Benjamin Harrison, the first president to stay at the Hotel del Coronado, might not recognize its room rates, but if he dropped by the iconic resort today he’d be well-familiar with the entrance and lobby.

The Del’s front porch, with period rocking chairs, was among key features restored as another completed phase of a $400 million multi-phase renovation was unveiled Wednesday.

“The front porch was here back in 1888, when the hotel was built,” said Harold Rapoza, the hotel’s general manager. “And in 1961, they kind of covered over the front porch and built over it. So we’re bringing that historic element back.”

Relying mostly on old photos, renovators led by David Marshall sought to restore as much as they could, starting three years ago.

“Most difficult was fitting in the historic front veranda with a building that had been altered so much,” Marshall said. “We had to undo a lot of things, and we had to tweak it and twist it and stretch it in order to make it fit again.”

Also undone: gender rules at the Del.

The spittoon-equipped lobby was originally reserved mainly for men — who sometimes brought their fishing and hunting catches to brag into the rotunda. A ladies gallery looked down on it. And single women couldn’t enter the dining room without an accompanying gentleman.

Gina Petrone, the Del’s heritage manager, said she found plans for the original flooring, but it was never installed.

“They were economizing, saving money,” she said. “It was never an onyx floor. So the plans aren’t always 100% reliable.” Thus architects depended on photos from the Coronado Historical Association, the Coronado Library and other sources. 

Petrone was really proud of the stained glass window on the second floor.

Designed by Hotel Del architect James Reid, the so-called Coronation Window was installed in 1888. Moved around over the years, the window ended up in bars and restaurants, and in storage.

But when it was restored in the 1990s, “they put her up there on the wrong floor and they turned her around,” Petrone said.  It also was buckling under its own weight, exposed to the elements.

Now the 133-year-old window is back in its original position — “the way she was meant to be … reinforced so that it would last another 133 years,” she said before giving a tour.

At Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey said, “When you look around at all the changes that are happening with the Hotel Del, they are continuing to offer these types of experiences that guests appreciate and enjoy while also staying true to the hotel’s history and character.

“And as the hotel goes, so does Coronado. It is the crown jewel of our island.”

Future work includes 142 more guest rooms and underground parking, all part of a master plan OK’d by the City of Coronado in 2008 and the California Coastal Commission in 2010.

This third phase of work follows the summer 2020 opening of The Cabanas and new main pool, plus four dining upgrades — Sun Deck, Babcock & Story, ENO Market and ENO Pizzeria. It puts the hotel a step closer to its final debut by September 2022.

The front porch and lobby restorations — dubbed “most impactful” by GM Rapoza — removed nonhistoric add-ons. A wide veranda offers a place for guests to relax. A second set of entry stairs (which originally served as the ladies entrance) were re-created and an improved accessible ramp was added.

Nonhistoric windows were also replaced with period-appropriate windows with red sashes, and 17 stained glass windows other than the Coronation Window, once lost to time, were re-created and installed in their original locations.

Lobby floor space was expanded, and historic Illinois oak wood stripped and restained to its original color. The birdcage elevator received mechanical upgrades, wood beams throughout the lobby were reinforced with steel, and a new period-appropriate wood parquet floor and carpet were installed.

All fixtures were recreated based on the originals of the Victorian era. A new crystal chandelier inspired by the original that brightened the lobby in 1888 has also been installed.

The lobby had been closed 1 1/2 years during the renovation.

Other features guests will see:

  • Main Entry: In the redesign, guests approach the hotel from Orange Avenue with a new drive that frames a view of the hotel’s iconic turret along with a newly redesigned porte-cochere and central fountain.
  • The Views ‘Neighborhood’: Situated right on the beach, The Views features 217 enhanced guest rooms and suites, a coastal design in seafoam and driftwood with new glass balcony railings. Ground-level rooms feature outdoor terraces with fire pits.
  • Windsor Lawn: Remake included new turf, trees, landscaping, lighting and restructuring of the Paseo Lawns, now located on the north and south ends.
  • Lower Level Shops at The Del: The reopening of the lower level Shops at The Del has begun with doors opening at Weekends, an apparel, and Beach House, a curated collection of gifts and home decor inspired by beach life.
  • Ice House: Built in 1889, it was restored to serve as a museum. Along with permanent and rotating exhibit space, the Ice House Museum will serve as the starting place for the hotel’s history tours, as well as a venue for private events.
  • Power Plant Meeting Space: Initially built to provide power to the hotel and the island of Coronado, this space has been reimagined as a co-working and meeting space at The Del.
  • A new fitness center was completed in March earlier this year.

The upgrades began in 2019. Changes involved Vista Terrace, an outdoor entertaining space with the historic Dragon Tree, and Serẽa, an upscale, sea-to table experience with coastal cuisine with raw and cooked options.

Also The Laundry was restored with a brick façade, and the original laundry conveyance systems remains as a tribute to its working history. Also in 2019 the North Entry and north parking structure got a makeover.

The Del was closed for three months in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The 2020 renovations included the Cabanas with enhanced guestrooms with a new pool. The Sun Deck reopened as a modern beachfront eatery and rooftop lounge.

Also, Babcock & Story Bar received some structural upgrades as well as an interior design update. The original bar was refinished and the outdoor awning was replaced with a wood trellis. The nearby B&S Bakery also was renovated.

The Spa & Salon at the Del received an interior design refresh with new lounge areas for men and women and a Marilyn Monroe-inspired Beauty Bar. (She appeared in the 1959 Hotel Del-set classic “Some Like it Hot” with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.)

But back to Harrison, the nation’s 23rd president — 1881 to 1887.

He might not have paid the lowest rate — $3.50 a day including three meals. But if he pulled up in a Tesla Roadster today, he might be shocked by its current costs.

The cheapest room this coming Monday goes for $431 plus a $50 “Daily Mandatory Charge” that includes beach yoga, sculpt-tone and meditation classes and a $15 Historical Preservation Fund charge. The priciest is $1,497 (plus $50) for the Victorian Two-Bedroom Crown Suite, which covers 1,200 square feet and sleeps eight.

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