The stunning Victorian-era Hotel del Coronado is one of the most legendary resorts in the United States, renowned for its iconic red-turreted architecture along the San Diego coastline. But how long did it actually take for this ornate wooden beachfront hotel to be constructed over a century ago?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick summary: The original main building of the Hotel del Coronado took just over two years to construct, from March 1887 to February 1889. The hotel’s designs called for over 1 million nails and over 7 million board feet of lumber.

In this in-depth article, we’ll look at the vision, planning, and step-by-step construction timeline behind California’s iconic ‘Hotel Del’. You’ll learn about the original blueprints, challenges faced during the building process, the large workforce assembled, and how the hotel looked at each stage until completion.

The Original Vision and Planning for the Hotel

The developers and architects

The idea for the Hotel del Coronado, also known as The Del, originated from three prominent developers – Elisha Babcock Jr., H.L. Story, and Hampton L. Story. They envisioned creating a luxurious seaside resort that would attract tourists from all over the world.

To bring their vision to life, they enlisted the expertise of renowned architect James W. Reid.

James W. Reid, an architect from the firm Reid & Reid, was known for his expertise in designing grand hotels. He was responsible for creating the architectural plans that would become the iconic Hotel del Coronado.

His design incorporated elements of the Victorian style, with intricate woodwork, ornate towers, and spacious verandas.

Designing the wooden Victorian structure

One of the key aspects of the Hotel del Coronado’s design was its unique wooden Victorian structure. The decision to use wood instead of more traditional building materials was influenced by the abundance of lumber available in the area at the time.

The architects saw this as an opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind hotel that would stand out from its contemporaries.

The wooden structure of the hotel required careful planning and engineering. The architects had to ensure that the building would be sturdy enough to withstand the coastal climate and potential earthquakes.

They employed innovative construction techniques and materials to achieve this, making The Del a pioneering architectural achievement of its time.

Assembling financing and resources

Constructing a project of the Hotel del Coronado’s magnitude required substantial financial resources. The developers faced the challenge of securing the necessary funds to bring their vision to fruition.

They formed the Coronado Beach Company and raised capital through various means, including selling shares and securing loans.

In addition to financial resources, the construction of the Hotel del Coronado required a skilled workforce and an ample supply of building materials. The developers recruited skilled craftsmen and laborers from around the country to work on the project.

They also sourced high-quality materials such as redwood lumber, which was transported to the construction site via rail.

The planning and execution of the Hotel del Coronado took several years, with construction beginning in 1886 and the hotel opening its doors to guests on February 19, 1888. It stands today as a testament to the original vision, meticulous planning, and creative ingenuity of its developers, architects, and builders.

Detailed Construction Timeline and Milestones

Breaking ground: March 1887

The construction of the iconic Hotel del Coronado began in March 1887, marking the start of a monumental project that would forever change the landscape of Coronado Island. With great anticipation, the groundbreaking ceremony took place, symbolizing the beginning of a new era in luxury hospitality.

The decision to build the hotel was made by Elisha Babcock Jr. and Hampton L. Story, two visionaries who recognized the potential of the picturesque island as a tourist destination. They enlisted the talents of architect James W. Reid, who designed a magnificent wooden Victorian-style structure that would become known as the “Del.”

As construction commenced, the architects and builders faced numerous challenges, including the need to transport materials to the island. Despite these obstacles, the construction team remained steadfast in their commitment to create a world-class hotel that would captivate visitors.

Erecting the wooden frame: Summer 1887

During the summer of 1887, the construction team focused on erecting the wooden frame of the Hotel del Coronado. Skilled craftsmen meticulously crafted each piece, ensuring the structural integrity of the building.

The sheer size of the hotel posed a significant undertaking, with the frame stretching over 700 feet in length.

As the wooden frame began to take shape, onlookers marveled at the grandeur of the structure. It was an impressive sight, a testament to the dedication and skill of the construction team. The hotel’s unique design, featuring turrets and ornate detailing, set it apart from other buildings of its time.

Adding infrastructure: Late 1887

In late 1887, the focus shifted to adding the necessary infrastructure to support the hotel’s operations. Plumbing, electrical wiring, and other essential systems were installed to ensure the comfort and convenience of the hotel’s future guests.

The addition of modern amenities, such as electricity and indoor plumbing, was a remarkable feat for the time. It demonstrated the hotel’s commitment to providing a luxurious experience for its guests.

These advancements set the Hotel del Coronado apart as a beacon of modernity in the late 19th century.

Interior finishing and decoration: 1888

In 1888, the construction team turned their attention to the interior finishing and decoration of the Hotel del Coronado. Skilled artisans painstakingly crafted intricate woodwork, ornate moldings, and elegant furnishings to create a truly opulent atmosphere.

The hotel’s interior design reflected the Victorian era’s penchant for lavishness and attention to detail. From the grand lobby to the guest rooms, every space exuded a sense of elegance and luxury. The Hotel del Coronado quickly became synonymous with sophistication and became a favored destination for the elite.

Landscaping the grounds: Early 1889

In early 1889, the final phase of construction focused on landscaping the grounds surrounding the Hotel del Coronado. Lush gardens, palm trees, and vibrant flowers were carefully planted to enhance the hotel’s beauty and create a tranquil oasis for guests to enjoy.

The meticulously manicured grounds became a hallmark of the Hotel del Coronado’s allure. Visitors could stroll through the gardens, taking in the breathtaking scenery and enjoying the serenity of their surroundings.

The hotel’s dedication to providing a picturesque setting further solidified its status as a premier destination.

Final touches: January – February 1889

In January and February 1889, the construction team added the final touches to the Hotel del Coronado. Every detail was meticulously inspected to ensure perfection, from the artwork adorning the walls to the placement of furniture in each room.

The grand opening of the Hotel del Coronado took place on February 19, 1889, marking the culmination of years of hard work and dedication. The event was a resounding success, with guests from near and far marveling at the hotel’s beauty and luxurious accommodations.

Today, the Hotel del Coronado stands as a testament to the vision and craftsmanship of its creators. Its rich history and timeless elegance continue to captivate visitors, making it a beloved landmark and a cherished part of Coronado Island’s heritage.

Notable Hurdles and Setbacks During Construction

Constructing the iconic Hotel del Coronado was no easy feat, as it faced several notable hurdles and setbacks along the way. From shortages of construction materials to challenging weather and last-minute design changes, the construction of this grand hotel was a test of perseverance and innovation.

Shortages of construction materials

During the construction of the Hotel del Coronado, there were significant shortages of construction materials. This was primarily due to the rapid growth and development happening in the surrounding area at the time.

The demand for construction materials was high, leading to delays and difficulties in sourcing the necessary supplies. Builders had to navigate through these challenges by finding alternative solutions and working closely with suppliers to ensure a steady flow of materials.

Transportation issues

Transportation proved to be another obstacle during the construction of the Hotel del Coronado. The hotel was being built on a remote island, making it challenging to transport materials and equipment to the construction site.

The lack of infrastructure and limited transportation options added to the logistical complexities. Builders had to come up with creative solutions, such as using barges and boats to transport heavy materials across the water, to overcome these transportation issues.

Challenging weather and terrain

The Hotel del Coronado’s construction site also faced challenging weather conditions and difficult terrain. The island’s coastal location exposed the construction crew to strong winds, storms, and occasional flooding.

Additionally, the sandy terrain made it challenging to lay a solid foundation for the hotel. Despite these challenges, the construction team persevered, implementing innovative construction techniques and adapting to the unpredictable weather conditions to ensure the hotel’s successful completion.

Last-minute design changes and additions

As construction progressed, last-minute design changes and additions presented additional hurdles for the construction team. The hotel’s original design underwent several modifications to accommodate changing requirements and evolving architectural trends.

These changes required flexibility and adaptability from the builders, who had to adjust their plans and timelines accordingly. Despite the challenges, the construction team managed to incorporate these changes seamlessly, resulting in the iconic and visually stunning Hotel del Coronado that we know today.


The Workforce and Resources Involved

The construction of the iconic Hotel del Coronado involved a massive workforce and a significant amount of resources. Let’s take a closer look at the various aspects that contributed to the creation of this architectural marvel.

Hundreds of carpenters, electricians and other workers

The Hotel del Coronado required a large number of skilled workers to bring its vision to life. Hundreds of carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and other skilled workers were employed to ensure the construction process ran smoothly.

Their expertise and dedication were crucial in turning the hotel’s design into a reality.

Sourcing lumber from the Pacific Northwest

To build such a grand structure, a vast amount of lumber was needed. The Hotel del Coronado sourced its lumber from the Pacific Northwest, renowned for its high-quality timber. The use of top-notch materials ensured the durability and longevity of the hotel’s structure.

Transporting supplies via ship and rail

Transporting the necessary supplies to the construction site was no small feat. Due to its location in Coronado, California, materials had to be transported via both ship and rail. This logistical challenge required careful planning and coordination to ensure the timely delivery of resources.

The huge costs involved

The construction of the Hotel del Coronado came with a hefty price tag. From the extensive workforce to the transportation of supplies and the acquisition of high-quality materials, the costs quickly added up.

However, the end result was worth every penny, as the Hotel del Coronado stands today as a testament to the grandeur and opulence of its time.

The Completed Hotel’s Grand Opening and Early Success

Welcoming the first guests in February 1889

The iconic Hotel del Coronado, located in Coronado, California, opened its doors to the public in February 1889. The grand opening was a highly anticipated event, attracting guests from all over the world. The hotel’s unique architecture and luxurious amenities made it an instant attraction.

The hotel’s first guests were treated to a truly remarkable experience. With its stunning beachfront location, breathtaking ocean views, and state-of-the-art facilities, the Hotel del Coronado quickly established itself as a premier destination for the elite.

Guests were greeted by a dedicated staff that catered to their every need. They could enjoy a variety of recreational activities, including swimming, tennis, and horseback riding. The hotel also offered fine dining options and extravagant parties, ensuring that every guest had an unforgettable experience.

Widespread publicity and media attention

The grand opening of the Hotel del Coronado received widespread publicity and media attention. Newspapers and magazines from around the country covered the event, praising the hotel’s impressive architecture and opulent design.

The hotel’s unique features, such as the red roof, made it instantly recognizable and a popular subject for photographs and postcards. The media coverage helped to establish the Hotel del Coronado as an iconic landmark and contributed to its early success.

Visitors from all walks of life flocked to the hotel, eager to experience its grandeur for themselves. Celebrities, politicians, and wealthy individuals were among the many guests who sought out the Hotel del Coronado as a destination for relaxation and luxury.

Quickly becoming a popular resort destination

Following its grand opening, the Hotel del Coronado quickly became a popular resort destination. Its reputation for luxury and impeccable service attracted visitors from all over the world.

The hotel’s prime beachfront location and temperate climate made it an ideal destination for those seeking a beach getaway. Its proximity to San Diego also made it a convenient choice for travelers looking to explore the city’s attractions.

The Hotel del Coronado’s popularity grew exponentially over the years. It became a hub for social events and a favorite gathering spot for the elite. The hotel’s iconic status and its association with Hollywood films further cemented its reputation as a must-visit destination.

Expansions and renovations in the decades since

Over the decades since its grand opening, the Hotel del Coronado has undergone several expansions and renovations to meet the changing needs and expectations of its guests.

Today, the hotel boasts over 700 guest rooms, multiple restaurants and bars, and a wide range of amenities, including a spa, fitness center, and beach club. It continues to attract visitors from around the world, offering a unique blend of history, luxury, and natural beauty.

The Hotel del Coronado remains an iconic landmark, a testament to the vision and ingenuity of its founders. Its rich history and timeless elegance continue to captivate guests, ensuring its place as one of the world’s most celebrated hotels.


The elaborate Hotel del Coronado took intense vision, coordination, and over two years of construction to transform from idea to reality. Its successful completion and enduring prominence stands as a testament to the ambition and foresight of its builders, and the timelessness of Victorian architecture along the Southern California shore.

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