May 8

I first became curious about the El Cortez Hotel when I saw an old poster boasting of the elegant restaurant at its top. I wondered, could it still be there?


The El Cortez was built in 1927 on a hill at the northwest corner of the downtown area. At the time, it was the tallest building in San Diego. Its height, and the hill it was built upon, afforded guests a breathtaking view. Diners in the Starlight Lounge could reportedly see for up to thirty miles.

The hotel upheld a tradition of glamour and opulence through the fifties. Eventually, changes in management and ownership led to its decline and near demolition.

Fortunately, it was declared a historic landmark, and restored from decades of neglect and misuse. Unfortunately, the restaurant with the breathaking view no longer exists. The El Cortez is now private condominums.

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