The Hotel del Coronado is definitely one of San Diego’s most notable and historical landmarks. Far more people visit the hotel each day than actually staying at it. And that works out fine, because there is plenty to see and do here.
The hotel has a history of over 130 years and it has packed both stories and notable guests in that time. Movies such as Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Some Like it Hot’ was partially filmed here and a ton of presidents and celebrities have stayed here over the years. Let’s dive a little deeper into the history though, shall we?
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 Hotel Del Monte in Monterey, and the Hotel Redondo in Redondo Beach, California, were similar grand hotels built as development enticements during this era.
The popularity of the hotel was established before the 1920s. It already had hosted Presidents Harrison, McKinley, Taft, and Wilson. 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. Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn and Mae West were a few of the many actors who stayed at the hotel during weekend getaways.
On New Year’s Day 1937, during the Great Depression, the gambling ship SS Monte Carlo, known for “drinks, dice, and dolls”, was shipwrecked on the beach about a quarter mile south of the Hotel del Coronado
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.
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.
The hotel was designated as a “wartime casualty station”. It began a victory garden program, planting vegetables on all spare grounds around the hotel.
Notable guests have included Thomas Edison, L. Frank Baum, Charlie Chaplin, Vincent Price, Babe Ruth, James Stewart, Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn. More recently, guests have included Kevin Costner, Whoopi Goldberg, Gene Hackman, George Harrison, Brad Pitt, Madonna, Barbra Streisand and Oprah Winfrey.
The following presidents have stayed at the hotel: Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
Kate Morgan was found dead on November 29, 1892, on the exterior staircase leading to the beach, of what was believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. This was five days after checking into the hotel.
A San Francisco lawyer, the late Alan May, speculated in the 1980s that her death involved foul play. Evidence for the alleged homicide was a passing statement (or misstatement), during the coroner’s inquest, that the bullet found in her head did not match that of her own gun.
There is a man who makes a new sandcastle directly in front of the Hotel Del pretty much every day!
We ate a delicious meal at their restaurant Serẽa:I love all the Gothic details:
The crown room:
There is a secret cave room that was a deli in the 1980’s but apparently was originally one of the hotel’s cisterns. The cisterns got their water supply from rainwater that would trickle down the roof. These water outlets were supplied by two gigantic cisterns in the basement, as well as a freshwater pipeline that ran under San Diego Bay.
There are also 2 underground tunnels here! One leads from the renovated power plant building to the hotel kitchen and the other, although sealed up, lead from the hotel to the Glorietta Bay Inn. Photos credits: Laura Smith and Elizabeth De Gies.
Make sure to check out the old-fashioned elevator!
They even have a seasonal ice skating rink!
We set out to find room 3327, forever known as the room where Kate Morgan’s spirit resides. It was interesting how we fell upon it, because initially we did not know what room we were looking for. While my partner was looking up which room it was on his phone, we both felt like we were near it.
Once he figured out what room she haunts, we were both shocked to learn that we were standing right in front of it! Out of all the rooms in the hotel we could have been standing next to, we were standing right in front of it–crazy! So, naturally I began taking some photos of the area and then we continued on.
Later that night when I uploaded the photos, my partner happened to notice something “strange” going on in several of the shots in front of the room. It was described as looking like a strange “vortex of energy”. I have no clue what it might be and love to first try to debunk these types of things.
I have shown the photo below to show what I am talking about. If any of you have any idea what that rainbow diamond may be, I’m dying to hear your thoughts!
And a few more vintage shots: