states; Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas. California was not one of them.
Coronado had emigrated to the New World from Spain in 1535, headquartered in New Galicia as its Governor within four years. New Galicia (Nuevo Galicia) would the today's Mexican states of Jalisco, Sinaloa, and Nayarit. His expedition began in the city of Compostela on February 23, 1540. He failed to find Cibola, or another city of expected wealth, Quivera, returning to Mexico in April of 1542. The expedition had cost him a fortune, with crimes of war brought against him resulting from battles with the Indians found along the journey, but he was acquitted.
Now here's the rub. Even though many assume that Coronado, the explorer, is the reason the islands and the hotel are named as such, they are not. The islands were named Coronado in 1602 by Sebastian Vizcaino, calling them Los Cuatro Coronados to honor four martyrs.
Photo above: "Coronado Sets Out for the North," painting by Frederic Remington, 1890-1900. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
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Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, americasbesthistory.com and its licensors.