A Brief History of Coronado

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We live so close to Coronado and enjoy its beauty regularly, but how much do we really know about our neighboring city across the Bay Bridge? Coronado has a rich history and knowing some important facts will help you appreciate it even more.

First thing to know: Coronado is not an island though it is often mistakenly referred to as one. Coronado is actually attached to the mainland by an isthmus, which technically means that the correct geographical term for Coronado is a “tombolo.” In this case, the Silver Strand is the isthmus that connects Coronado to the mainland at Imperial Beach. Another fact about Coronado that every San Diegan should know: Coronado is Spanish for “crowned one,” which is where the city gets the nickname, The Crown City.

Now that we’ve gone over the technical terms for Coronado, let’s delve a little deeper into the history of the city.

Coronado was purchased by its founders Elisha Spurr Babcock, Hampton L. Story, and Jacob Gruendike in 1885. When they made the purchase, the three men had the vision of creating and developing a beach resort community from the ground up. Soon after the purchase, the trio methodically set out to turn their dream into a reality. First, the men organized the Coronado Beach Company and hired laborers to build the lots, railroads, and irrigation systems that eventually would accommodate the city’s residents.

Development began in Coronado with a land auction.  The auction brought in 6,000 people and nearly $100,000. 350 lots were sold at auction, and the profit from these sales was then used to begin construction on the iconic Hotel Del Coronado. If the founders wanted to develop a booming beach resort community, they knew that the resort would have to be something special that would attract visitors from all over the world. Construction of the hotel began in March 1887 and was completed in February 1888. By the roarin’ 20’s, the Hotel Del was well established and had already hosted numerous presidents and Hollywood starlets. The Del’s visitors throughout the years have included Thomas Edison, Babe Ruth, Frank Baum, Marilyn Monroe, Ronald Reagan, and more recently, Barack Obama.

Once the city of Coronado was built up and booming, it seemed efficient to build a bridge that would connect San Diego and Coronado. Originally, the idea of building a massive bridge was not received well with residents of Coronado or the Navy. By the time that the idea became a hot topic in the 1930’s, the Navy had a large presence in Coronado. Officers feared that a bridge would be collapsed by an attack or that an earthquake could demolish the bridge and subsequently trap navy ships in the bay.  After many years of debate and deliberation, the Navy finally announced its support for a bridge in 1964.

The principle architect of the bridge was Robert Mosher.  Construction on the bridge started in 1967 and took about three years to build. The Coronado Bay Bridge officially opened to traffic on August 3, 1969, during the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the founding of San Diego. The bridge is 11,179 ft. long and it is supported by 27 concrete girders. Today, the bridge one of the most well-known and photographed landmarks in San Diego.

Construction of the Coronado Bridge

The vision that Coronado’s founders had of a booming town and a beach resort is still alive and well. As residents of San Diego, we are close enough to be able to enjoy the slice of paradise that is Coronado on a regular basis. 

Lauren lives in OB with her French bulldog, Elvis Presley. She loves laughter and the great outdoors. You can contact her at [email protected].

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