When it comes to historic hotels in California, few can compete with the legendary status and longevity of those located in Southern California. If you’re wondering which lavish lodging first opened its doors to guests over a century ago, read on.

The quick answer is that the famed Hotel del Coronado in San Diego first premiered in 1888. But there’s more to the story of this Victorian beachfront resort and other pioneering hotels of the era.

Hotel del Coronado

The Hotel del Coronado, located in Southern California, is the oldest luxury hotel in the region. It first opened its doors in 1888 and has since become an iconic landmark, renowned for its grandeur and timeless appeal.

The hotel’s rich history, architectural beauty, notable guests, and pop culture significance have made it a beloved institution for over a century.

Brief history overview

The Hotel del Coronado was built by Elisha Babcock, Jr. and H.L. Story, who envisioned creating a grand resort that would attract visitors from around the world. The hotel was designed in the Queen Anne Victorian style, with its distinctive red-roofed turrets and charming seaside charm.

Throughout its history, the hotel has undergone numerous renovations and expansions, but it has always maintained its original charm and elegance.

Architectural and design details

The architectural and design details of the Hotel del Coronado are truly remarkable. The hotel features stunning wooden paneling, intricate moldings, and beautiful stained glass windows, all of which contribute to its timeless beauty.

The grand lobby, with its high ceilings and ornate chandeliers, creates a sense of opulence and luxury. The hotel’s gardens and outdoor spaces are also meticulously designed, offering guests breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

Notable past guests

Over the years, the Hotel del Coronado has welcomed a multitude of notable guests, including celebrities, politicians, and royalty. Some of the hotel’s most famous guests include Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The hotel has also hosted several important events, such as the 1920s filming of the movie “Some Like It Hot,” starring Marilyn Monroe.

Pop culture significance

The Hotel del Coronado has left an indelible mark on pop culture. Its stunning architecture and picturesque location have made it a popular filming location for movies and TV shows. The hotel has been featured in films like “The Stunt Man” and “My Blue Heaven,” as well as TV shows like “Top Chef” and “Ghost Whisperer.”

Its timeless appeal continues to captivate audiences and inspire filmmakers.

Other 19th Century SoCal Hotel Openings

The Raymond in Pasadena

In addition to the oldest luxury hotel in Southern California, the Raymond Hotel in Pasadena holds its own historical significance. Built in 1886, the hotel quickly became a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

The Raymond boasted lavish accommodations, beautiful gardens, and a stunning view of the San Gabriel Mountains. It became known as the “Grand Dame” of the San Gabriel Valley, attracting well-known guests such as Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain.

Unfortunately, the hotel was destroyed by fire in 1895, but its legacy lives on in the city of Pasadena.

Hotel Green in Pasadena

Another notable hotel opening in the late 19th century was the Hotel Green, also located in Pasadena. Constructed in 1888, this elegant hotel was designed by renowned architects Frederick Roehrig and Frederick Law Olmsted, who is best known for designing New York City’s Central Park.

The Hotel Green boasted luxurious amenities such as a grand ballroom, a palm-filled courtyard, and a rooftop garden. It quickly became a social hub for the elite, hosting extravagant parties and events.

The Hotel Green still stands today as a testament to the opulence and grandeur of the late 19th century.

Hotel Arcadia in Santa Monica

Heading west toward the coast, we find the Hotel Arcadia in Santa Monica. Opening its doors in 1887, this beachfront hotel attracted visitors from all over the country who were seeking a seaside escape.

The Hotel Arcadia offered stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and boasted modern amenities such as electric lighting and steam heat. It quickly became a popular destination for those looking to enjoy the beach and experience the charm of Southern California.

Today, while the original hotel no longer stands, its influence can still be felt in the vibrant beach culture of Santa Monica.

Legacy and Influence of Early Resorts

The oldest luxury hotel in Southern California, which originally opened in 1888, holds a significant place in the history of the region’s hospitality industry. The early resorts of Southern California played a crucial role in shaping the tourism landscape, setting design standards, and inspiring future generations of hotels.

Impact on tourism

The establishment of the first luxury hotel in Southern California in 1888 had a profound impact on the development of tourism in the region. It attracted visitors from all over the country who were drawn to the mild climate, natural beauty, and recreational opportunities offered by the area.

The hotel became a popular destination for wealthy travelers seeking a luxurious and relaxing getaway. Its success paved the way for other resorts to be built, leading to a boom in tourism and the growth of the local economy.

Today, Southern California remains a sought-after destination for travelers from around the world, thanks in part to the pioneering efforts of these early resorts.

Setting design standards

The early luxury hotels in Southern California set the standards for hotel design and architecture. These resorts were known for their grandeur, opulence, and attention to detail. They featured expansive lobbies, elegant ballrooms, lush gardens, and luxurious guest rooms.

The design elements of these early resorts influenced the development of hotel architecture not only in Southern California but also across the country. Many of the design principles, such as the use of natural materials, open spaces, and integration with the surrounding landscape, are still evident in modern hotel designs.

The legacy of these early resorts can be seen in the architectural marvels that continue to grace the region today.

Inspiring future generations of hotels

The early resorts in Southern California served as a source of inspiration for future generations of hotels. The luxurious amenities, exceptional service, and attention to detail offered by these resorts became the benchmark for hospitality excellence.

Many hotels and resorts worldwide strive to emulate the level of comfort and luxury set by these early pioneers. The legacy of the oldest luxury hotel in Southern California continues to inspire hoteliers to create unforgettable experiences for their guests.

For more information on the history of early resorts in Southern California, you can visit www.socalresorts.com, a comprehensive website dedicated to the rich heritage of these iconic establishments.

Historic Hotels Today

Historic hotels are a fascinating glimpse into the past, offering visitors a chance to step back in time and experience the elegance and charm of a bygone era. One such gem is the oldest luxury hotel in Southern California, which originally opened its doors in 1888.

Today, this historic hotel continues to captivate guests with its timeless beauty and rich history.

Preserving architectural integrity

One of the remarkable aspects of historic hotels is their commitment to preserving their architectural integrity. These hotels understand the importance of maintaining their original charm and character while also accommodating modern needs.

From grand ballrooms adorned with stunning chandeliers to intricately designed facades, these hotels take great care in preserving the architectural details that make them unique.

Preservation efforts often include meticulous restoration of original features, such as ornate ceiling moldings, vintage wallpaper, and antique furniture. By preserving their architectural integrity, historic hotels offer guests a truly authentic experience, immersing them in the ambiance of a bygone era.

Modern amenities and updates

While historic hotels pride themselves on preserving their architectural integrity, they also understand the importance of providing modern amenities and updates. From high-speed internet access to state-of-the-art fitness centers, these hotels seamlessly blend the charm of the past with the conveniences of the present.

Guest rooms are often outfitted with luxurious bedding, flat-screen televisions, and spacious bathrooms with modern fixtures. The hotel’s restaurants and bars offer a fusion of traditional and contemporary cuisine, catering to the diverse tastes of today’s travelers.

By striking a balance between historical charm and modern convenience, historic hotels ensure that guests can enjoy the best of both worlds during their stay.

Historical appreciation and activities

Staying at a historic hotel is not just about enjoying luxurious accommodations; it’s also an opportunity to immerse oneself in history. These hotels often offer a range of historical appreciation activities for guests to enjoy.

Guided tours of the hotel provide insight into its rich history, highlighting famous guests and significant events that took place within its walls. Some hotels even offer historical reenactments or themed events, allowing guests to experience a slice of the past firsthand.

Additionally, many historic hotels are located in areas with significant historical attractions nearby. Guests can explore museums, landmarks, and other historical sites, further enhancing their appreciation for the area’s past.


While Hotel del Coronado stands as the most iconic Southern California resort dating back to 1888, a handful of other pioneering lodgings helped establish the region as a vacation paradise over a century ago. Their lasting legacy continues to inspire new generations of luxury hotels today.

Understanding the history and context of these Victorian gems provides a deeper appreciation for the origins of tourism in the area.

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