A Majestic Old Lady

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Hotel del Coronado (also known as The Del and Hotel Del) is a historic beachfront hotel in the city of Coronado, CA, just across the San Diego bay from San Diego. It is 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 Tillamook, OR) and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977 and a California Historical Landmark in 1970. In 1904, Hotel del Coronado introduced the world’s first electrically lit, outdoor living Christmas tree.

Notable guests have included Edison, Charlie Chaplin, Vincent Price, Babe Ruth, Jimmy Steward, Bette David, Katherin Hepburn, Kevin Costner, Whoopi Goldberg, Gene Hackman, George Harrison, Brad Pitt, Madonna, Barbara Streisand and Oprah Winfrey. The following presidents have also stayed there: Harrison, McKinley, Taft, Wilson, FDR, Eisenhower, JFK, Lyndon Johnson, Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama. 

Another famous resident of the hotel is the purported ghost of Kate Morgan. On November 24, 1892, she checked into room 304 (then 3318, now 3327). She told staff she was awaiting the arrival of her brother who was a doctor. She said he was going to treat her stomach cancer, but he never arrived. She was found dead on the steps leading to the beach three days later. The case was declared a suicide; she had shot herself. Another tragedy took place on the beach at the hotel in 1904 when actress Isadore Rush drowned.

When it opened in 1888, it was the largest resort hotel in the world. It has hosted presidents, royalty, and celebrities through the years. The hotel has been featured in numerous movies and books.

I was fortunate enough to go there on a recent work trip to San Diego. It is magnificent – huge, stately, well maintained and elegant. I took today’s photo with my cell phone inside the lobby area. I would love to go back and stay sometime. It is just a short walk across the grass to a beautiful sandy beach…and of course, the weather in San Diego is matchless!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1991 (when we lived in the Bay Area), a fire began in the hills of Oakland, CA. It went on to burn thousands of homes and kill 25 people. Despite the fact that fires had ravaged the same area three times earlier in the century, people continued to build homes there.

Fires had previously raged through the hills in 1923, 1970 and 1980. Each time, the fires occurred during autumn in a year with relatively little precipitation, and, each time, the residents rebuilt and moved back in as soon as possible. The deadly 1991 fire can be traced to a small fire at 7151 Buckingham Boulevard on October 19. Firefighters responded quickly and thought they had brought the blaze under control. However, heat from the fire had caused pine needles to fall from the trees and cover the ground.

When highly flammable debris, also known as “duff,” accumulates on the ground, fires can smolder unseen. At 10:45 a.m. on October 19, strong winds blew one of these unseen fires up a hillside; changing wind patterns then caused it to spread in different directions.

The winds were so intense and the area was so dry that within an hour close to 800 buildings were on fire. The wind then blew southwest, pushing the fire toward San Francisco Bay. In some places, the temperature reached 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, making it virtually impossible to fight the fire effectively. Homeowners attempted to hose down their roofs, but were often thwarted when water pipes burst from the fire. Also, many homes had wooden shingle roofs that were particularly susceptible to fire—it took only 10 minutes in some cases for a house to be brought down by the flames.

Firefighting efforts were constrained by the fact that the affected homes were located on steep hills with very narrow streets. This made it difficult to maintain radio communications and to move large fire engines close to the flames. The fire spread so rapidly that firefighters were unable to establish a perimeter. When the fire was finally contained the following day, 25 people had lost their lives, 150 people were injured and 3,000 homes and 1,500 acres had been consumed. The total tally of damages was $1.5 billion.

In the aftermath, authorities attempted to reduce the likelihood of a similar fire breaking out the in the future. Laws were changed regarding the maximum height of trees permitted and the type of vegetation that was allowable in the area. In addition, most homes that have been rebuilt do not have wooden roofs.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The Talmud is very strict about banning extramarital sex—but also about encouraging marital sex. The Talmud even lays out a timetable for how often husbands should “rejoice” their wives. For men of independent means, every day; for laborers, twice a week; for donkey drivers, once a week; for camel-drivers, once in 30 days; and for sailors, once in six months.

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