Hollywood History in La Jolla

Only two hours from Los Angeles, the lovely coastal town of La Jolla has a bit of Hollywood lore. While visiting friends living in San Diego, we stayed overnight at the newly refreshed Grande Colonial in the center of La Jolla Village. It’s an ideal location to walk along the scenic walkways to view the seal lions, shop in the charming boutiques, explore caves, and dine while overlooking the Pacific Ocean at sunset.

Grand Colonial HotelChecking into the Grande Colonial we learned some fascinating history about La Jolla’s oldest original hotel. Built in 1913 as apartments by master architect Richard Requa, also the designer of the California Exposition in Balboa Park, the owner of the property George Bane wanted to build a hotel to “rival anything in the west” next to the apartments. It was made of concrete and completed in 1928 becoming the first fireproof hotel west of the Mississippi. When it first opened, The Grande Colonial charged guests $1 per night.

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The La Jolla Drugstore later moved inside the Colonial’s main building, and the pharmacist was the father of actor Gregory Peck. Growing up in La Jolla, Peck helped his father out until he left for Hollywood to become a major movie star. In the 1940s to the 1960s Peck earned multiple Academy Award nominations and an Academy Award for his role of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. When an ice cream parlor was added, the drugstore became a community gathering spot for locals and townspeople.

La Jolla CoveAfter the war in 1947, Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer founded the La Jolla Playhouse as a summer stock retreat for Hollywood luminaries including Vivian Vance, Groucho Marx, Eve Arden, Charlton Heston, Jane Wyatt, Pat O’Brien and David Niven. During this time many of them stayed at the Grande Colonial.

Recently the San Francisco-based architectural and interior design firm Warren Sheets Design, Inc., recaptured the hotel’s classic European ambiance in the main lobby, as well as the onsite Nine-Ten Restaurant and 97 guest rooms and suites.

Ocean-view rooms and suites offer large windows to allow natural light, ocean breezes and views the Pacific Ocean. For guests staying one week or longer, The Grande Colonial hotel offers residential-style, extended stay studios and multiple bedroom suites.The amenities are similar to that of a private residence.

Staying in a standard room on the ground level, we noticed two queen sized Serta iComfort Eurotop mattresses covered with goose down comforters. We appreciated the extra large bathroom with Gilchrist & Soames bath and body products. The bath and shower combination had decorative block glass to allow more light into the bathroom. Inside the closet there was a safe and two plush robes.

Other amenities include free high-speed Internet access; a HD TV; Keurig coffee maker; complimentary in-room bottled water; and twice daily housekeeping including evening turn-down service. Our room had a sliding glass door leading out to a community patio with two chairs and a table. It was an ideal spot for coffee in the morning.

pool sideThe hotel’s round heated swimming pool offers poolside towel and water service. The staff are happy to lend guests beach gear including chairs and umbrellas.

Taking a walk around the village, we discovered The Cave Store near the famous La Jolla Caves. Kayakers can enter seven different ocean-carved caves, one is located inside the Cave Store. It’s the only cave accessible by land along the coastline.

Paying an entrance fee we learned the cave was named “Sunny Jim” by Frank Baum who wrote ‘The Wizard Oz,’ because the opening resembled the 1920s mascot and cartoon character “Sunny Jim” featured on Force Toasted Wheat Flake Cereal. Entrance to this cave began in 1902 and 1903 when Chinese laborers were hired to use picks and shovels to create a tunnel and 145 steps down to the water level. The area is lit, yet can be wet towards the bottom, so solid shoes are advisable. At the bottom deck the ocean views are beautiful. Visitors might see barking sea lions, birds and kayakers.

Nearby is a Historical Coast Walk Trail that meanders along a rocky cliff to a white bridge above the La Jolla Underwater Park. It’s a 0.4 point to point walk to the State Marine Conservation. Along the way there are a variety of flowers on the trail and pelicans flying overhead.

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Another spot to visit is Seal Rock, home to hundreds of seals, and nearby the seawall at Children’s Pool cove. Built in 1932, the seawall was constructed to protect the shore from oncoming waves for children and families to swim and play without danger. Today the area has become an idyllic spot for bathing, sunning and swimming seals and sea lions. Recently it’s also become the birthing spot for seal pups. Walking out on the seawall, visitors can view the pups and their moms, as well as have a 360-degree view of La Jolla, the Pacific Ocean and sunsets. This area is just a two block walk from Grande Colonial. To make a reservation go to https://thegrandecolonial.com or call (888) 828-5498.

This article is also featured in the July issue of Not Born Yesterday.

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