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Coronado Then & Now: Revisiting 1980s series on San Diego neighborhoods

News 8 looks into the history of Coronado, and what it's like today. We revisit Hotel del, the ferry landing, Coronado Shore Towers and other places featured in 1987

CORONADO, Calif. — The beautiful drive over the iconic Coronado bridge is like stepping back in time. The small seaside community of only 25,000 people has preserved its charm while giving both tourists and residents a picturesque experience. 

The tiny island is one of the most notable destinations on the West Coast. Home to celebrities and military leaders and hosts to presidents and princes, the resort town has an effortless sense of elegance and class. Coronado means "the crowned one" in Spanish, gaining the nickname "crowned city" over the years. Many aspects of life on the island have changed and developed over the years but many things have stayed the same.  

The Coronado bridge completed in the late 1960s connected the little town to the rest of San Diego. The Coronado Shore Towers built in the early 1970s brought a modernized feel to the island. Construction on the Ferry Landing and multiple new hotels finished up in the 1980s. This grew the tourism industry, which the community heavily relies on. The Naval Base continues to be the largest employer on the island.  

“I think it’s Hawaii in California,” described a tourist visiting from San Fransisco. 

The pristine beaches and perfect weather attract people from all over the world.  

“This place is heavenly because it’s so tranquil and relaxing," said Mary Sheerport. 

The vibe exudes a sense of perfection like you are living on a real-life movie set. The streets are lined with unique and stunning architecture. At only 32 square miles the island is small enough to walk almost everywhere. Hopping on a bike or in a golf cart is how locals get around. During the summer months, parking is impossible since the beach has been rated the #1 beach in America year after year.  

“Everyone has a bike on Coronado. We've been here for almost 100 years so the Hotel Del was the first business then it was Holland's Bicycles,” said Nelson Young. 

A big draw to the island is the Hotel Del Coronado. When the hotel opened in 1888 it was the largest resort in the world. The iconic San Diego landmark hosted 10 U.S. presidents, royalty, celebrities, even Hollywood made their mark.

"Some Like it Hot" with Marilyn Monroe was filmed in the hotel and on the beaches. 

The Hotel Del Coronado has recently revealed the renovation of the lobby which is part of a three-year 400 million project. 

“It really stood the test of time. It’s evolved over the years. There have been other renovations over the last 133 years,” said historian Gina Petrone. 

Our 1987 footage captured just a portion of the Coronado Shores condominiums which are 10 different towers built in the 1960s and ‘70s. Our 2021 marketing photographer captured more of the beautiful structures and plus the Bluewater Grill restaurant which is located in a building built in 1887 as a design prototype for the Hotel del:  

With the hotel’s rich history, they have a historian on staff to share with the guests and community what lies within the walls. Petrone said the recent renovations have modernized the hotel while keeping the original charm.  

“The lobby has been expanded to the original size and has brought in a lot more light,” shared Patrone. 

In 1986, News 8 profiled a story answering the question if the good old days are gone in Coronado. A resident at the time said he wished they still had their sleepy Coronado.  

Today that feeling still stands with some locals. 

"Now it's crowded," said Sandy Barkhurst. 

The Coronado native has lived in the area her whole life.  

"It used to be a Navy town with a resort and now it's a resort town where on my block hardly anyone lives here full time. It's all secondary homes," said Barkhurst. 

She feels the small-town charm has changed with familiar faces far and few between. She attributes this to the rising cost of living on the island. The median home price for sale is $2.4 million. Even at a high price, people will still pay to live like you are on vacation all year round. 

CELEBRATE SAN DIEGO SERIES

Celebrate San Diego was a 1986/1987 series about neighborhoods of San Diego County. CBS 8 anchor-reporter Connie Healy and a team of photographers roamed the county and delivered in-depth profiles of several towns and communities in the area. They were history lessons focusing on changes and progress.

Many long-term residents she spoke with reflected on what it was like to grow up in their town and what they thought of all the changes they had seen. One really gets a sense of what the character and personality of the community were like in each profile - and how diverse the county really is. 

Thirty-five years later, we're sending out a team of reporters to see how things have changed or stayed the same in each of the nearly 20 neighborhoods we covered in the mid-1980s.

Connie shares her memories below of working on this fantastic series:  

"I love talking to people. People make the news, not newscasters. They simply report how we live our lives. But sometimes it enriches that picture to add a little perspective by not just looking at where we are today, but how far we've come. In the 1980s, Celebrate San Diego did just that. It painted a picture of daily life that was much different from the one we live today, and a city that many of us wouldn't even recognize.

Talking to people, listening to their stories is what reporters do every day. But these stories of life in San Diego 50 to 100 years ago were amazing. This city has come a long way in the last 30 years but some of the people in these stories saw change at the speed of light. I would encourage you to take some time to take a look into our past, revel in the present and celebrate the wonderful city that we all call home."

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