Stepping onto the Hotel del Coronado grounds, one is immediately enveloped by a sense of history.
Yet, this is not just another hotel; it is a living testament to a bygone era, a proud monument to the past that continues to charm visitors with its timeless elegance.
The Hotel del Coronado, or “The Del” as it is affectionately known, has stood as a beacon on the shores of the Pacific for over a century.
Nestled in Coronado, just across the San Diego Bay from San Diego, California, this majestic Victorian beach resort is a rare surviving example of an American architectural genre.
The wooden structure, now the second-largest in the United States, was designated a California Historic Landmark in 1970 and a National Historic Landmark in 1977.
The Del is not just a hotel; it’s a cultural symbol, an icon of California’s history, and a testament to the grand vision of its creators.
When it opened in 1888, it would become more than a place for people to rest their heads. It became a destination, a getaway, and a symbol of luxury and elegance that has stood the test of time.
The Birth of a Landmark
The birth of the Hotel del Coronado was set against a backdrop of opportunity and optimism. The mid-1880s saw the San Diego region in the throes of one of its first real estate booms.
It was a time when grand hotels were being built as a draw to otherwise barren landscapes across California.
During this time, a group of five investors, led by E.S. Babcock, a retired railroad executive, and Hampton L. Story of the Story & Clark Piano Company, bought Coronado and North Island – a whopping 4,000 acres for $110,000.
Jacob Gruendike, president of the First National Bank of San Diego, Heber Ingle, and Joseph Collett joined them. These visionaries saw potential in this slice of California paradise.
To bring this vision to life, they hired architect James W. Reid.
A native of New Brunswick, Canada, Reid first practiced in Evansville and Terre Haute, and his younger brother Merritt Reid, a partner in Reid Brothers, stayed in Indiana to help supervise the project. Together, they were set to make history.
From Vision to Reality: Building the Dream
Turning the vision of the Hotel del Coronado into a reality was not without its challenges. One of the most significant hurdles was the absence of lumber and labor in the San Diego area.
But challenges were simply opportunities in disguise. For example, the lumber problem was solved with exclusive rights to all raw lumber production of the Dolbeer & Carson Lumber Company of Eureka, California.
Planing mills were built on-site to finish the raw lumber shipped directly from the Dolbeer & Carson lumber yards, and Reid built his kilns to obtain brick and concrete.
It was an arduous task, but the men were undeterred. The dream was coming together, piece by piece, brick by brick.
When the hotel finally opened in 1888, it was not just a grand structure but the world’s largest resort hotel.
It embodied Babcock’s grand vision: a tropical garden court, verandas for rest and promenade, a pavilion tower, and a dining wing that offered unobstructed views of the ocean, bay, and city.
A Walk Through Time: Hotel del Coronado’s Historic Legacy
The Hotel del Coronado‘s legacy is as rich and varied as the guests graced its halls.
It has hosted presidents, royalty, and celebrities, becoming a favorite location for Hollywood films and a haunt for famous figures like Marilyn Monroe.
The hotel’s history is peppered with charming anecdotes. For instance, director Billy Wilder faced an unexpected intrusion while filming “Some Like It Hot” in 1958 as locals somehow found their way onto the set.
The Del has also been the site of quirky demands and peculiar events.
From a Latina pop sensation from the 2000s demanding a top-of-the-line Pilates machine for her overnight stay to Marilyn Monroe requiring her favorite dessert—a chilled vanilla soufflé with meringue on top—be made for her daily, the hotel staff has seen it all.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of the Hotel del Coronado’s history is its resident ghost, Kate Morgan.
Known as the “Beautiful Stranger,” Morgan stayed at the hotel in 1892 and, after a few days, tragically ended her own life.
The Unending Presence of Kate Morgan
In the grand Hotel del Coronado, an ethereal presence lingers in the form of the ever-enigmatic Kate Morgan, the young woman tragically drawn to an early and lonely demise.
The sorrow-filled echoes of her past continue to resonate in the air, woven into the very fabric of the hotel. Her spirit is believed to inhabit still room 3327, where she had spent her last fateful days in 1892.
Mysteriously flickering lights, the faint perfume of a scent long vanished, ghostly whispers, and objects inexplicably relocating are common occurrences in this room.
Adding to this eerie narrative, guests have reported a spectral vision of a young woman in a black lace dress gazing longingly out to sea.
Is it possible that this beautiful stranger, known as Kate, is still waiting for her absent husband?
Paranormal researchers have descended upon the hotel over the years, employing state-of-the-art equipment to validate the presence of the unseen.
Infrared cameras, radiation sensors, and high-frequency sound detectors have all been deployed to demystify the phenomena linked to room 3327.
Indeed, evidence has indicated abnormal activity, intensifying the intrigue and allure around Kate’s spectral tales.
Her ghost has been reported within the confines of her room, along the resort’s hallways, and by the seashore, making her presence almost palpable throughout the Coronado.
In addition to the sightings in room 3327 and the hallways, a curious pattern of unexplained occurrences has been traced back to the resort’s gift shop, Est. 1888.
Reports from visitors and employees reveal tales of items mysteriously levitating off shelves, always landing unscathed and adding another layer to the ongoing saga of the beautiful stranger, Kate Morgan.
Today’s The Del: The Evolution of a Classic
Despite its rich history, the Hotel del Coronado has not remained trapped in the past. Instead, it has gracefully evolved, blending historic charm with modern amenities.
Today, the hotel boasts a Four Diamond rating from the American Automobile Association and has been listed by USA Today among the top ten resorts in the world.
The hotel’s offerings have been updated to cater to the needs and preferences of today’s travelers.
Despite these changes, the Del has retained its historic charm, an element that continues to draw visitors worldwide.
Its Victorian architecture and modern comfort create a unique atmosphere that can’t be found elsewhere.
In 2011, the Del was recognized by USA Today as one of the top ten resorts in the world, a testament to its enduring appeal.
From its humble beginnings in the late 19th century to its status as a world-renowned resort today, the Hotel del Coronado is a remarkable testament to American ingenuity and ambition.
The Hotel del Coronado stands as a proud testament to a bygone era. Its iconic red-roofed structure has become synonymous with luxury and elegance.
Yet, it is more than just a hotel; it’s a cultural institution, a place where history comes to life. Its enduring appeal lies in blending the past’s charm with the present’s luxuries.
Del’s role in the community extends beyond just providing accommodations. It has become a cultural hub where memories are made and history is preserved.
Its significance extends beyond its physical structure; it symbolizes the city’s history and is a testament to its enduring appeal.
As the Hotel del Coronado continues to write its story, one thing remains clear: this is not just a place to stay but a place to experience.
Its rich history, timeless elegance, and enduring charm make it a must-visit destination for anyone visiting Coronado.
From its inception to its current operation, the Del remains a historic gem in the heart of Coronado, California.