Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Sun Is Always Warmer When You Can Feel It - Pt. 2

"You could go to Dreamland.

You just caught the ferry at 23rd Street or slogged your way through the slow crawl of horse carts and motor cars, heading south on Shell road in the golden light of the late June afternoon, down to the edge of the Atlantic where a white city rose up above the brick and ash of Brooklyn.

You could walk through the fake marble gates as the sun went down, and the sea flashed amber and then grey, as Statton Island disappeared into the shadows, and the light grew dim enough for you to fool yourself that the marble wasn't fake at all. 

Then the bulbs blinked ona million of themlighting up the night in the largest amusement park in the world. 
Which was something spectacular to see, just a few years after you'd seen your first electric light at all. 

Especially after you'd spent a 12-hour day in some basement room or some windowless factory floor, stitching sleeves or packing boxes, fitting fingers to gloves by gaslight. 

It would be something to see even now. 

To see dozens of white buildings made to look like French pavilions, Roman forum, and Florentine towers.

Where people danced at history's largest ballroom, and where you could drink tea at a Japanese garden. 

Where you could sit in an auditorium in bleachers, surrounding a vast pool of saltwater, and watch submarines fight a fake battle beneath a scale model of San Fransisco. 

You could buy your ticket to Dreamland and take a gondola ride through the canals of Venice, past St. Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace. 

You could ride your first escalator. 

You could take a miniature train ride through a fake Switzerland and another from New York to California, or walk the streets of Kyro. Or Paris. And other places you were never, ever going to go otherwise.

Or you could sit on a swing with your friends inside a tiny house, and then feel the swing move and feel yourself flip end over end, only to figure out later on, when you're sitting out under the string lights and salt air, that you hadn't moved at all. 
That it was the tiny house that had flipped end over end around you. 

You could see a cast of 2,000 people set fire to a 6-story hotel, and watch firefighters put it out, scaling ladders to rescue actors from real danger and catch them in nets as they made panicked leaps from 4th story windows. So they could do it again tomorrow night. And the next night. And the next. 

You could fly over all of it in a hot air balloon. 

You could sink below it in a diving bell. 

You could watch a magician make a woman float right over your head. 

You could eat a new invention, a hotdog, while you watched a chariot race.

You could climb into a boat ride called the "Gates of Hell."

Until one night. 

One of those million light bulbs blew and sent a spark that flitted on to paper mache, throwing all of Dreamland up in flames. 

Two thousand firefightersall of them pretendcouldn't put Dreamland back together again."


More than just an introduction to a place you've never heard about and will never see, my point for the story is just that. 

You will never see Dreamland. It was destroyed in 1911. 
So by the time you came, it was gone. 

As spectacular as Dreamland wasand it was awe-inspiringit doesn't touch you now. 
It can't impress you now unless your emotions are slightly swayed by reading accounts of its splendour. Still, at its best, it will never intensify itself to the level of being a reality to a generation that came too late to put out the fire. 

But as I walked past a similarly grand structure that was built 16 years earlier than Dreamland, the truism of "You never know what you have until it's gone," made a grab for my attention. 

And I knew it was true.

Something simply being there, merely existing, seems to be a reason for us to file it away with the mundane and usual.

 It is only when a river dries to a trickle, that we begin to see how important it was. 

Or fantastic. 

Or impressive. 

So this is my ode to a place I haven't given much more than a single thought to my entire life. 

A place that is still standing, still there to be appreciated, always available to inspire wonder. 

Hotel Del Coronado, welcome to the spotlight. 


In November 1885, five investors went together to buy all of Coronado and North Island, approximately 4,000 acres, for $110,000.
The Coronado Beach Company was born. 

One of the founders, namely Babcock, had a grand vision for the hotel.

"It would be built around a court...a garden of tropical trees, shrubs, and flowers. 
From the south end, the foyer should open to Glorietta Bay with verandas for rest and promenade. On the ocean corner, there should be a pavilion tower, and northward along the ocean, a colonnade, terraced in grass to the beach. 
The dining wing should project at an angle from the southeast corner of the court and be almost detached, to give full value to the view of the ocean, bay, and city."

A Decided Place

James W. Reid was the architect hired to make a dream come true. 

Construction of the hotel began in March 1887, "on a sandspit populated by jackrabbits and coyotes."

Groundbreaking Ceremony

Reid's plans were being revised and added to regularly. 

To deal with fire hazards, a freshwater pipeline was run under San Diego Bay. Water tanks and gravity flow sprinklers were installed, along with the world's first oil furnace in a hotel.

Electric lighting in a hotel was also a world first. The electrical wires were installed inside the gas lines, so if the "new-fangled" electricity didn't work, they could always pipe gas in to illuminate the rooms.

Hotel Construction

When the 399-room hotel opened for business in February 1888,  
reports of the new grand hotel were wired across the country.

Just as the hotel was nearing completion, the Southern California land boom collapsed. The project needed additional funds at a time when many people were deserting San Diego. Babcock turned to Captain Charles Hinde and sugar magnate John D. Spreckels, who lent them $100,000 to finish the hotel. 

The Coronado Beach Company was then capitalized with three million United States dollars. By 1890 Spreckels bought out both Babcock and Story. The Spreckels family retained ownership of the hotel until 1948.

The Del Debuts

First Wedding

President William Taft At The Del

Barney Goodman purchased the hotel from the Spreckels in 1948.

From the end of World War II until 1960, the hotel began to age. While still outwardly beautiful, neglect was evident. In 1960, local millionaire John Alessio purchased the hotel and spent $2 million on refurbishment and redecorating.

Alessio sold the hotel to M. Larry Lawrence in 1963. Lawrence's initial plan was to develop the land around the hotel and ultimately, to demolish it.
Lawrence later changed his mind. During his tenure, Lawrence invested $150 million in refurbishing and expanding much of the hotel. He doubled its capacity to 700 rooms. He added the Grande Hall Convention Center and two seven-story Ocean Towers just south of the hotel.
The Lawrence family sold the hotel to the Travelers Group after Lawrence's death in 1996. The Travelers Group completed a $55 million upgrade of the hotel in 2001, which included seismic retrofitting. 

The hotel's many notable guest list includes Thomas Edison, William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Charlie Chaplin, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, King Kalakaua of Hawaii, and Babe Ruth.

Hotel Del Coronado.
 One of the few surviving examples of an American architectural genre; the wooden Victorian beach resort. 

It is the second largest wooden structure in the United States (after the Tillamook Air Museum in Oregon) and was designated a National Historical Landmark in 1977. 

And you can still go see it, revelling in the fact that you won't have to wait until it's gone to appreciate it.  



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