Coronado April 10, 2012 Pic (19)
The popularity of the hotel was established before the 1920s. It already had hosted Presidents Harrison, McKinley, Taft, and Wilson. By the 1920s Hollywood's stars and starlets discovered that 'the Del' was the 'in place' to stay. Many celebrities made their way south to party during the era of Prohibition and used the Hotel Del as their personal playground. Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn and Mae West were a few of the many actors who stayed at the hotel during weekend getaways.
On New Year's Day 1937, during the Great Depression, the gambling ship SS Monte Carlo, known for "drinks, dice, and dolls", was shipwrecked on the beach about a quarter mile south of the Hotel del Coronado.
World War II, middle age, and rebirth
During World War II, many West Coast resorts and hotels were taken over by the U.S. government for use as housing and hospitals. The Hotel del Coronado housed many pilots, who were being trained at nearby North Island Naval Air Station on a contract basis, but it was never commandeered. General manager Steven Royce convinced the Navy to abstain from taking over the hotel, because most of the additional rooms were being used to house the families of officers. He pointed out that "the fathers, mothers and wives were given priority to the rooms because it may be the last time they will see their sons and husbands." Ultimately the Navy agreed, and the hotel never was appropriated.
The hotel was designated as a "wartime casualty station". It began a victory garden program, planting vegetables on all spare grounds around the hotel.
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 to refurbish and expand 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 his death in 1996. The Travelers Group completed a $55 million upgrade of the hotel in 2001, which included seismic retrofitting.