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News 8 Throwback: Visiting San Diego County’s historic landmarks from the Hotel del Coronado to Balboa Park

Throwback sights from the red-roofed turret of the Hotel del Coronado to the stately California Tower of Balboa Park to the brick facade of the Whaley House.

SAN DIEGO — The red-roofed turret of the Hotel del Coronado, the brick façade of the Whaley House in Old Town, and the stately California Tower of Balboa Park; these are just a few of the memorable sights at San Diego’s historic landmarks. All over America’s Finest City you’ll find rich history in the structures that have become iconic to locals and tourists.  

This week’s News 8 Throwback takes you on a tour of the aforementioned landmarks and more. From the spooky to the cinematic, these places have made a name for themselves beyond San Diego as quintessential parts of the local landscape.  

Whaley House 

In 1975, one of News 8’s most celebrated TV personalities Bob Dale toured the Whaley House in Old Town San Diego. Bob recounted the famous building’s history as the first two-story brick building on the West Coast and spoke with museum employee June Redding (who we also interviewed in 1978 just before Halloween) about the mysterious past of the historic home. June shared stories of spooky occurrences she had heard and observed over the years in the well-known Whaley House.  

One of the most interesting - and eerie - items June shared was a mold of President Abraham Lincoln's face. 

The Whaley House is a California Historical Landmark – no. 65 – and a San Diego Historic Landmark – no. 24.  

Hotel del Coronado  

Our next historic San Diego landmark has some ghost stories of its own but is known for much more. This clip opens with a piece from 1977 just after the Hotel del Coronado was designated as a National Historic Landmark. News 8 reporter Barney Morris and cameraman Ben Cutshall took a tour of the beautiful hotel grounds and highlighted some of the intricate details inside the hotel which opened in 1888. The second part of the video is from 1983 and News 8 reporter Carlos Amezcua details some of the hotel’s illustrious history. In its 130+ years, the Hotel del has attracted royalty, celebrities, presidents and has been the backdrop for several movies including “Some Like It Hot” and “My Blue Heaven.”  

The Hotel del Coronado is a U.S. Historic Landmark and a California Historical Landmark – no. 844.    

Horton Grand Hotel

The first of two videos from 1980 is a News 8 piece with reporter John Culea on effort to save the Horton Grand Hotel in Downtown San Diego. The Save Our Heritage Organisation was working to preserve the hotel which was set for demolition at the time. In the next clip, News 8’s Loren Nancarrow reports on the possibility for the once-celebrated hotel to be moved. That move became a reality several years later. The City of San Diego ended up buying the Horton Grand and another historic hotel known as the Brooklyn Hotel (later the Brooklyn-Kahle Saddlery Hotel). The two buildings were dismantled brick by brick and became the new Horton Grand Hotel located at Fourth Street and Island Avenue.  

The Horton Grand Hotel has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980 and is a San Diego Historic Landmark – no. 54.   

Balboa Park

In 1992, Balboa Park officially became a U.S. Historical Landmark. Ahead of the plaque unveiling for the big honor, News 8’s Hal Clement showcased the history of the park and all it had offered San Diego and its visitors for over 120 years. Specifically, Hal spoke about the Panama-California Exposition held at Balboa Park in 1915 and a push to rebuild, preserve and restore the buildings and arcades that were built for the exposition.  

Balboa Park is a U.S. Historic Landmark District and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977. The El Prado area of Balboa Park is a San Diego Historic Landmark – no. 1 and the park’s Ford Building is also on the list at no. 60.  

Spreckels Theatre 

News 8’s Hal Clement profiled the Spreckels Theatre in Downtown San Diego in 1992 – 80 years after it had opened. Hal talked about some of the talent that had graced the theatre’s stage including opera singer Enrico Caruso and actor and vaudeville performer Will Rogers. Then owner Jaqueline Littlefield talked about the enchanting building and the work she had put into it. She also shared that the movie theatre turned live performance theatre – like so many of San Diego’s historic buildings – was rumored to have a ghost, but said her kids believed it was a good ghost.  

The clip also includes interviews with San Diego residents actor Robert Hays - known for the movie "Airplane!" - and singer Frankie Laine. 

Spreckels Theatre has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975 and is a San Diego Historic Landmark – no. 76.  

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