By Jake Romero | Gaslamp Landmarks
This 1913 building is also known as the “Workingman’s Hotel.” It was built by John C. Spreckels to house work crews for the Southern Pacific Railroad, while rail lines were being laid to connect Arizona with Southern California.
A wealthy sugar magnate, Spreckels was a multimillionaire and reportedly the wealthiest man in San Diego. At various times he owned all of North Island, the San Diego-Coronado ferry system, Union-Tribune Publishing Co., San Diego Electric Railway, San Diego and Arizona Railway, and Belmont Park in Mission Beach.
Utilizing his vast fortune, Spreckels built many landmark San Diego buildings, including the Union Building in 1908, the Spreckels Theatre in 1913, the San Diego Hotel, and the Golden West Hotel.
Of interest is the Golden West Hotel’s designer, John Lloyd Wright, son of legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
One day while walking in San Diego, John Lloyd Wright noticed an advertisement calling for a draftsman for the Pacific Building Company. Wright applied and eventually the company hired him to draw architectural details for bungalows. He soon realized his talent for architecture and ultimately secured a position with the firm of Harrison Albright, one of the pre-eminent architects in Los Angeles. Albright gave Wright the opportunity to design the Golden West Hotel, working closely with sculptor Alfonso Iannelli, an Italian-American sculptor, artist, and industrial designer, whose influence can be seen on the sculptural details of the building.
A visit to the hotel’s lobby reveals a window into the past, with original craftsman oak furniture, tile floors, and registration desk. The function of this building continues in the tradition of its honest, economical, and utilitarian architecture, serving low-income patrons to this day.
—Jake Romero is the operations and marketing manager of the Gaslamp Historical Foundation, located at 410 Island Ave., Downtown, in the historic William Heath Davis House. For more information visit gaslampquarter.org.