The original white, wood-framed Colonial Apartments and Hotel, designed by Richard Requa who was the master architect of the California Exposition in Balboa Park, was described as, "a perfectly appointed apartment hotel, with the finest sun parlor and lobby overlooking the ocean on the Pacific coast."
Bane, who became sole owner of the Colonial in 1920, realized the tourist potential of this picturesque seaside town and decided to give the Colonial a new look. In 1925, he commissioned architect Frank Stevenson to design a hotel that would "rival anything in the West."
It was a huge undertaking. The existing building was moved to the rear of the property and a new, four-story, concrete, mixed-use building was erected in its place. Completed in 1928 and boasting 28 apartments and 25 single hotel rooms, the new Colonial Hotel had the first sprinkler system west of the Mississippi; solid, unsupported, reinforced cement stairways and fire doors that still exist in the structure.
Even with its safety features, the Colonial was breathtaking. The "sunburst" design of windows and semi-circle domes of leaded glass above the French doors uniquely captured the sunlight and drew it into the hotel. Inside, the new interior included colonial fireplaces with marble hearths, ornate chandeliers and richly colored sofas and chairs. Rooms were available for $25 to $50 per month. Bane said of the new Colonial, "I've always had confidence in La Jolla, and I still do. This building is the concrete expression of my faith."After opening the new Colonial, Bane had leased the entire property to a "Hollywood man" named W. S. Beard. Unhappy with the way Beard was running things, Bane reorganized the business in 1931, and R.C. Bugler was brought in as the manager. One year later, a more solid financial plan was drawn for the hotel and the rest of La Jolla grew up around this community cornerstone.
After he bought the drugstore and moved it to its new home, he added an ice cream parlor on the sidewalk that served up chocolate sodas and banana splits. The drugstore became a prime location for locals to gather, talk and watch the few passersby. The pharmacist, employed by Putnam, considered it a big day if he filled more than three prescriptions. Well loved by the townspeople, the pharmacist was also the father of Gregory Peck. Peck, who grew up in La Jolla, eventually left for Hollywood and became a movie star.
During the World War II years, the Colonial became home to many of the "top brass" from nearby Camp Callan. While the men were at Camp during the day, their wives volunteered for the local Red Cross. At night, the hotel's sunroom was partitioned to create accommodations for single servicemen.
That same decade, the Colonial was a temporary home to some of Hollywood's up and coming stars that were performing at the La Jolla Playhouse, founded by Peck. Charlton Heston, Dorothy McGuire, Groucho Marx, Jane Wyatt, Eve Arden, Pat O'Brien, David Niven, and many other celebrities occupied the hotel well into the late 1950s.
In 1960, the drugstore needed more space, so Putnam's son, "Putty" moved the establishment to new quarters, much to the chagrin of the community. Over time, the once grand hotel fell into a state of disrepair.
The 75-room property was designed "like an elegant, European hotel" by San Diego's Robert Carlisle. No expense was spared - from mahogany trim and wood moldings to stylish leaded glass chandeliers and crystal doorknobs.
The restoration was so successful that the Colonial Inn received the "People in Preservation" award from the Save Our Heritage Organization. It was said that "the Colonial Inn… brings the very best from La Jolla's past tastefully into the present. Elegance, continental service, graceful design and décor, all embraced in the ambience of a small European hotel."
In 1980, the space once occupied by Putnam's drugstore became Putnam's Grille. Reflecting the La Jolla of the 1920s, the restaurant was redesigned to feature dark wood paneling, wrought iron chandeliers and ceiling fans, oak dining sets and large picture windows that created an open, fluid environment.
The original soda fountain was replaced with a mirrored back bar and alcoholic beverages were served instead of ice cream sodas. The restaurant also stayed true to its heritage by offering diners sidewalk seating, continuing the tradition of the past 65 years.Business continued to be good for the inn, and in 1988, it was sold for an estimated $13.85 million to a Japanese-based investment firm, Tokyo Masuiwaya California. In 1993, "La Jolla's jewel," as the Colonial Inn was affectionately referred to, celebrated its 80th birthday.
Putnam's Grille closed its doors in February 2001 and the Grande Colonial now houses one of the region's finest dining experiences, NINE-TEN Restaurant. The new restaurant opened in July 2001. From the outdoor terrace, NINE-TEN guests enjoy gorgeous Southern California sunsets.
Since opening, the restaurant has garnered numerous awards and accolades including a "very good to excellent" rating by ZAGAT. Additionally, the restaurant boasts:
And most recently, in 2019, NINE-TEN received a "Plate Distinction" in the premiere California Michelin Guide, one of only 34 San Diego restaurants to receive such distinction.
The project also included the preservation of two adjacent historic landmarks, the Little Hotel by the Sea (from 1924) and the Garden Terraces (from 1926), adding 18 new suites to the hotel's inventory (all with kitchens or kitchenettes and many with fireplaces).
The eight-suite Little Hotel by the Sea and the ten-suite Garden Terraces, originally built as hotels, had operated as residential apartment complexes for the past 30 years and, under the guidance from the San Diego Historical Society, had now been restored to their original glory for the community to enjoy for years to come. To recognize their historical significance in the development of La Jolla, both properties were designated as historic sites in 1984 and 1990 respectively.
Two noteworthy elements of the Little Hotel by the Sea included the restoration of the rooftop "loft" and deck, and restoration of the 1929 Baker & Sons elevator. The rooftop is now used as a guest library and sitting room, as well as an outdoor terrace providing panoramic views of the Pacific.
The Baker & Sons elevator, restored to full operation, is a four-passenger, solid-mahogany elevator housed in a steel tower. Soon after it was added to the hotel back in 1929, the Little Hotel by the Sea became recognized as the "The Smallest Hotel in the World with an Elevator".
On February 1st, 2013, the Grande Colonial celebrated what can be considered its most significant milestone: its 100-year anniversary. Festivities to commemorate the Centennial dotted the calendar, helping one of San Diego's most esteemed hotels share the stories of the movers and shakers who have passed through its doors in the 100 years since the hotel was founded.