Just across from San Diego Bay, on the white sanded beaches of Coronado, rise the magnificent towers of Hotel del Coronado, otherwise known as simply The Del: one of the last surviving wooden Victorian beach resort hotels in America. When it first opened in 1888 it was the largest of its kind in the world.
The Del was home to many firsts in its time: it was the first ever hotel with electric lighting and the first to have an electrically-lighted outdoor Christmas tree, overseen by none other than Thomas Edison.
Legend has it that Edward The Prince of Wales had met Wallis Simpson – the American divorcee whose love would lead to a constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom and the Dominions and would ultimately result in his abdication from the British throne as King Edward VIII in December 1936 – at a grand banquet in the Crown Room of the hotel given in his honour when he visited Coronado in April 1920. Although this was established to be untrue, the royal seal of approval certainly made The Del the “in place” to stay.
The 1920s saw it become the Hollywood’s darling, with Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and Clark Gable amongst others making it their weekend party home during the Prohibition.
The Great Depression had wrecked havoc on the hotel’s brilliant history and for a while there was talk of demolishing it altogether. For those who had seen it at its height, it may have come as a surprise to find out that Billy Wilder, the director of Some Like It Hot starring Marilyn Monroe (1959) chose The Del as the setting for the fictitious “Seminole Ritz” for his comedy’s Florida segment in great part because it was very cheap to rent.
This timely addition of Hollywood glamour had the desirable side-effect of changing The Del’s fortunes and today, while maintaining its Victorian look, the hotel is as luxurious as any visitor may desire – although it is unlikely to ever regain its spot as one of the “Top 10 Resorts In The World” which it had boasted at its inception some one and a half centuries ago.
About this image: Shadows on Sand on the shores of Hotel del Coronado. Keepsake of a beautiful day spent with old friends and new under the California winter sun.