Renovation is nothing new at the Hotel del Coronado, with E.S. Babcock setting the precedent when he started the first updates in 1902. A new milestone was just reached in the $400 million Master Plan restoration that will touch and refresh every part of the property. The third phase in this extensive five-year renovation, this project was carefully designed to bring The Del back to honor its past as well as making it relevant to present day. As Heritage Manager Gina Petrone commented, “The Del continues to evolve and that’s why she’s still here. What I love about this current renovation is the dedication and attention to historic detail in bringing her back as “The Grand Dame of the Pacific” while still feeling relevant.
Guests will enter The Del property at the new traffic signal at Avenida del Sol and Silver Strand Boulevard. The sweeping brick entry leads you to the updated porte-cochère, which was originally added in 1912. The central fountain beckons with a nautical theme. The revival of the front porch adds grandeur back to the entrance with white rocking chairs beckoning travelers to sit and relax. The porch railing was recreated to mimic the original with glass added for code compliance. The iconic porch can be seen in the 1959 movie “Some Like It Hot” and was removed in 1961.
The expanded lobby is opulent with new parquet flooring, an original clock, updated reception area and more. Incidentally, the original flooring was tile and men would come in with their fishing waders on and throw their catch of the day on the floor. The elegant chandelier was inspired by the original, but is more ornate. Other light fixtures, inside and out, were matched to original photos or inspired by the era. During Victorian times, there were also hardback chairs with spittoons underneath, so now the new green velvet circular bench is period appropriate, while being more functional for today’s standards. The green tassel keychains are reminiscent of when keys were kept behind the reception desk, while today electronic key cards are used. The hand painted silk wallpaper, called Amazonia, is inspired by the tropical wildlife housed in the original garden. The reception area also has a wallpapered secret door for employees to access the back of house.
Even the music was carefully chosen to evoke a timeless ambiance. All the magnificent woodwork was hand stripped and brought back to its original color, which had darkened over time, giving the lobby an airy feeling. The historic elevator has been updated to operate manually, but will still be manned by an operator complete with a stylish uniform. Mesh grating still has to be added to complete the original inspired design.
It was no easy feat to restore the 200-pound Coronation stained glass window and return it to its original place above the lobby. “With 700 pieces of glass, it was painstakingly restored with only six pieces replaced to last another 100 years,” commented Assistant Director of Marketing Keriann Martin. She noted that there will be 25 stained glass windows when the project is complete, comprised of four original and 21 replicas, including those to be placed above the entry doors on the front porch.
The halls have been lined with black and white historical photos showcasing what life was like for guests throughout The Del’s history. A quick gander in the lobby Signature Shop revealed logo items, clothing, and souvenirs; and I was captivated by a book entitled “The Loveliest Hotel You Can Imagine” which was taken from an actual child’s letters and drawings from her 1892 visit. Rich history abounds throughout the distinguished hotel.
While this majestic new lobby is open to the public, it will not be used for guests until later this fall, when details are complete, and staffing is finalized. The Del has seen a bustling summer, with July as their biggest revenue month ever in their history. Staff promises it will be decked out for the holidays with the famous lobby tree, complete with a fully decorated lobby and front porch.
Already completed in 2019 is Vista Terrace, an outdoor event space near The Dragon Tree; the upscale Serẽa restaurant which replaced 1500 OCEAN; restoration of The Laundry building; and the north entry and underground parking lot. 2020 saw the update of Babcock & Story Bar and Bakery, the pool and Sun Deck, the Cabanas, Eno Pizzeria and Market, and the Spa and Salon. This year is the completion year for the Fitness Center, the 117 renovated rooms at The Views, the Windsor lawn, the Ice House Museum, The Power Plant meeting space, upscale retail boutiques, and a new name and concept still to come for Sheerwater restaurant. The next phase, due for completion in 2022, includes Founders Hall, in which progress is just starting, a refresh of the Ballroom and Victorian Building guest rooms, the completion of the new Southpointe Event Center, and the sold out Shore House complex and south parking structure.
This master plan was carefully designed to bring The Del back to honor its past as well as making it relevant to present day. The Del consulted with Heritage Architecture & Planning to ensure that historical details were accurate, including scraping the paint from the Oxford building, scraping the window sashes to uncover the original shade of red, and the porch ceiling which returned to haint blue. Wimberly Interiors oversaw the lobby transformation. Hotel del Coronado is owned by The BRE Hotels and managed by the Curio Collection by Hilton.
“The Master Plan demonstrates not only our commitment to investing in our guest experience, but also our dedication to reinvigorating Hotel del Coronado’s timeless story,” said General Manager Harold Rapoza. “We are excited to debut this next phase of development and look forward to unveiling the evolution of this legendary resort with expansive historical restorations and enhanced guest experiences that will create memories for generations to come.”
And for even more of a peek inside The Del’s renovation, check out this video courtesy of Tony Perri and Surf’s Up Studios: