Forget Los Angeles, Hollywood history is right here in San Diego at the star-studded LaFayette Hotel & Club in North Park. It’s undergone many changes since its debut in 1946, and it’s just starting a new, glamorous era.
The story begins
Entrepreneur Larry Imig began construction on this Colonial-style, boutique hotel in 1943, making it the only US hotel constructed during World War II. It opened on July 1, 1946, as Imig Manor and attracted Hollywood stars from the start — Bob Hope was the first guest.
During its early days, other Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Katherine Hepburn, and Bing Crosby checked in (and those are just the confirmed ones). The fun didn’t last forever: In 1955, Conrad Hilton (owner of the San Diego Chargers) bought the hotel, changed its name, and used it as office space.
For decades after, there were management changes and talks of demolition, but locals never lost that loving feeling for the hotel, especially when it got a cameo in “Top Gun.” After a $4 million renovation in 2012, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
This year, the hotel completed its first phase of a $31 million renovation that keeps many vintage and lavish design elements that dazzled when it first opened. In addition to redoing rooms and decor, there are new restaurants and “The Gutter” bowling alley.
The second phase will be completed this fall, adding a European-style restaurant, jazz lounges, and spa areas.
About that pool
One of the signature aspects of The LaFayette is its 25-meter pool, designed by original “Tarzan” actor and Olympic gold medalist Johnny Weissmuller. The renovation project refurbished it, but kept historic elements in tact.
Did you know? You don’t need to be a guest to swim, day passes are available.