The hotel provides the public with little information about its history. Our team researches the hotel's past, from the very beginning, verifying its exact opening date and providing an overview of its history up to the present day.?If you have any useful information and would like to share it, please send it to you This is what we know so far (attention: unverified history!): A few distinguished locales possess a feature in their landscapes that makes all the rest coalesce. La Jolla has La Valencia Hotel. More than one of the finest small inns in the country, more than a social nexus for the town, La Valencia helps create and complete the colorful scapes of sea, mountainside and village. The arriving visitor passes under the colonnade alongside the palm-shaded patio and enters the lobby where, beyond, is the lounge with its hand-painted ceiling, and its spectacular floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the Pacific. There is an immediate sense of a special ambience, of finding the heart and spirit of a place. This comes as no surprise to those who know the history of this hotel and town that grew up together. It was on December 15, 1926 that La Jollans MacArthur Gorton and Roy B. Wiltsie formally opened their La Valencia Apartment-Hotel on Prospect Street at Herschel Avenue, designed by Reginald Johnson, and overlooking the already-famed La Jolla Cove. Contrary to popular myth, and more than a few newspaper and magazine stories over the years, a previous incarnation, called Los Apartamentos de Sevilla never existed. It never got off the drawing board of architect Edgar V. Ullrich. The city of San Diego rejected his plans, although he had had better luck with his hotel Casa de Manana (now a retirement home), built in 1924. Two years later Gorton and Wiltsie announced a second opening, a handsome addition to the structure that brought their total investment to $300,000. Designed by Herbert Mann and Tow Shephard, the eight-story, second unit added hotel-style rooms, a lounge with outside balcony running the length of it and affording a breathtaking view over the Pacific, and a new restaurant presided over by a chef trained as a dietician. Gethin Williams was hired as manager, and would remain until 1946. And now, too, were added the distinctive tower, with its gold and blue dome, and a new sign out front. La Valencia now had sixty rooms. La Jolla had a population of about 3,500. Together they would travel far, and well, together. From the lavish grand opening, four days after Christmas in 1928, the hotel attracted the wealthy and celebrated. Many of their autographed pictures hang to this day in a alcove just off the main lobby. But whether famous or not, visitors came as guests and left as friends and devotees. La Valencia's magic didn't appear all at once. The grand opening found the patios and gardens not yet finished. And many of the hotel's features that are most popular today, the Whaling Bar & Grill and the Sky Room among them, were a decade or two in the future. Garbo and John Gilbert, Ramon Navarro, Chaplin and Groucho Marx, the Talmadge sisters, Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford. During the 1930's, these and many more Hollywood luminaries found La Valencia the perfect hideaway. Celebrities, however, have a unique, some might say double, standard for their "hideaways." They like to pretend nobody knows who they are while getting the deferential treatment they feel is due them because of who they are. Not every hotel has the finesse, the style, to do this. In fact, there is only one way to do it: to ensure that every guest is treated like someone special. That makes the celebrity satisfied that he is treated just like everyone else, and everyone else can tell the folks back home that they were treated like a celebrity. If La Jolla was not exactly humming during this period - the population was only 5500 by 1940 - it was in the 1930's that La Valencia achieved its style, that patina of service, accoutrements and atmosphere that set it apart from ordinary hostelries. Starting at the lobby level, the décor suggests more than transient values. Most of the furniture and decorations are transient values. Most of the furniture and decoration s are antiques, some even donated by former patrons. Small wonder that long-time guests were concerned about the numbers of the rooms being changed. If that changed, what might be next? But the French expression, plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, might have been created for La Valencia, where "the more things change the more they remain the same" has been elevated to a fine art. Each guest room and suite has its individual character, a suggestion of the old with the conveniences of the new. Even the luggage carts are custom make of marble and brass, in a style of bygone days. Particularly since the Second World War, modern comforts and amenities were introduced. But such innovations as the postwar Café La Rue and Whaling Bar & Grill, so intrinsically belonged that they seem to have been hoarded in a hotel storeroom from the beginning and then merely brought out at an appropriate time. The same wizardry pertains to the hotel's service. Many of the hotel's employees have been there a long time. But even the newest seem imbued with the hotel's traditions from their first day, as if they, too had found their way up from some storeroom for personnel when the time was ripe. In the decade of the 1930s, then, La Valencia acquired the graces, distinction, and the subdued glamour of an establishment that had been around for a much longer time. How did it happen? Perhaps a puzzle will explain the puzzle. Almost since the hotel opened, on a table in the lounge has lain a large jigsaw puzzle. Over the years, many guests have pondered it, and added pieces here and there. That is how it happened. Every visitor to the hotel added a little something, left behind a little something of themselves, to help form the overall picture of La Valencia. It is a never-ending process. Well, once it almost ended. One day a uniformed chauffeur strode into the lounge, swept the entire puzzle into a bag, and departed. It seems his mistress couldn't bear to check out without having finished it, and so it had to go with her. Of course the puzzle came back. And of course guests are still adding pieces to it. And those guests who came in the 1940s were no less enchanting, or enchanted with the hotel, than those who came before. In fact, there was a whole new influx of glamour with the arrival in town of the La Jolla Playhouse. But that was in 1947, and before that La Valencia had the second world war to deal with. Those who were in La Jolla when the war started will never forget it. On Sunday afternoon, December 7, 1941, some might have gone to downtown San Diego to see the stirring new Gary Cooper film Sergeant York. The film was stopped in the middle for the theater's announcement that all servicemen were to report back to their bases immediately. There were many. Besides having great strategic importance, the San Diego area had more that the usual complement of military installations. And La Valencia? As La Jolla filled with men in uniform, the hotel did what one might expect of a place with a fine sense of occasion and style. It put a snappy salute in its gracious service and played host to hundreds of young officers on leave or waiting to go overseas. That was not all. Along with patriotic La Jolla residents, many of the hotel's guests climbed up into the gold-domed tower to scan the skies for enemy aircraft. As a part of the Civil Defense program the tower was manned in two-hour shifts, twenty-four hours a day. Ten years after the war was over, Tulsa millionaire Otis McClintock wanted to build a penthouse for himself up there, even had architectural plans drawn up. Eventually the plan was dropped, but one wonders if McClintock first got the idea while keeping an eye peeled for Zeros. If so, McClintock was not the first person to experience La Jolla during the war years and then include it in his postwar plans. Many servicemen and women did exactly that. And this time they would come to stay. First stop? Where else? The elegant inn that had welcomed them in difficult times was the only choice to usher in better times ahead. But another group that returned to La Valencia after the war was to have an equally major and lasting impact on the hotel and the town. From the start, Hollywood had claimed La Valencia as a hideaway. Now the hotel became the gathering place of choice for those who launched, and performed in, the famous La Jolla Playhouse. During its initial incarnation, from 1947 to 1964, when its stage was in the auditorium of the La Jolla High School, the Playhouse was perhaps the most prestigious summer theater in the country. Without doubt it had the most celebrity-studded casts. Stars of the caliber of Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, Mel Ferrer, Jose Ferrer, Joseph Cotton, Richard Basehart, Louis Jourdan, Charleton Heston, Ginger Rogers, Jennifer Jones, Lorne Greene, David Niven … literally there are far too many to mention in that seventeen-year period. And, at least in the beginning, they were willing to work for the same money that Artistic Director, and one-time La Jolla resident, Gregory Peck did, Actors Equity minimum of $55 a week. But there were other compensations besides money. And La Valencia was one of them. After filming all day, Peck drove down from Los Angeles (in those pre-freeway days) for openings, and then played host to the new cast at the Whaling Bar. He managed to get the famous Jane Cowel for one Playhouse production by promising her two weeks in a La Valencia suite, plus a car and driver. La Valencia was the proper place for the Playhouse casts to gather for the same reason the hotel has been the choice for so many other occasions over the years: it just seemed right. The Playhouse era, one of the Hotel's most glamorous, was dazzling enough to make one almost forget that it spanned nearly two decades, when a great deal else happened in La Jolla, and at the La Valencia itself. We need to retrace our steps for a moment and look at some of those developments. By 1950, La Jolla had almost 11,000 people, had formed its own Town Council (it already got its own ZIP code, although legally it was part of San Diego), built more schools and churches, and began to expand along the flatlands of La Jolla Shores, up the slopes of Mount Soledad, and toward Pacific Beach. The Korean War also gave, on a smaller scale, the same kind of boost of the economy that the Second World War had. But when that conflict ended in 1953, there was a slowdown. San Diego's economy contracted. Consolidated Aircraft (by then called Convair) sharply cut staff. The military presence shrank. And San Diego didn't seem to know what new course to set for itself. All this had an impact on La Jolla. But if the town was worried about its future in that period, and falling real estate values were a good indication that it was, you couldn't tell it at La Valencia. It was not just that the hotel prospered from the influx of people associated with the La Jolla Playhouse. La Valencia seemed to have a vision of the future before anyone else did, and entered its period of greatest expansion. The lower three floors (numbered four, five and six, of course) were completed in 1949. The pool, gym, sauna, putting green and shuffleboard were put in shortly after. The Cabrillo Hotel, adjacent to the La Valencia was acquired in 1956 and incorporated as the West Wing of L Valencia. This 30-room addition brought the hotel's room capacity to 100. But of all the changes in the immediate postwar era, none were more inspired than the creation of Café La Rue and the Whaling Bar where once shops had been. Today it is impossible to imagine La Valencia without them. If the hotel is a centerpiece for the town of La Jolla, this restaurant and bar instantly became the centerpiece of the hotel, not only for guests but for La Jolla residents. The décor makes both rooms seem as if they had been there forever. The Whaling Bar has its pewter candle holders, antique wooden shutters, miniature paintings, and displays of carved ivory scrimshaw. Not surprisingly, devotees of the hotel made their contributions too. Colonel Billy Mitchell gave the unique barrel clock behind the bar. Bert Hupp, former president of such corporations as National Biscuit and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, gave the lovely model of a full-rigged sailing ship at the end of the row of leather booths. Then there are the murals done by Wing Howard. Behind the bar is the large one that might be called Whale's Last Stand. On another wall a couple of lounging tars gaze sown at the patrons. Two other Howard murals, whimsical scenes of Deauville and Paris streets brighten the walls of Café La Rue. Howard did them all in tempera, a process easier of execution, and less lasting, than other mediums, but one that permits easy retouching or redoing. In fact that was the ides, that every few months Howard would come back and paint something new. Nice work if you can get it: lifelong employment redoing the murals of the Whaling Bar and Café La Rue. But of course it didn't work out that way. The same kind of people who insisted that the hotel had three more floors than it actually did weren't going to allow those original murals to change. The addition of the Cabrillo building marked the last major change to date, in the physical plant of La Valencia. However, a fortune was invested in the 1980s as refurbishing and upgrading continued. In the mid-1960s, the town's population passed the 20,000 mark and the increase was no longer the traditional retirees, or visitors so enchanted they had to stay. La Jolla for the first time was developing an infrastructure that bound people to it with more than sun and sea. In 1964, the University of California began its campus on the mesa above town. A decade later its students, teachers, and other staff would equal the population of the town. Nearby, the world-famous Salk Institute had arrived before the campus, and now Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation moved to new quarters just beyond Salk from its decades-long site on Prospect Street. Other research organizations joined the move to the mesa just north of the university, as did many corporate headquarters. And, as the 1960s gave way to the 70s and 80s the hotel like the town became not just a place for visitors looking for a change of climate and scene, it also became a social melting pot of those who lived and/or worked in La Jolla and the visitors. Other hotels are, well, just hotels, where guests rarely meet anyone but other guests. La Valencia consistently hosts in its bar and dining rooms not just those who have signed the register but La Jolla residents and visitors from other parts of San Diego. Few hotels in the world can offer that kind of instant, congenial immersion. During her sixtieth birthday year, La Valencia was chosen to join the select company of Preferred Hotels Worldwide. This association represents a handful of luxury hotels that meet only the highest standards of amenities and service, including the Dorchester in London, Tokyo's Imperial and Le Bristol in Paris.
100 Rooms
Sky Room Mediterranean Room and Patio Whaling bar Cafe La Rue
Pool, Spa
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Our Select Member Hotel

Country: USA
City: La Jolla
Opening date: 1926, Dec.15

Note from the Host

General Manager Micheal Ullman


1132 Prospect Street
CA 92037 USA, La Jolla

Tel: +1858-454-0771

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