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A Resort Town with Many Dimensions

Modern-day Coronado began in 1885 with the purchase of a one-time Spanish rancho that spanned Coronado, North Island and the Silver Strand. A small partnership led by Elisha Babcock and Hampton Story purchased all this for a mere $110,000. Their vision was to establish “the grandest hotel on the Pacific coast” set within a master-planned community featuring wide avenues, parklands, handsome public buildings, and attractive beachside residences.

Coronado and the Hotel del Coronado would grow together, side by side, for decades — each equally benefiting the other. The beloved “Hotel Del” would become the coast’s largest and grandest hotel while Coronado would develop an uncommon level of charm in the midst of a near-perfect climate.

Coronado’s history flourished in multiple dimensions. Early in the 1900s, Coronado’s weather and remote location placed it at the forefront of aviation breakthroughs.

In 1911, famed aviator Glenn Curtiss leased North Island for three years (rent free!) as a place to experiment with his newly developed seaplane. After flying the world’s first seaplane, he convinced the U.S. Navy to establish its first aircraft squadron, making Naval Air Station North Island the “Birthplace of Naval Aviation.”

As a world-famous resort getaway, Coronado has been the destination of presidents and kings, Hollywood stars, and visitors from every corner of the world. It has been an inspiration for L. Frank Baum’s classic “The Wizard of Oz.” But at its core, it is still an easy-going small town with tremendous cultural and historic roots — an enchanting blend that makes Coronado both unique and endlessly attractive.


Here is a fun timeline of some of Coronados signifcant Events:

1542: Under the Spanish flag, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo lays claim to the port he called San Miguel (now known as San Diego). 

1602: Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino sails past the four rocky islands 17 miles off the San Diego coast and names them Las Yslas Coronadas. He enters the bay and renames the site San Diego de Alcala. His crude map of the bay provided the world with its first picture of Coronado.

1769: Threat of Russian encroachment on western North American soil prompts the Spanish government to send several land and sea expeditions to occupy California. On July 7, 1769, San Diego, the first city in California, is founded.

1846: Coronado peninsula is deeded to Pedro C. Carrillo and his bride Josefa as a wedding gift from Mexican Governor Pio Pico. A few months later Carrillo sells the land to American Bezer Simmons for $1,000 in silver. A series of rapid changes in ownership of Coronado occur over the next few years.

1867: The first topographical map of the land of Coronado is required by the state. The total land area is determined to be 4,185.46 acres.

1885: Coronado sold! Businessman Elisha Babock, Jr. and Hampton Story and their partners purchase Coronado peninsula for $110,000. The deal is finalized November 19, 1885. Three weeks later Story’s steam launch Della sails to Coronado, pulling a barge with 40 Chinese laborers to begin work developing the peninsula.

1886: The official map of Coronado is recorded in San Diego and the first lot sale on November 13 attracts 6,000 prospective buyers. Bidding starts at $500 and goes as high as $1,600. Lot sales help fund the building of the Hotel del Coronado.

1887: Groundbreaking ceremony for the Hotel del Coronado. The Hotel, the largest resort hotel in the world at that time, opens 11 months after construction begins. 

1889: John D. Spreckels, son of San Francisco “Sugar King” Claus Spreckels, purchases all of the Coronado Beach Company holdings for $500,000. Except for privately owned lots, Spreckels owns all of Coronado, North Island, the hotel, the ferry, the trolley, and water systems.

1900: Spreckels starts Tent City, a self-operating city of several hundred tents and thatched roof cottages south of the Hotel del Coronado. Tent City flourishes for nearly 40 years, until its closure in 1939 to make room for the highway.

1904: Lighting of the large Norfolk Island Pine at the entrance to the Hotel del Coronado, the first electrically lit outdoor tree in the United States.

1911: Famed aviator Glenn Curtiss leases North Island for three years (rent free!) as a place to experiment with his newly developed seaplane.  He flies the world's first seaplane from Spanish Bight and convinces the Navy to establish their first aircraft squadron making North Island the "Birthplace of Naval Aviation."

1914: Opening of Tent City breaks all prior records as 10,000 people arrive.

1917: Congress passes a Condemnation Act to acquire the 1,232-acre North Island as a permanent military aviation school and base. After several years of litigation the U.S. government pays the Spreckels Company $5 million for the land.

1927: Charles A. Lindbergh departs for New York from North Island; from there he undertakes the first transatlantic flight to Paris.

1945: The Spanish Bight, the water that separated North Island from Coronado, is filled in to allow room for more building to ease WWII congestion.

1961: Aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk (CV-63) arrives in Coronado after the channel was deepened to receive her, the first super carrier home-ported here.

1968-1969: Dredging of San Diego Bay and construction of the San Diego–Coronado Bay Bridge begins. The bridge is dedicated on August 2, 1969, with Governor Ronald Reagan providing the dedication address.

1972: President Richard Nixon holds the first State Dinner outside of the White House at the Hotel del Coronado.

1973: Coronado residents who had been Viet Nam Prisoners of War return home.