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Corona del Mar’s Motels

Picture of Jill Thrasher, Librarian

Jill Thrasher, Librarian

Affordable Motels in Corona del Mar? Can you believe Corona del Mar used to have motels along Coast Highway?  The first motel in Corona del Mar, the Bay-Ocean Motel, is listed in a 1941 local city directory.  By 1955, six more motels sprung up along coast highway:  Crown of the Sea Motel, Del Mar Hotel, Farmhouse Motel, Motel Corona del Mar, Motel Kirkwood, and Sea Crest Hotel.  The last addition was the Jamaica Inn Motor Hotel, that boasted two heated pools and opened around 1960. 


Del Mar Hotel postcard, Sherman Library Collection.

In 1925 the nation’s first “motor hotel” opened in San Luis Obispo, called the “Motel Inn,” and it cost $2.50 a night.  As more people could afford automobiles, motels sprang up near California’s national parks, amusement parks, and state beaches, especially along Pacific Coast Highway.  While hotels were often out of middle America’s budget, motels were budget friendly and offered people a place to stay near prime tourist designations.  

Motels boasted of weekly and monthly rates, along with kitchenettes for long term guests.  “Apartment motel” was a common description used to enticed guests to stay for long periods of time.  Many of them even had pools for guests to relax after a day of adventures.  


Description of the Jamaica Inn from the back of a postcard. Sherman Library Collection.
Postcard of the Jamaica Inn. Sherman Library Collection.

For example, The Sea Crest Motel, in Corona del Mar, encouraged its visitors to let “Jack and Thelma welcome you to Sea Crest-a comfortable motel for singles or families.  You’ll enjoy our heated pool and lanai.  Kitchens and T. V. are available. Nearby are excellent restaurant and stores.  Golf, Ride Horseback, Sail or Fish; and be sure to see the Buffalo Ranch, Disneyland, and Knott’s Berry Farm.” 


The Kirkwood also boasted a heated pool, color television, and kitchenette.  Edward Friedl, an owner of the Kirkwood, said visitors from Vancouver and Michigan would come to escape the cold.  In the 1950s you could rent one of their 19 units for about $875 a month—an affordable way to visit the beach and Disneyland.  The Kirkwood was the last of the eight motels to be torn down in 1989.

Around 1980, the Bank of Newport took the place of the Jamaica Inn Motor Hotel at the corner of Coast Highway and Avocado Avenue.  Banks, restaurants, real estate offices, and other commercial businesses continued to open along Coast Highway.  In a sign of how much Corona del Mar has changed, the stretch of Pacific Coast Highway that once boasted seven motels now has none, but does have nine banks. 

Postcard of the Kirkwood Motel. Sherman Library Collection