Opened in 1888 on the shores of San Diego Bay in Coronado, the Hotel Del is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world and America’s grandest Victorian seaside resort. It was built by Elisha Babcock and Hampton Story after they purchased all of Coronado for $110,000 in 1885.
Built on 33 acres, it was the largest hotel in the world upon completion. It was also the largest building in the world outside of New York City to have electric lighting. Thomas Edison supervised the installation of the electrical system.
You have to see The Del to really appreciate it. Pictures don’t reveal the true scope, size, setting or architecture of this national treasure. When you go through the doors, whether it’s to stay or just have lunch, it’s like walking back in time.
Movies have been filmed here. It has been featured in books and been home to writers. L. Frank Baum did much of his writing here and used The Del as a model for his Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. He also designed the chandeliers that still light the main dining room – the Crown Room.
The list of stars and VIP’s who have visited here reads like a Who’s Who of the last century. One of The Del’s favorite stories is about the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1920, who later became King Edward VIII. He abdicated his throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, who lived in Coronado. They met at the Del.
There’s also a resident ghost – Kate Morgan – who died here under mysterious circumstances in 1892 and frequents the old section of the hotel.
And of course, there are geocaches. Lots of them, strung out along the Silver Strand from downtown Coronado to Imperial Beach. The sun, the surf, the geohunt – life is good at The Del.
Much has changed in Coronado since The Del opened. The city has grown up around it. A cracker box fixer-upper in town runs about $1,000,000. The US Navy has a substantial presence here with the Naval Amphibious Base and North Island Naval Air Station. The Naval Special Warfare Center where the Navy SEALs are trained is practically next door. In fact, some of their rough water boat training takes place on the rocks of the jetty right in front of The Del. The SEALs routinely run along the beach, much to my daughter’s delight the last time we were there.
If you come to southern California, don’t miss The Del.
Hooyah … The Cachemanian Devils