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June 25, 2005
This time of year, it’s nice to wake up in San Diego. Unlike Phoenix, where morning dew is just wishful thinking, in San Diego, there’s always a little moisture on the birds of paradise. And, better yet, there’s the cool weather, which is the main attraction for Phoenicians from every corner of the Valley.
Of course, the beach is a big draw, too, and so are Shamu and the pandas and Balboa Park. Another lure is the long list of luxurious places to stay. Hotels, resorts, B&Bs, beach houses…with the Pacific as a backdrop, any one of them will work. For something a little different, though, where the lodging is on par with the weather and the water, consider a trip back in time.
As you might expect, San Diego has its share of historic inns and hotels, and in this month’s “great escape,” we’ll take you to three of them – one in La Jolla, one on Coronado, and one at Balboa Park.
Britt Scripps Inn
406 Maple Street
San Diego, California
You’ll notice one of two things when you pull up to the Britt Scripps Inn – the giant camphor tree or the spectacular stained-glass window. The tree, which is native to Japan, was planted in 1865, making it the first camphor planted in North America. It begs to be climbed, but instead, you should just bow down and acknowledge its grandeur.
Equally magnificent is the hand-leaded stained-glass window, which occupies most of the west side of the inn. If you’ve ever been to church, you know how impressive stained glass can be, but you’ve never seen anything quite like this. Designed to follow the arc of the sun, the panels depict morning, noon and night as experienced by a variety of wildlife. It’s stunning, and so is everything else at the inn, which is exactly what Gordon Hattersley III had in mind when he bought the property a few years ago. His goal was to restore the charm and ambience that made this Queen Anne-style Victorian mansion one of the most expensive turn-of-the-century homes in San Diego. As you’ll see, mission accomplished.
The home, which sits a bloc from Balboa Park, was built in 1887 by an attorney named Eugene Britt. He paid $3,000, which at the time was a fortune. A decade or so later, the home was sold to E.W. Scripps as a “townhome.” The Scripps name, of course, is synonymous with San Diego. The family hung on to the home for nearly four decades, during which time it served as an antiques business, a boarding house and a tea parlor. Later, it was used as a doctor’s office and a law office. IT was designated a historic site in 1971, but until Hattersley bought it, the place was really starting to show its age, and not in a good way.
So, when Hattersley took ownership, he opened his checkbook and invested more than $5 million in restoration, and another $2 million in furnishings. What visitors see today is money well spent.
In all there are nine rooms – each with a theme. The Golden Oak Room, for example, features a filigree-carved bedroom set, a paneled oak TV cabinet, and an oak secretary desk and chair. The room also has a private verandah overlooking the camphor tree. Every fixture and every piece of furniture in the inn is period appropriate – thus the $2 million tab. And there are modern conveniences, too, like 1,000-count bed linens, Aviana bathrobes, high-speed internet and flat-screen TVs, which are carefully hidden among the antique furnishings.
As you can imagine, the rest of the inn is equally impressive. On the first floor is a hand-carved oak grand staircase with an adjacent music alcove that feature an 1883 Steinway piano, and a cozy dining room where breakfast is served. Breakfast is also served outside on the wraparound porch, and that’s where you’ll want to eat. In the afternoon, wine and cheese are served in the parlor. The whole experience is reminiscent of a B&B, but don’t confuse the Britt Scripps Inn with a B&B, unless you can imagine Monticello being opened up to overnight guests. It’s that impressive.
Reservations: 888-881-1991 or brittscripps.com
Nearby attractions: San Diego Zoo (619-718-3000), The Old Globe Theater (619-234-5623), Balboa Park (619-239-0512), the Gaslamp Quarter (619-233-5227)
For more information: 619-236-1212 or sandiego.org