The words “tent city” carry historical connotations of homelessness, poverty and “Hoovervilles”. And then there’s Coronado Tent City. An extraordinary seaside resort created by tycoon John Spreckels, Coronado Tent City flourished from 1900 to 1939. It even had its own newspaper: Coronado Tent City News.
Coronado Tent City shared an ocean view with the luxurious Hotel del Coronado. The tents became cottages that sometimes bore names penned by their residents: Welcome Inn, Sail Inn, Drop Inn, Wiggle Inn, Stagger Inn, Never Inn, and Wobble Inn among them.
Coronado Tent City’s “bathing pools” were continuously replenished by fresh saltwater.
A Roaring Twenties woman could pick out an Ostrich feather to wear in her headband from an Ostrich farm two blocks away. In sail boats and row boats on the Bay, visitors could hear the Tent City Band playing at the Dance Pavillion at night. Kids could choose from riding a Merry-Go-Round or real horses on the beach. Fishing, golf, hunting, tennis, swimming, dancing and delectable dining were only steps away from the cottages. Coronado Tent City News reported that some visitors “regret that they cannot stay in Tent City forever”.
No tangible evidence of Coronado Tent City remains. The electric street car that ran down its Main Street disappeared. All the buildings and even the pier are gone forever. When I researched San Diego history for my Novella, Splendid Summer, the first in a series of mysteries set in the Roaring Twenties, I wanted to resurrect Coronado Tent City. An extraordinary resort should not be forgotten.