L’Auberge Del Mar
Also known as the Stratford Inn and the Hotel Del Mar, originally built circa 1910
In 1966, the Del Mar Hotel was sold to a group that wanted to create a retirement home. But there was a group of citizens in town who had become suspicious of the project and its allegedly church-affiliated backers. There were too many questions with too many incomplete answers. A petition was circulated in opposition to the project, so on November 27th, 1967, City Council entertained the petition in court. The vote was 3 to 2 and the project was denied. For more than a year, the hotel sat there collecting cobwebs, rats, vagrants and vandals. Finally, the owners were told the building must come down, and by mid-December of 1969, the Del Mar Hotel was gone. In 1983, Jim Watkins purchased the land where the Del Mar Hotel had once stood. He sought to bring the community together under the roof of his new hotel. In 1986, Watkins’ dream remained on the drawing board, so Watkins stood on the street corner with a model, showing people what it was, and how it was going to bring back the feeling of the old hotel. After final adjustments were made to the hotel plan, it, along with the Plaza, was approved. Watkins $40 million dream opened in the summer of 1989 with more than 120 rooms, 9 meeting rooms for conferences, tennis courts, and a ballroom that sought to recreate the glory years of the Del Mar Hotel. The grand fireplace in L’Auberge was an exact replica of the old hotel fireplace. However, Watkins dream only lasted 5 years after opening in 1989. The real estate environment had decreased, and Watkins ended up selling L’Auberge to Lowe Enterprises in 1994 for less than he paid for it. In June 2008, L’Auberge Del Mar underwent an extensive renovation by acclaimed architect Cary Collier, who added a sophisticated new look and ambiance with upgraded services and amenities and a revitalized courtyard. The new outdoor Sunset Terrace featured brand-new 2,500 square feet of space for weddings and other private events. L’Auberge also added a new signature restaurant, KITCHEN 1540, which combines world-class dining with a spirited atmosphere, offering guests the choice of dining under the stars, in a private cabana, or in the sleek and modern dining room, with the fireplace focal point. The guest bedrooms had a sophisticated new look, complete with the latest technological advancements of I-Pod docking stations and 42-inch flat screen televisions with high-end personal amenities of romantic fireplaces and walk-in showers. In 2009, Spa L’Auberge was opened, boasting a 5,000 square foot luxury that has been adorned with numerous awards including Spa Magazine’s Best Spa by the Sea.
Sources: Del Mar Looking Back by Nancy Ewing, The Del Mar Picture Book by Dr. Lisa Pluth, Discovering Del Mar’s Past by the Del Mar Historical Society, Del Mar Reflections by Bill Arballo, Del Mar Life & Good Times by William Murray.