Sunday, September 5, 2004

The Hotel Del Monte will be saved!

Last year the US Navy presented plans to demolish two wings of the historic Hotel Del Monte, which is now part of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.

For those not familiar, The Hotel Del Monte is a prominent Monterey landmark with a massive red tiled roof which can be seen from miles away. The original hotel was first built in 1880. It burned down in 1887 and was rebuilt in 1888. The center section of the hotel burned down again in 1924 and was rebuilt in 1926, leaving the 1888 wings intact. It is these 1888 wings the Navy wanted to demolish and rebuild, a process which they said would save $13 million dollars over retrofitting the existing buildings.

But the hotel is tied to many significant developments in Monterey's history. Among these were the introduction of the railroad to Monterey, the development of Pebble Beach, and it started the local tourism industry. Over the years, the hotel hosted numerous dignitaries and celebrities before being sold to the Navy during WWII. It also played a role, albeit an indirect one, in saving the Carmel Mission from oblivion. It is as important to local history as Colton Hall or the Royal Presidio Chapel.

I posted an emergency alert on my website providing contact information to protest the demolition. I know that at least a few of my visitors made the effort. Unfortunately, the Monterey City Council was less helpful. They were more worried that the Navy might close the school if they didn't get their way, so the council sheepishly voted to endorse the demolition plan. Shame on them!

But good sense has prevailed. A few days ago I received an official (and somewhat cryptic) notification that renovation was now the preferred plan, and that demolition was no longer being considered, due to the public opposition and the building's eligibility for registration on the National Register of Historic Places. Today's Monterey Herald confirmed this.

Thanks go to the United States Navy for seeing the light, and to the people who contacted the Navy brass and stood up to protect an irreplaceable historic treasure. Hizzonor the Mayor, Dan Albert, on the other hand, should receive a chorus of Bronx Cheers and a boot out the door at the next election.

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