Claudia Ludlow keeps a framed photo of John Dietrich Spreckels in her office for inspiration, guidance and good luck. Ludlow is the general manager of the Glorietta Bay Inn, Spreckels’ mansion that was built in 1906 overlooking San Diego Bay.
Spreckels who lived in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake commissioned Architect Harrison Albright to build his mansion in Coronado for $35,000. The mansion featured six bedrooms, three baths, a parlor, dining room, and library. Other features included a marble staircase, a brass cage elevator, and skylights. The house was built with reinforced concrete probably because of the San Francisco earthquake. The grounds of the property were known for its beautiful gardens.
The hotel oozes history - even Ludlow’s office is in what used to be a ladies vanity, a sitting room with mirrors. Over the years the owners have tried to keep the inn’s historical integrity with original fixtures. Even the original hooks for the porch swings Spreckels and his grandchildren were photographed in are still there.
After Spreckels’ death the property was purchased by Ira Copley the founder of today’s Union Tribune. In 1949 Louis deRyk Millen bought it and transformed it into a bed and breakfast calling it the Millen Manor. A real estate partnership owned the mansion for a short time and later Barney Padway purchased it and added the additions on the sides. In 1975 the current owners purchased it.
The 800-square foot beautiful music room, now a centerpiece of the property, was boarded up for many years but the owners brought it to its original beauty. It is believed that the carvings of angels in the room are the faces of Spreckels’s grandchildren. Spreckels played the organ and when the house was built he had pipes run under the floors for a better sound system. The solarium on top of the mansion was built years later and was a retreat where he spent many hours. The room now is the penthouse. Spreckels had a tunnel built that goes from the mansion to the Hotel Del’s smoke stack which allowed him go back and forth without being seen.
Spreckels’ name is known all over San Diego but especially in Coronado where he made a mark. He donated the library, the largest park, and owned all but five parcels in both Coronado and North Island at one time. Before moving to Coronado permanently he had already purchased the Coronado Beach Company which comprised the Hotel del Coronado and Tent City. He also owned the San Diego-Coronado Ferry Company, and the San Diego and Arizona Railway Company was among his many holdings.
The inn features many old black and white Coronado photographs. “He was so in favor of bringing people to San Diego. If you couldn’t afford The Del you had options (Tent City). That’s how I feel. If you can’t stay at The Del come here,” said Ludlow.
The original six rooms are now 11 adding to the total amount of 100 guest rooms that includes the two additional wings. The library on the first floor is now a guest room which features the original wood paneling and fireplace. Although for years the inn has tried to stay as close as possible to the Victorian decor there are sign of changes. Some rooms still have the original safes and wall heaters. The Spreckels suite room 103 is in its original state, room 108 was the butler’s quarters.
In 2016 the Mr. and Mrs. Spreckels’ rooms will be remodeled with the exception of the wall safes and wall heaters. Every time there is construction Ludlow said you don’t know what’s going to be behind the wall.
“We are in a class of our own, a little bit historical, a little bit modern like The Del,” said Ludlow.
Some of the Glorietta Bay Inn guests have been staying there for 30 years. Ludlow recalls one couple from New Jersey who visits twice a year. “They first stayed at The Del; then the wife discovered the inn and she told her husband ‘If we come back we’re staying here,’” said Ludlow, who has seen families come back year after year and has seen their children grow up. She has become friends with many of them. Some have her personal phone number and she has been on bike rides with them. “There is nothing they have not let me do with them,” she said.
On a recent afternoon a bride and her wedding party were leaving for the ceremony. Although they do not do wedding receptions, the inn makes a perfect place for memorable wedding photos. Ludlow recalls helping the bride into her car and holding her dress. The bride who had not been happy before had a complete turnaround when she saw how Ludlow was willing to help. “You never know what’s going to happen,” she said.
Ludlow has literally put out a fire (in a trash can) and is very hands on. Every morning Ludlow goes to the breakfast area and talks to the guests. She can often be found working at the reception desk because she believes in being there for her guests. When she is in her office she keeps the door open and has a view of the entrance to see people come and go. Ludlow regularly goes above and beyond her job description and gives the hotel a special touch.
The hotel serves breakfast every morning and coffee, tea and hot apple cider in the afternoons in a room off the lobby that guests can enjoy in the music room.
The inn has a selfie station - a plaque that points to the best spot with a view of the mansion in the back. Someone from Forbes Magazine stayed at the inn and the selfie ended up in the magazine. “We did a selfie competition. We try to engage our guests. It’s important to us and has helped us win awards,” said Ludlow. One of the awards is the California Lodging Association Best Guest Relations in the state in 2012 and nationwide in 2013.
Glorietta Bay Inn, 1630 Glorietta Boulevard. Call 619-435-3101.