In La Jolla, where landmarks are just about everywhere, there is one that stands tall, proud and with much history: the Grande Colonial.
According to La Jolla historian Carol Olten: “The Grande started out as being the Colonial Hotel designed by architect Richard Requa and opening in 1911 at 910 Prospect St. It also was sometimes known as the Colonial Apartments as it contained 28 apartments, 25 single rooms, and a communal sun parlor.”
The apartments rented for between $25 and $50 per month and advertised as being on the west side of the street where “there is no dust.”
However, things got dusty when a new owner decided to build a larger hotel at the site and moved the old hotel around the corner to Jenner where it is still in use today, according to Olten.
The new Grande Colonial on Prospect was designed by architect Frank Stevenson and opened on Prospect in 1928 with 90 apartments and rooms — this was the same period that marked the coming of La Valencia down the street; “La Jolla was becoming very resort-y,” Olten said.
Later in history, the Colonial acquired the Little Hotel by the Sea on Jenner and buildings fronting on S. Coast — all now operated as the Grande Colonial, Olten said.
Today, and according to the Grande Colonial's GM Terry Underwood, this hotel still amazes many.
“Over the years, we have placed tremendous effort on continuing to evolve this historic hotel's physical presence to meet the needs of today's travelers while not forgetting our heritage and place in La Jolla's history. That said, that part of the Grande Colonial experience that makes this such a wonderful hotel, that our guests return to time and again, is our staff. Warm, gracious, genuine hospitality is our signature — we make it personal and strive to create a long-lasting bond with every guest who walks through our front door,” Underwood said.
Recently the hotel underwent a $4 million renovation, which was completed in April and included all 97 guest rooms, suites, and most bathrooms. The project, which began in November 2018, was completed in phases, building by building, floor by floor.
Artfully recapturing the hotel’s storied past with a keen focus on modern sensibilities, the new design infuses a classic European ambiance and a refined, contemporary sophistication. The overall guest room decor package mixes very traditional elements with contemporary and midcentury modern elements, Underwood said.
The color scheme reflects the traditional blues and yellows that define the Grande Colonial. New drapery treatments allow for maximum use of the hotel’s expansive, operable windows, welcoming the fresh ocean breeze nudged about by the new ceiling fans. The deep blue-patterned carpet brings into the room the hues of the ocean and sky. And keeping in line with traveler expectations, the traditional bedspread has been replaced with a crisply linen-wrapped down duvet with colorful accent pillows. Added in-room amenities include refrigerators, and mobile device charging outlets. The corridors were also significantly improved with new carpet, wall vinyl, and lighting.
A majority of the 97 bathrooms were also completely renovated, resulting in a larger, more upscale, residential style. New vanities with counter and storage space were added, along with new marble floors, new shower or tub enclosures (most tubs converted to walk-in showers with glass enclosures), new warm LED-backlighted designer mirrors and vanity mirrors, and all new plumbing and fixtures, Underwood said.
There is a further expansion with some other buildings behind their main property being planned.
And while plenty has been renovated, some things have remained from the early days. For example, Underwood said when the hotel was expanded and completed in 1928, the new Colonial Hotel had the first sprinkler system west of the Mississippi; solid, unsupported, reinforced cement stairways and fire doors that still exist in the structure. Also, a noteworthy feature of the Little Hotel by the Sea wing is the original 1929 Baker and Sons, four-passenger, solid-mahogany elevator housed in a steel tower. Soon after it was added to the hotel back in 1929, the Little Hotel by the Sea became recognized as the “The Smallest Hotel in the World with an Elevator.”
When the building became a part of the Grande Colonial in 2007, the elevator was completely restored and remains in full operation today.
Additionally, The exterior of the main building, as well as the four adjacent wings, are all identical to how they looked when they were originally constructed. Obviously, improvements have been made over the years to the interior and exterior but they are all preserved to their original glory, she added.
Olten said while the La Valencia is often dubbed the “Pink Lady” of La Jolla, the Colonial could easily be called the “Grande Dame,” and Underwood agreed:
“For many years, the hotel was known as the Colonial Apartment Hotel and in later years as the Colonial Inn. Just before our 90th anniversary, the hotel became the Grande Colonial. With a grande dame being ‘an older woman of influential position within a particular sphere,’ there is no question that label applies to the Colonial. As a significant part of the fabric of La Jolla for 107 years (the oldest hotel in La Jolla), we accept the name with pride and look to continue to be the standard-bearer for service and excellence for La Jolla.”