Ever since I was a little girl, my family has been vacationing at Hotel Del Coronado on the island of Coronado. Hotel Del is a truly magical place – like no other hotel I have ever seen. Stepping inside it is literally like stepping back in time a hundred years to a completely different era. Completed in 1888 for the cost of one million dollars, the Victorian style hotel is one of the oldest and last remaining buildings made entirely of wood. It’s hard to believe, but not one single nail was used in the building of the hotel, instead the workers used wooden pegs to fasten and secure. Hotel Del Coronado was named a historical landmark in 1977 and it truly is a marvel to see in person. The lobby is covered in dark wood paneling and looks like it was taken right out of the set of James Cameron’s Titanic.
The hotel has undergone many changes in the past decade, including a $57 million renovation. Ironically I preferred the hotel in its pre-renovation days, as many of the original areas of the Del are now gone. When I was a little girl, the original men’s cigar room was still intact, but it was gutted a few years ago and is now a restaurant. The lobby piano bar was a favorite of my parents, but it was recently turned into a gift shop. The hotel’s original dining room, the Crown Room, used to be a magnificent 156 foot long restaurant with 30 foot high arched ceilings made entirely of Oregon Sugar Pine, but it is no longer open to the public and is now only used for special events. My parents actually threw me a surprise 21st birthday party in the Crown Room, so it holds a special place in my heart. While the hotel truly is still a magical place, sadly it was much more enchanting in years past.
Hotel Del is now and has always been a celebrity mecca. Hundreds of celebrities, dignitaries, authors, and almost every single American president of the past 20 years have all been guests of the hotel. Thomas Edison, George Burns, Harry Truman, Charlie Chaplin, Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, Lucille Ball, and Frank Sinatra all stayed at the Del at one time or another. L. Frank Baum, who lived on Coronado, was a frequent guest of the hotel, and it is rumored that the Del was his inspiration for Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. He also designed the crown chandeliers that still hang to this day in the Crown Room.
Countless TV and movie productions have been filmed at the Del – including My Blue Heaven, K-9, Mr. Wrong, The Stunt Man, The Married Virgin, Simon & Simon, Ghosts of California, Baywatch and, of course, the 1959 Marilyn Monroe classic Some Like It Hot, where it was used extensively as a Miami resort. Interestingly enough, Billy Wilder chose to shoot Some Like It Hot at the Del because at the time the hotel was in an economic decline so the owners let him film there for minimal costs. He also wanted to shoot at a place where Marilyn Monroe could stay on location – due to her numerous on-set antics, he did not want to take the risk of her not showing up to the set due to transporation problems. The picture to left is of the stage where Marilyn and “the girls” performed their concert in Miami. Also, the book Bid Time Return, on which the 1980 movie Somewhere In Time was based, was written about Hotel Del Coronado. However, producers chose to use the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan for the filming of the movie.
Movie memorabilia and photographs used to line the Del’s long hallways and as a little girl I would walk the corridors looking at all of the old time movie photographs, completely mesmerized. At the time, being at the Del was the closest I ever got to being on a movie set. Today, the memorabilia has been moved to the Coronado Museum of History and Art, just down the street from the Del. For a $4 admission fee, you can enter the museum and learn the history of the island and the hotel.
Until next time, Happy Stalking! 🙂
Stalk It: Hotel Del Coronado is located at 1500 Orange Avenue on Coronado Island in San Diego. You can visit the hotel’s website to book a room here. While at the hotel, be sure to visit the Est. 1888 gift shop – they sell photos and souvenirs from the many movies filmed at the Del. The Coronado Museum of History and Art is located at 1100 Orange Avenue. They are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 5pm. You can visit their website here.