The Past is Always Present at the Carlsbad Inn by Georgi Bohrod Gordon
Standing on the grassy lawn and facing out over the seeming infinity of the Pacific Ocean during a California sunset, any visitor to the Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort might be forgiven for living totally in the moment, thinking neither of the past nor the present. There is the rhythmic heartbeat of the waves as they come to shore, fresh breath of the sea borne breeze, and passion of the fiery sun sinking beyond the watery horizon, amid striated bands of fuchsia, cerulean and amber, until all that is left is a fleeting green flash. But there’s a history in the here and now, and this grassy lawn is an integral part of it.
For 25 years, the Carlsbad Inn has commanded one of the most picturesque views the coast of North San Diego has to offer. For a quarter of a century, guests have strolled the gardens, swum in the pool, exercised in the gym, married on the lawns, relaxed in the hotel rooms, dined at the onsite restaurant and called a piece of this idyllic locale their own through vacation ownership. For these 25 years, the resort’s guests have made an economic impact on the area as well. According to the American Resort Development Association, the average family spends some $1,500 per week of vacation at area businesses, over and above the price of accommodations. That includes such things as restaurant meals, entertainment, gas, shopping, and groceries. Multiply that by the approximately 6,000 Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort timeshare owners, as well as guests in the 61 hotel rooms, and the impact to Carlsbad’s economy could well be over $9 million over the years!
The history of the Inn’s location, however, stretches back much further than these two and a half decades, and is deeply entwined with the history of Carlsbad, itself. This was the site of the lush estate of Albert Cohn, an early city benefactor, whose historic home, built in 1927, still stands as the on-site restaurant, El Norte. This was where Bing Crosby and friends built an earlier hotel and café, stopping to relax or party on their way between Hollywood and the Del Mar racetrack. This, also, was the site of a quaint chapel which provided the perfect venue for the weddings of countless couples who said their "I do’s" to the music of the sea.
The history of Carlsbad has always revolved around water. In the 1800s, the town grew as a popular railroad stop and tourist destination, known for its mineral spring waters, which were found to have a similar chemical composition to the famous German spa in Karlsbad (hence the name) and promised to cure all manner of ills. As is typical in a desert climate, however, the fortunes and development of Carlsbad alternately waxed and waned according to the availability of water for household, commercial and agricultural uses, until in 1914, a water pipeline from the San Luis Rey Valley was constructed to provide a permanent solution to the availability problem. It was then that Carlsbad began to grow in earnest, becoming a viable residential center and drawing vacationers from San Diego, Los Angeles and beyond. With a ready supply of water, agriculture also boomed in the surrounding areas, and avocado groves, flower fields, ranches and produce farms prospered.
Today, visitors are still lured by the water, but these days it’s the waters of the Pacific Ocean that provide the attraction of this seaside town with the old-timey feel and modern-day amenities.
Starting in the 1920’s and continuing beyond the war years, Carlsbad became a welcome respite for many Hollywood celebrities, who found the town and its beaches to be an enticing, uncrowded, stop-over on their jaunts down to Del Mar racetrack, Tijuana and Baja, as well as their "home away from home" when filming movies at Camp Pendleton for World War II. These glitterati stayed at the Carlsbad Hotel and the Twin Inns and lent their glamour to the restaurants and newly constructed area golf courses. Some in Hollywood saw investment potential in Carlsbad, including Bing Crosby who, with his business associates, bought the beautiful Cohn estate on the corner of Carlsbad Boulevard and Elm Avenue (now called Carlsbad Village Drive) in 1944, and by the end of the war, had built the Royal Palms Hotel and Sea Side Café there.
With its swimming pool, wedding chapel and commanding ocean views, the Royal Palms became a much sought after vacation destination, and the transformation of the Cohn family’s former house into the Sea Side Café provided an ambience of gracious historical continuity to the property.
Eventually, after falling into disrepair, the Royal Palms and its charming wedding chapel were demolished, and in 1985, resort developer James Watkins, CEO of Winners Circle Resorts International, bought the prime piece of real estate, and built the Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort on the site. Beginning his highly successful career as a real estate developer, Watkins built his first hotel in 1962 and subsequently specialized in resort development along the California coast. Appreciating the uniqueness of the property’s location and history, Watkins had the vision to try something different with the Carlsbad Inn, and it became the first ever mixed-use resort property with a portion of the units sold as vacation ownership condos, and the rest operating as traditional hotel rooms. With much fanfare, the Carlsbad Inn Beach resort was heralded as the 1,000th resort to become a part of the worldwide RCI timeshare exchange network, and was awarded year-round prime time status, based on the high desirability of the location and the resort’s amenities. Two years later, Watkins was named the 1987 American Resort Development Association (ARDA) Professional of the Year and in 1989 he built L’Auberge Del Mar, in the heart of Del Mar Village on the site of the historic Del Mar Inn.
The Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort carries on the tradition of luxurious excellence in the heart of Carlsbad Village with amenities including two multi-use meeting rooms, heated outdoor pool, hot tub, fully equipped fitness center, sauna and children’s play area. The Albert Cohn house continues to add historical presence to the property and today is home to El Norte Mexican restaurant (formerly Fidel’s), with an old-world ambience reminiscent of peaceful days at a gracious hacienda. Several other independent retail shops and food purveyors are also found on the resort property.
Like any southern California beauty approaching "a certain age" the Carlsbad Inn is committed to maintaining its loveliness, and this year celebrated its 25th birthday by undergoing a facelift. 61 hotel rooms, corridors, and outdoor furnishings have been beautifully upgraded and a Premier Level has been created on the 3rd floor, where each spacious room presents either a king or two queen size Signature beds, a sitting area, plantation shutters, small refrigerator, microwave, coffee brewer, iHome, flat screen TV, DVD player and plush robes. The marble walk-in shower in each bathroom beckons guests to wash off the ocean’s salt in steamy luxury.
The resort’s exterior shines with soft moss-green paint and white trim, which is complemented by the lush landscaping. In the public areas, the Library and Sunset Terrace Room are next on the renovation list. Says David Brown, Co-President of Carlsbad Inn’s management company, Grand Pacific Resort Management, "We are so excited to enhance these areas with a much lighter feeling. The veranda off the Sunset Terrace Room is now surrounded by glass so nothing interferes with the view of the ocean."
And indeed, if there is one element that will never need upgrading, it is the timeless view of the sea and sand. It was this magnificent setting that made these lawns a prime wedding location, first during the years that the Royal Palms occupied this site, and then in the Carlsbad Inn’s early years. Now the wedding tradition continues at the resort, with event planners on staff. These days, couples have a choice of three different venues from which to celebrate their unions, all offering either morning or sunset/evening use.
The Pointe offers breathtaking ocean views amid surrounding greenery in an idyllic setting. The Arbor Terrace is perfect for an intimate wedding reception or for a secluded cocktail hour prior to a larger gathering. For majestic ocean views and a walk out terrace, the Sunset Room is a captivating venue for a reception of up to 60 guests. For larger parties, the Carlsbad Inn has partnered with its neighbor, the historical Ocean House, formerly the famous hotel known as the Twin Inns, a magnificent Victorian building that was impressively renovated in 2009.
To celebrate its “Silver Anniversary” as a wedding destination, the Carlsbad Inn will be running exciting wedding and vow renewal promotions.
For 25 years the Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort has been beckoning visitors to this corner of the world with gracious accommodations and a vibrant connection to the town’s past, and providing a positive boost to the local economy. As for those incredible sunset views from the grassy lawn, well, they’re the icing on the cake!