Did Coronado Inspire “The Wizard of Oz?” ... Exploring The Facts About Mister L. Frank Baum - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Oz Con International | Coronado Oz Con | Winkie Con

Did Coronado Inspire “The Wizard of Oz?” ... Exploring The Facts About Mister L. Frank Baum

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Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014 2:52 pm

Truth can certainly be stranger than fiction, and often more fun. But where do we draw the line between fact and fable? Who draws that line? How many times have we heard about pods of gray whales migrating into San Diego Bay? That Prince Edward met Wallace Simpson at the Hotel del Coronado? That Jim Morrison of the Doors lived in Coronado. Or, that “The Wizard of Oz” was inspired by the Hotel Del?

While much of that is true – whales did enter San Diego Bay, and Jim Morrison did live in Coronado – the Wizard of Oz tale, unfortunately, is not. The fact is, the true story of L. Frank Baum and Coronado is even more exciting.

What is true, is that, in a classic life imitating art scenario, L. Frank Baum created Oz in his mind (and on paper), and then quickly discovered that, behind the curtain, Coronado was Oz, his own personal sanctuary. He proved to be outwardly grateful for the inspirational gifts Coronado gave to him over the years.

More people have seen the Wizard of Oz, the movie, more times, than any other film in the history of cinema. It was equivalent to the Harry Potter of its day. The book that inspired it was quite literally the first American-written fairytale. While England had Alice and Wonderland and Denmark the Little Mermaid, we had Dorothy and the Land of Oz.

Lyman Frank Baum (he hated his first name) actually visited the Hotel del Coronado in 1904 – 16 years after the Del’s celebrated opening. He would spend winters here in Coronado from 1904-1910. When not staying at the Del, he lived at 1101 Star Park Circle. Historians suggest that he wrote three sequels to the Oz story and four other books while in Coronado.

Today, Jane and Pike Meade own and live in the “Oz House,” as locals call it, and receive regular inquiries from people wanting to see the house “where Oz was written.” Experts believe Baum rented the house in 1909.

“I think people assume it’s a museum when they walk by,” laughed Jane Meade. “They knock on the door and ask if they can come in and go upstairs, not realizing it’s our family home. Nowadays we tend to take it in stride, as it’s quite simply part of the responsibility of owning this historic home. It just is.”

On the outer wall of the home a bronze plaque explains the house’s historic significance; and a “Wizard of Oz Avenue” street sign let folks know they have arrived in the Emerald City.

Ironically, Jane Meade’s grandfather won a home in Coronado, in a midnight poker game at the Hotel Del circa 1911. He, like Baum, wintered in Coronado to escape the cold weather on the other side of the country.

Oz and Baum have become a fixture in the Meade household. A copy of the movie script sits on a bookshelf just inside the front door. A Tin Man doll and two pair of ruby slippers along with other memorabilia fill the other shelves.

Meade said the family has often gathered to read the script out loud while watching the movie, acting out the parts. Their now grown children remember screenings of the movie in front of the old black and white TV, with the entire family participating in an Oz-like version of Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“We had no idea when we bought the house it was associated with Baum, said Meade. “A local historian, Bunny MacKenzie, was the first one who told us about it. She came to the door when we painted it yellow and said, ‘Don’t you know you’re changing a historic house?’ Except for that, it is still exactly as it was when he lived here,” she said.

One thing that has changed is Star Park. In Baum’s day newly planted trees weren’t tall enough to cast a shadow, much less the grand shaded areas found there today. Fountains displayed brightly colored plumes of water, and there were few homes between the Oz House and the Hotel Del.

Before 1886, Coronado was essentially a barren land. In 1905, Baum wrote a short story called “Nelebel’s Fairyland.” Here, the lead character turns a barren land into a paradise called Coronado. Such was the mind of Baum, sponge-like in the way that it absorbed people, places and things, that later manifested into the most incredible books and stories.

The memorable characters in Baum’s writings are all rooted in the author’s own life. Baum identified with the wizard – a bumbling man who people expected too much from; the scarecrow – in search of greater knowledge; the lion – seeking escape from timidity; the tin woodsman – Baum had a weak heart.

In “The Marvelous Land of Oz,” the book’s hero is the Wobblebug. This name Baum discovered when he met a child on Coronado Beach. She asked Baum what to call the fiddler crab she was playing with. Baum invented a name for the creature on the spot, and the Wobblebug was born.

A large chandelier hanging in the lobby of the Hotel del Coronado has often been attributed as a Baum design. This, the family insists, isn’t true, but instead, just another piece of convenient branding done by someone at the Del years ago. Baum did, however, pen a very successful book of poems called, “By the Candelabra’s Glare,” which may have contributed to the myth.

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” had already been penned when Baum arrived in Coronado. Historians and family members suggest inspiration for Oz was the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, not the Del. But, again, Coronado must have seemed so Oz-like to the author.

Today we can only speculate as to whether Baum had seen the far-reaching advertising being done by the Hotel del Coronado at that time. Surely that advertising would have appeared in Chicago, where Baum lived and would experience the Chicago World’s Fair.

Had he seen photographs or postcards of the Hotel del Coronado prior to writing his fabled book? Of Orange Avenue stretching from the Coronado Ferry Landing to the Del? Quite possibly. One might even say, “quite probably.” It was in Chicago, however, he witnessed first-hand an enormous, gleaming white, grand city - built of wood, but made to look like marble. It was a fabulous illusion, just like the Oz that Baum wrote about.

Did Coronado influence the author? Absolutely. But Oz is not the Del, and Orange Avenue and Star Park Circle apparently did not influence creation of the Yellow Brick Road. The actual name “Oz,” according to family members, came from a filing cabinet that sat near his desk. On one drawer was a label saying, “O-Z.”

Like Mark Twain, Baum was a newspaper reporter who worked his way west. He was quoted in the San Diego Union upon his first visit to Coronado (1904), “… those who do not find Coronado a paradise have doubtless brought with them the same conditions that would render heaven unpleasant to them did they chance to gain admittance.”

That next year Baum published the following poem in the San Diego Union:


by L. Frank Baum

And mortals whisper, wondering:

“Indeed, ‘tis Fairyland!

For where is joy without allow

Enjoyment strange and grand.”

And tired eyes grow bright again,

And careworn faces smile;

And dreams are sweet and moments fleet,

And hearts are free from guild.

Baum was not a lazy writer. He averaged a book a year. He wrote 13 books after Oz, and uncountable manifestations of these books have grown from that early effort – books, movies, television series, cartoons, and even Broadway plays. And yet the author of the first genuine American fairytale was bankrupt by 1911. He died of heart related health issues but continued to write from his bed until the very end. He was just days from his 63rd birthday, in May 1919.

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with,” said L. Frank Baum in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

How happy we are to celebrate Coronado as L. Frank Baum’s backyard. Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz continue to amaze and entertain new generations a century after being penned. And Coronado will always claim bragging rights to the proud heritage of having been, “Home to L. Frank Baum.”

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • Anjolie Buchanan posted at 3:02 am on Wed, Sep 27, 2017.

    Anjolie Buchanan Posts: 1

    Wizard of Oz is awesome movie and this is totally magical movie and its best for the children. This movie is writes by professional essay writers that’s why this movie is earn the millions dollars.

  • ursa29 posted at 5:01 pm on Mon, Feb 27, 2017.

    ursa29 Posts: 1

    I recently read this and the last line of the poem didn't seem to make sense. It felt like the last word should be guile instead of guild. So, I looked it up and I believe you have a typo, as the poem does end with the word "guile". It is a sweet poem.