Xingxing and I are spending a week at The Spreckels Mansion, no less! Well, on the mansion grounds, anyway. It's not too great a stretch of the imagination to pretend we're guests of John Dietrich Spreckels himself, accommodated in a guest cottage.
The mansion itself has been lovingly restored, with accommodation for 89 lucky guests. Breakfast is served every morning on the patio of the main building and the Music Room is open to guests, as well. Built during the first decade of the 20th century in the Italian Renaissance style, the original Spreckels Mansion had six bedrooms, three baths, a parlor, dining room and library. It cost $35,000 to build. The Music Room was added later, as was a third-floor solarium, which Spreckels used as a study.
It's all very grand, very elegant. And unfortunately, not pet friendly. (Neither is the Hotel del Coronado, directly across the street) But service dogs are welcome, and we've certainly been made to feel welcome. The staff here are wonderful. You feel as if you really are a guest, in the old-fashioned sense of the word. Every afternoon, ginger snaps and lemonade are served on the terrace, and piano music wafts from the Music Room, adding to the ambience. The idle rich certainly knew how to live!
Not that John D. Spreckels was idle. From the moment he sailed his yacht into the then-tiny town of San Diego, he saw its potential and put his money (he was the eldest son of sugar magnate Claus Spreckels) into making it all happen. He was only 34 at the time, but within three years he owned a controlling interest in the Hotel del Coronado and went on to purchase the San Diego utility company, streetcar system, water company and almost all of Coronado Island. He also established the San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railroad.
Yet for all that, Spreckles Mansion has a comfortable, homey feeling about it. You can imagine actually living here. Did Spreckels' children and grandchildren slide down the brass bannister railings that flank the magnificent marble staircase? I suspect they did. And I'll bet a few dogs lived here, too.