Skip to main content
La Jolla, California
Reservations:
  • History of La Valencia Hotel California

Nine Decades of san diego luxury

Overlooking miles of South California coastline and the Pacific Ocean, La Valencia Hotel has been an glamorous destination since it opened in December 1926. Perched high above La Jolla beach, this stunning landmark - The Pink Lady of La Jolla  - exudes vintage elegance with its Mediterranean style architecture, art and dramatic coastal views. Over the decades, its has been a place of romance, glamour and celebration. Take a journey into the last 93 years of La Valencia's history through our timeline. For a closer look into our rich history, purchase the La Valencia history book with photos and postcards from every magical era.

1926: Birth of a Legend

La Valencia opened as an apartment hotel on December 15, 1926. While its first name, Los Apartmentos de Sevilla, was not widely used, the new apartment hotel in La Jolla was designed to integrate the finest elements of various styles of the Spanish school of architecture. The architect, Reginald Johnson, was a local known for his integrity and knowledge of classic Spanish architecture. The La Valencia owners, MacArthur Gorton and Roy, built it for approximately $200,000. 

The grand opening of La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla was a lavish affair. It was the beginning of a golden era in Hollywood, and its co-owner, MacArthur Gorton, had moving picture connections; he knew the value of Hollywood's endorsement of the hotel. To Hollywood, La Jolla was an undiscovered, unspoiled "jewel," and its beaches and cliffs were often used for location shots. Hollywood's stars used (and still do) La Valencia as a hideout from the hectic pressures of La La Land.

1920s-1940s: Depression and War

Officially named La Valencia in 1928, the late twenties and early thirties proved to be bleak years as the country's depression deepened. In 1930 McArthur hired Gethin Williams as La Valencia's General Manager - the second of what would be only seven General Managers in La Valencia's 90 year history to date, including MacArthur Gorton himself.

During World War II, because of La Jolla's proximity to San Diego, La Valencia Hotel and her guests were very much a part of the war effort. Locals spent long hours perched in the windswept tower scanning the skies and seas for enemy planes or ships. The hotel also became the temporary home to hundreds of young officers, often milling about in the lobby, either waiting to go overseas or enjoying leave. Young brides tended to stay and wait for their husbands at the hotel or in the charming cottages nearby, which then could be rented very inexpensively.

The Whaling Bar and Café la Rue restaurant opened side by side in the 1940's and instantly became the centerpiece of the hotel for guests and La Jolla residents alike. In January of 2014, (after almost a year of renovations) the space was reopened as Café la Rue, a Modern European Bistro & Bar, with indoor banquet seating and a sidewalk patio. A few of the lively "European Village" murals commissioned for La Valencia in the 1930's by local artist Wing Howard, adorn the walls.

1950: Enhanced Hotel Amenities

La Valencia's iconic ocean-view pool was built in 1950 with the gym, sauna, putting green and shuffleboard court put in shortly afterwards.

1956: La Valencia Acquires the Hotel Cabrillo

In 1956, The Hotel Cabrillo next door was acquired, and its 30 rooms brought La Valencia's room count to 100. The Hotel Cabrillo, currently referred to as the West Wing, is as rich in history as the main building.  It opened on June 26, 1909 and became very popular at once. The register book, signed by the likes of future President Woodrow Wilson, is treasured to this day and remains preserved at the La Jolla Historical Society. 

La Jolla Playhouse Auditions

The La Jolla Playhouse era was one of the hotel's most glamorous. From the start, Hollywood had claimed La Valencia as a hideaway. Now the hotel became the gathering place for those who launched, and performed in the famous La Jolla Playhouse including: Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, Mel Ferrer, Jose Ferrer, Joseph Cotton, Richard Basehart, Charlton Heston, Ginger Rogers, Jennifer Jones, Lorne Green, David Niven and many others  over that seventeen year period.

Playhouse founder, artistic director, and La Jolla resident Gregory Peck often played host to the new cast at the Whaling Bar. Even La Jolla resident Raymond Chandler, famous mystery writer of the forties and fifties, used La Valencia under a thinly disguised fictitious name as a backdrop for the thriller, "Playback."

1960s-1980s: The Sky Room, Preferred Hotels & More

In the late sixties, Dick Irwin introduced the Sky Room. Formerly a sun balcony for guests on the hotel's tenth floor, the Sky Room opened as a restaurant, with just twelve tables, all with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. In 2013, The Sky Room was converted into a Presidential Suite with a connecting room offering sweeping ocean views. 

As the 1960′s gave way to the 1970′s and 1980′s, the hotel, like the town, remained a destination for visitors looking for a change in climate and scene, as well as a haven for those who lived and worked in La Jolla. During her sixtieth birthday year, La Valencia welcomed her fourth general manager, Patrick Halcewicz. That same year, La Valencia was chosen to join the Preferred Hotels Worldwide. This association represents a handful of luxury hotels that meet only the highest standards of amenities and service, MacArthur Gorton's original goal.

1989: Historic Hotels of America

La Valencia Hotel became a charter member of Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating the finest historic hotels. 

2010: New Owners, New Passion

2010 introduced new owners to the historic Pink Lady. Pacifica Host Hotels has dedicated itself to ensuring that the legacy and relevance of La Valencia inspires generations of travelers still to come. Pivotal enhancements and additions have included a total renovation of the property including the addition of the ICON collection of suites and the reimagination of Cafe la Rue.

A La Jolla Village Icon

Throughout the years, all of La Valencia's improvements were undertaken with scrupulous attention to incorporate her old-world ambiance with today's amenities. La Valencia has stood in a class by herself for decades. In a time when new hotels are competing with each other for the opulence of their design, she retains a timeless elegance and a personality all her own. At once hospitable and lively, iconic and serene, she inspires a following of locals and guests from around the world. Such is the storied Valencia Hotel, La Jolla's Pink Lady.