Southern California Landmark

Historic San Diego Landmark’s Roof Brought into 21st Century

by Jennifer Walla, public relations coordinator, Ideas That Deliver™

From Western Roofing Jan/Feb ’07


Built in 1888 as a premier resort for the rich and famous, the Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego, Calif., has a rich and colorful history. For more than a century, thousands of guests, including several U.S. presidents and members of royalty and celebrities, have flocked to the historic landmark on the Pacific coast, seeking respite from the demands of the outside world. It is even rumored that Kate Morgan, a beautiful but troubled young woman who, in 1892, checked in but never checked out, still makes her presence known. Reports of ghostly happenings connected to her continue to this day.

Like the storied heritage of the structure it covers, the hotel’s roof is colorful. Its famed red turret has been the backdrop for dozens of movies, including Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. It is the crowning glory to one of the few remaining examples of the wooden Victorian beach resort, a uniquely American architectural style.

But as is the case with older buildings, upkeep and maintenance are constant challenges. The hotel sports roughly 700,000 square feet of roofing over multiple buildings, which include the Victorian, Ocean Towers guest rooms, California Cabana guest rooms, the power plant, laundry, and Oxford administration building.

“The original roofing on the heavily pitched roofs, such as the Crown Room, ballroom, and turrets, was wood shingle with two separate designs,” says facilities director Ray Stagg. And, despite numerous roofing projects over the years, the old roofing was never removed. “They only roofed over the old,” Stagg says. “In 1990, we made the decision to remove all the old roofing for a better installation with anticipated longer life.”

“With age, leaks, and the introduction of new cost-effective and high performing roofing systems, it just made sense to reroof with a modern roofing tile product,” he adds. Discussions were had about which product was the most appropriate, considering function and aesthetics. The hotel chose Mule-Hide self-adhering modified bitumen for the power plant and laundry building.

“The product made sense to us,” says Peter Codallos, owner of Premium Roof Services, San Diego, Calif. “We’ve worked with it on several different occasions and are impressed with how practical it is. And, just as important, it comes in a color shade that the Del’s roof is known for, we call it ‘Hotel Red.’”

Due to the number of pedestrians at the hotel, Codallos wanted to avoid an application that disturbed guests or endangered their safety. That meant that hot mopping, with its odor and fire risk, was not an option. “There are other applications that use open-flame torch, but because there’s a lot of old wood at the Del, that wasn’t an option either,” he says. “This product is self-adhering, so there’s virtually no odor and there’s no need for equipment like a kettle. It’s an easy install.”

For the first phase of the project, Codallos’ crew of eight began by removing four levels of the existing roof on the power plant, or approximately 4,000 square feet. The second phase involved reroofing of the laundry building, another approximately 9,000 square feet. Removing the old layers of roofing material was like taking a trip back in time. “As we were working, we found some handmade 19th century fasteners,” Codallos says. “It’s pretty rare to find that these days, and it reminded us how important it was to preserve the historical integrity as much as possible.”

The crew then re-sheeted with plywood, taking into account the lack of slope on the roof. “We had to build up the slope because it’s a fairly flat roof,” he said. “There was no slope going toward the drains and we also added some additional drains.”

The Mule-Hide self-adhering mod bit was then applied. Both phases of the job took fewer than two weeks to complete. “My guys love working with the product, because it’s clean and it’s safe,” Codallos says, adding that he worked closely with Mule-Hide and ABC Supply both of Beloit, Wisc. “The Mule-Hide rep was very accessible and was on the job frequently.”

Stagg couldn’t be happier with the result. “The finished product is very good,” he says. “We are extremely pleased with the overall job and the look of this product.”

Always a beauty to behold, the Hotel Del Coronado today is more than just a pretty face. Its state-of-art-roof enhances its structural integrity in true 21st century style, yet doesn’t detract from the historical significance of this 19th century architectural wonder.

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