1927 – Design and Grand Opening
The El Cortez Hotel, inspired by Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, opens on Thanksgiving Day. El Cortez was financed by Richard T. Robinson, Jr. and designed by architects Albert R. Walker and Percy Eisen, designers of the famous Beverly Wilshire Hotel the same year.
1937 – El Cortez Neon Sign
The landmark “El Cortez” neon sign did not sit atop the historic building until ten years after construction. Installed in 1937 the sign served as beacon to Naval forces and illuminated for miles both day and night.
1940 – The Sky Room
The Sky Room is added on the 15th floor, creating perhaps the most memorable change to the building and elevating it on the social scene.
1951 – The Purchase
San Francisco businessman Harry Handlery purchases the hotel from the El Cortez Company.
1954 – Additions
The Caribbean wing is added, answering the city’s need for a convention center in the heart of the Cortez Hill district.
1956 – Exterior Glass Elevator and Starlite Roof
The famous Starlite Roof is added on the 12th floor, as is the Starlite Express, the second exterior glass elevator in the world and first in the United States. Guests would travel up the famous exterior glass elevator to relax, look over the city and “drink in the sky”.
1990 – Historic Designation
El Cortez receives its Historic designation by the City of San Diego’s Historic Site Board. The historic status opens the door for the review of a proposed restoration of the building to its original 1927 appearance and allows for the creation of modern, urban living spaces.
1997 – The Revitalization
El Cortez sat empty for years and had fallen into disrepair and the community surrounding the building also sat quite as it was not yet developed with today’s high rise buildings. The Historic Preservation firm, The J. Peter Block Companies purchased the site and carefully restored the landmark back to its original and correct condition.
2000 – The Grand Re-Opening
The completion of El Cortez brought new life to the community and the land surrounding El Cortez was soon developed, creating today’s high rise buildings and commerce. The restoration was celebrated during a gala benefit event and the rest is history!