The luxurious Del Coronado Hotel, known affectionately as the Del, is an iconic beachfront resort located just across the bay from downtown San Diego. With its distinctive red-roofed Victorian architecture, this historic hotel has been a popular vacation destination for over 130 years.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Del Coronado Hotel first opened its doors to guests on February 19, 1888 after two years of construction.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the interesting history behind the building of the Del Coronado. We’ll cover the key people involved, the original Victorian architectural design, and little-known facts about the hotel’s early days after its grand opening.

The Beginning: Babcock’s Vision for a Grand Beach Resort

E.S. Babcock’s Background and Early Career

E.S. Babcock, a prominent entrepreneur and real estate developer, played a pivotal role in the creation of the historic Del Coronado Hotel. Born in the late 19th century, Babcock had a keen eye for spotting opportunities in the booming tourism industry.

His early career involved successful ventures in various sectors, including transportation and mining. However, it was his fascination with the pristine beaches of Coronado Island that would eventually lead him to embark on his most ambitious project yet.

As a visionary, Babcock recognized the potential of transforming the idyllic island into a world-class tourist destination. He understood that the key to attracting visitors from all over the world was the creation of an exceptional beachfront resort, unlike anything seen before.

The Idea for the Hotel Takes Shape

With a clear vision in mind, Babcock began conceptualizing the grand hotel that would become the Del Coronado. Inspired by the exquisite architecture of European resorts, he envisioned a magnificent structure that would seamlessly blend luxury and comfort with breathtaking seaside views.

Babcock’s goal was not only to provide guests with a place to stay but to create an unforgettable experience that would leave a lasting impression.

His attention to detail was meticulous, and he wanted every aspect of the hotel to be exceptional. From the design of the rooms to the gourmet dining options and world-class amenities, Babcock spared no expense in ensuring that his vision became a reality.

Securing Financial Backers and Architects

Turning his vision into reality required substantial financial backing and the expertise of talented architects. Babcock embarked on a mission to secure the necessary funds and assemble a team of professionals who could bring his dream to life.

With his extensive network of contacts and persuasive abilities, Babcock successfully convinced a group of investors to invest in the project.

Furthermore, he enlisted the services of renowned architects James W. Reid and Warren H. Davis to design the hotel. Both architects were known for their exceptional craftsmanship and had previously worked on prestigious projects.

Their collaboration with Babcock ensured that every aspect of the hotel’s design was meticulously planned and executed.



Two Years of Construction: 1887-1888

The historic Del Coronado Hotel, located in San Diego, California, was built over a span of two years from 1887 to 1888. This iconic hotel has stood the test of time and is known for its grandeur and architectural beauty.

Breaking Ground in March 1887

In March 1887, construction on the Del Coronado Hotel officially began. It was a significant event for the local community, as the hotel was envisioned to be a luxurious destination for visitors from all over the world.

The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by prominent figures, including investors and local officials, who recognized the potential economic impact that the hotel would bring to the area. The enthusiasm and excitement surrounding the project were palpable.

Sourcing Materials and Labor

Building a hotel of this magnitude required a substantial amount of materials and a skilled workforce. Construction teams worked tirelessly to source the necessary materials, including wood, bricks, and other building supplies.

Labor was sourced from both the local community and beyond, with workers coming from nearby towns and even other states. These skilled craftsmen and laborers were instrumental in bringing the vision of the Del Coronado Hotel to life.

A Massive Undertaking

The construction of the Del Coronado Hotel was no small feat. With its iconic red roof and distinctive Victorian architecture, the hotel spanned over 28 acres and boasted over 400 rooms. It was truly a massive undertaking for its time.

The hotel’s design incorporated modern amenities, including electric lighting and elevators, which were considered cutting-edge technology during the late 19th century. This attention to detail and commitment to luxury set the Del Coronado Hotel apart from other establishments of its time.

Despite the challenges faced during construction, such as extreme weather conditions and logistical hurdles, the Del Coronado Hotel was completed in 1888. Since then, it has become a cherished landmark, attracting visitors from around the world who come to experience its timeless elegance and rich history.

For more information about the Del Coronado Hotel and its construction, you can visit

Grand Opening and Early Operations: 1888 Onward

The historic Del Coronado Hotel, also known as “The Del,” officially opened its doors on February 19, 1888, marking the beginning of a new era of luxury and elegance in Coronado, California. The grand opening was celebrated with a lavish inaugural ball that attracted high society guests from all over the country.

The hotel’s iconic red-shingled roof, stunning beachfront location, and unrivaled amenities quickly established it as a premier destination for the wealthy elite seeking a luxurious getaway.

A Lavish Inaugural Ball on February 19, 1888

The inaugural ball held on February 19, 1888, was a sight to behold. The hotel’s magnificent ballroom was adorned with exquisite decorations, including crystal chandeliers, beautiful floral arrangements, and opulent furnishings.

Guests were treated to a sumptuous feast, accompanied by live music and dancing well into the night. The event was a resounding success and set the tone for the hotel’s reputation as a place of grandeur and sophistication.

Attracting Wealthy East Coast Guests

The Del Coronado Hotel quickly gained a reputation as a preferred destination for wealthy East Coast guests looking to escape the harsh winters. Its proximity to the beach, mild climate, and luxurious accommodations made it an irresistible choice for those seeking respite from the cold.

The hotel’s magnificent architecture and world-class amenities, such as the stunning ocean-view rooms, private beach cabanas, and a state-of-the-art spa, ensured that guests enjoyed a truly unforgettable experience.

Frequent Visits by U.S. Presidents

Over the years, the Del Coronado Hotel has had the honor of hosting numerous U.S. Presidents who sought a retreat in its luxurious surroundings. President Benjamin Harrison was the first sitting president to visit the hotel in 1891, and since then, several other presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton, have also enjoyed the hotel’s exquisite hospitality.

These visits by U.S. Presidents further solidified the hotel’s status as a symbol of elegance and prestige.

Architectural Design: Victorian Grandeur by the Sea

The historic Del Coronado Hotel, located in Coronado, California, is a true architectural masterpiece. Built in the late 19th century, the hotel showcases the grandeur and elegance of the Victorian era.

Its architectural design is a testament to the vision and talent of architects James W. Comstock and Warren R. Trotsche.

The Vision of Architects Comstock and Trotsche

When James W. Comstock and Warren R. Trotsche were commissioned to design the Del Coronado Hotel, they were tasked with creating a structure that would capture the beauty and charm of the surrounding coastal landscape.

Their vision was to create a grand hotel that would stand out among the rest, and they succeeded in creating a masterpiece.

Comstock and Trotsche incorporated elements of Victorian architecture into the design, including intricate woodwork, ornate detailing, and expansive verandas. They also paid careful attention to the hotel’s location, ensuring that every room had a view of the sea.

Iconic Features: Red Roofs, Intricate Woodwork, and More

One of the most iconic features of the Del Coronado Hotel is its signature red roofs. The red-tiled roofs not only add a pop of color to the hotel’s exterior, but they also pay homage to the Spanish influences in the region.

In addition to the red roofs, the Del Coronado Hotel boasts intricate woodwork throughout its interior and exterior. From the grand staircase in the lobby to the detailed trim on the verandas, the woodwork adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to the hotel.

Other notable architectural features include the hotel’s iconic turret, which provides breathtaking views of the surrounding area, and the stunning stained glass windows that adorn the main dining room.

Renovations and Expansions Over the Decades

Over the years, the Del Coronado Hotel has undergone several renovations and expansions to keep up with the evolving needs and expectations of its guests. These updates have ensured that the hotel remains a premier destination for travelers from around the world.

One significant renovation took place in the 1920s, where additional wings were added to accommodate the growing number of visitors. In the 1980s, a major restoration project was undertaken to preserve the hotel’s historic charm while incorporating modern amenities.

Today, the Del Coronado Hotel continues to be a beloved landmark and a symbol of Victorian grandeur by the sea. Its architectural design, combined with its stunning location and rich history, make it a must-visit destination for architecture enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

Fun Facts About the Early Days of the Del

The historic Del Coronado Hotel, also known as The Del, is a renowned landmark located in Coronado, California. It holds a rich history that dates back to its construction in 1887. Let’s explore some fascinating facts about the early days of this iconic hotel.

Transporting Materials and Guests

Building a grand hotel like The Del in the late 19th century was no easy feat. The construction required innovative methods to transport materials and guests. One interesting fact is that the hotel’s construction materials were brought over by barge from San Diego.

This was a remarkable undertaking considering the size and weight of the materials involved.

The hotel’s guests also had a unique mode of transportation. In the early days, guests would arrive at The Del via a ferryboat from San Diego. This added an element of adventure to their journey and added to the allure of staying at this prestigious hotel.

Famous Early Visitors

Throughout its early years, The Del attracted many famous visitors. Some notable names include Thomas Edison, L. Frank Baum (author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”), and several U.S. presidents. These influential individuals recognized the beauty and luxury of The Del, making it a popular destination for the elite.

One particularly famous guest was the legendary actress Marilyn Monroe. She stayed at The Del while filming the movie “Some Like It Hot” in 1958. Her presence added to the hotel’s glamour and cemented its status as a preferred location for Hollywood stars.

Amusing Anecdotes and Guest Stories

The Del Coronado Hotel has had its fair share of amusing anecdotes and guest stories throughout the years. One story involves a mischievous sea lion that managed to find its way into the hotel’s swimming pool.

This unexpected visitor caused quite a stir among the guests and staff, but fortunately, no one was harmed, and the sea lion was safely returned to the ocean.

Another entertaining tale revolves around a guest who accidentally left their pet parrot behind when checking out. The hotel staff went above and beyond to ensure the parrot’s safe return, even arranging for a private plane to transport the bird back to its owner.

This story highlights the exceptional customer service and dedication that The Del is known for.

These fun facts, famous visitors, and amusing anecdotes are just a glimpse into the early days of The Del Coronado Hotel. Its rich history and remarkable stories continue to captivate guests and visitors to this day.

For more information about The Del, you can visit their official website:


For over 130 years, the Del Coronado has maintained its status as one of America’s premier beach resorts. Though styles and trends have changed, the hotel’s splendid Victorian architecture and prime oceanside location continue to enchant guests.

We’ve explored the Del’s origins, from the visionary behind it to the architects and builders who brought this grand 19th century edifice to life. From lavish galas to famous guests, the hotel made quite a first impression.

Though renovated and expanded, it remains a delightful window into a glamorous bygone era.

Similar Posts