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Polco News & Knowledge

Coronado Keeps History Alive Through Cultural Preservation

landscape shot of coronado with the hotel del coronado in the center

The island ranks above the national average in maintaining its historical buildings.

- Jessie O’Brien -

There is no doubt that old architecture injects a place with a rich aesthetic beauty that most modern buildings cannot compete with. Visually appealing places encourage tourism and improve quality of life. Such is the case in Coronado, California. 

The 32.5-square-mile island off the coast of San Diego is known for its Navy Base, beautiful beaches, and perfect climate. 

"It gets up to the upper 70s, and we’re like, ‘Oh my god it’s so hot, and when it gets down into the low 60s, we're looking for our mukluks and down jackets,” said David Landon, a former Navy pilot and board president of Coronado Historical Association

Whether in winter boots or a bikini, Coronado has plenty to sightsee. Coronado scores 15 points higher than the national average in historic preservation, according to The National Community Survey® (The NCS®). The NCS is an assessment that gathers resident insights on different aspects of livability. 


Roof of Hotel Del Coronado

Landon says the historic preservation drives tourists to the City. The town was built on tourism with the construction of the Hotel del Coronado in 1887. The hotel was a technological marvel and one of the largest buildings with electricity at the time. 

The Hotel del Coronado, which just underwent a $400 million renovation, is the crown jewel of the City and became a historic landmark in 1977. It’s one of the few wooden Victorian beach resorts left in the United States. 

There are many other design genres in Coronado as well. The eclectic neighborhoods are populated with a variety of architectural designs, including Tudors, Craftsmans, Spanish Colonial-style establishments, and modernist buildings by famous architects like Irving Gill, along with many others. 

"I don't think there is one predominant style, and that’s one of the things that makes Coronado so unique,” Landon said. “You drive down any street and you will not see any consecutive style that is dominant on any part of the island. There has been no cookie-cutter approach to how the housing and businesses were designed.”

According to The NCS results, 95% of residents feel positive about Coronado’s overall appearance, which is well above the national average. The location undoubtedly supports the high ranking, but the preservation plays a strong role as well. 

“The City, the City Council, the residents, and historical society are very protective of what we have, and we don't want to lose it,” Landon said. 

Recently, a large corporation took over a restaurant in an iconic building that they wanted to rebuild to fit their corporate brand. The Historic Resource Commission and the Design Review are responsible for approving these kinds of design plans. Landon said the two entities told the restaurant owner they are not going to redesign the town to fit their corporate image. Instead, they would have to redesign their buildings to fit Coronado’s image.

The association also recently prevented the Hotel del Coronado from delisting two buildings on the hotel property. 

“If you rest on your laurels, things are going to change,” Landon said. “There is always going to be that person who looks at that opportunity to make more money and we’ll lose the flavor.” 


Historic Crown Manor in Coronado

In addition to community support, the passing of the Mills Act also incentivizes homeowners to designate historic homes by offering large breaks in property taxes. The island shows the homes off with an online walking tour of the registered houses. A short history of each location is shared at each stop. 

These are a few examples of how Coronado celebrates and maintains its past. And outsiders take notice. 

The Historic Preservation Commission recently hired a marketing contractor from the nearby city of La Jolla. She commented on how Coronado has preserved its beauty while her beach town’s history has slowly disappeared. 

“She said the change doesn't happen overnight. It happens incrementally,” Landon said. “It’s one historic home, it’s one business front that you let get torn down and totally redesigned.  Pretty soon, before you realize it, what you had that was special is gone, and you can’t get it back.”

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