Structure Type: built works - dwellings -public accommodations - hotels

Designers: Reid, James William, Architect (firm); Reid, Watson, Architect (firm); Sessions, Kate O., Landscape Designer (firm); Ross Anderson (interior designer); James William Reid (architect); Watson Elkinah Reid (architect); Kate Olivia Sessions (landscape designer)

Dates: constructed 1887-1888

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1500 Orange Avenue
Hotel del Coronado, Coronado, CA 92118-2918

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Hotel del Coronado

Building History

A consortium of four Midwestern investors, Hampton L. Story, partner in the Story and Clark Piano Company of Chicago, IL, retired railroad executive Elisha S. Babcock, Jr., of Evansville, IN, Babcock's brother-in-law, Heber Ingle, Josephus Collett, President of the Evansville and Terre Haute Railroad, and a San Diego capitalist Jacob Gruendieke, purchased the 4,100 acre Coronado Peninsula for $110,000 on 11/19/1885; soon thereafter, the syndicate sold off some of the land for beach houses, but retained most of it for the construction of a grand hotel, erected in 1887-1888; Babcock was a former official of the David J. Mackey System of Railroads in the Midwest (which included the Evansville and Terre Haute Railroad), and migrated to California for his health during the winter of 1883-1884; he came to know the architects, James W. Reid (1851-1943) and Merritt J. Reid (1855-1932) when they maintained their practice in Evansville, IN, beginning in 1880. The investors retained them to design the Coronado by 12/1886; groundbreaking for the 399-room hotel occurred either on 01/12/1887 or 03/19/1887 and it opened 02/19/1888. The small city of San Diego lacked the needed building materials for the hotel, so much had to be imported, including a large amount of timber from Southern IN. James and younger brother Watson E. Reid (1857-1943) managed an on-site brick kiln, foundry, ironworks and planing mill to produce required components. gradually, the San Diego real estate and transportation magnate, John D. Spreckels (1853-1926), purchased shares in the Hotel del Coronado, first buying out Hampton in 07/1889 and Babcock by 1892; due to flammability of its balloon-frame construction, the architects chose to install electric lighting; at its construction, the hotel was the only building outside of New York City lit electrically; apparently, Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) designed its lighting circuitry in 1894; a number of rooms possessed long spans requiring the design of timber trusses and vaulting; James Reid had experience designing train sheds with such trusses for the Evansville and Terre Haute Railroad (formed in 1877). Many historic events occurred in or near the hotel, including the first flight of a seaplane in 1911 by pilot/aviation magnate Glenn H. Curtiss (1878-1930); added in 1971 to the National Register of Historic Places, Building #71000181; named a California Historical Site in 1964; Lowe Enterprises of Los Angeles, CA, owned the Hotel del Coronado in 2002; it was part of the KSL Resorts Collection as of 2005, that also included the Claremont Resort and Spa and La Quinta Resort and Club.

Building Notes

This remains one of the largest wooden buildings in the United States, and a rare example of 19th-century seaside resort hotel architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.


Spreckels had steam heating installed in 1897; to safeguard the all-timber building, automatic gravity fire sprinklers were added in 1916. Seismic and structural renovation to the hotel occurred c.2000; interior designer Ross Anderson worked on a renovation of the Coronado Hotel.

California Historical Landmark: 844

National Register of Historic Places: 71000181 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

National Historic Landmark: ID n/a

PCAD id: 633