John D. and the Destiny of Two Cities

John Diedrich Spreckels grew up in San Francisco where he later worked for his father, Claus Spreckels Sr. in the 1870s. Due to their successful sugar company, Spreckels Sr. was known as the Sugar King, and John became known the Sugar Prince. John D. helped his father oversee the family’s sugar industry in the Hawaiian Islands. 

Living in the Hawaiian Islands, and along the coast of California truly suited John D. He loved sailing, and owned both personal shipliners and boats. Apart from being the Sugar Prince, John D. also became known as “Seadog.” In 1880, the Sugar Prince’s legacy grew to incorporate more than just the sugar industry. His passion for sailing, inspired John D. to establish his own shipping company and he became very wealthy in his own right. 

Fortuitously, around the same time as the blossoming of John D.’s legacy, San Diego was also going through a real estate and development boom, drawing people to come from near and far. In 1887 John D. and his family visited San Diego on his yacht Lurline, and the destiny of a city and man were cemented. Impressed by the appeal of San Diego’s real estate,  John D. invested in construction and growth of the city. For example, in 1890 he bought the San Diego Union Tribune, and gained ownership of the San Diego & Arizona Railway.

On one of his many investment trips to San Diego, John D. fell in love with the potential and beauty of Coronado. He acquired control of the Coronado Beach Company, the Hotel Del Coronado and became the entrepreneur of Coronado’s Tent City. After the disastrous earthquake that struck the Bay Area in 1906, John D. permanently made Coronado his home. Seeing Coronado as a safe haven after the deadly earthquake, John D. and his family moved into their new mansion on Glorietta Boulevard in 1908. 

The upcoming generations saw John D. become a millionaire many times over. He was the wealthiest man in both Coronado and San Diego; his  legacy and influence can be seen throughout the history and development of both cities. During his lifetime, John D. had ownership of North Island, the San Diego-Coronado Ferry System, the San Diego Electric Railway, as well as Belmont Park in Mission Beach. He also held presidency over several Coronado companies, including: the Coronado Water Company and the San Diego and Coronado Transfer Company. 

Today, John D.’s influence and legacy is prominent all over San Diego, and Coronado especially. From the Spreckels Park to the Hotel del Coronado, to North Island, and even the Spreckels Beach House on Ocean Boulevard, people from all over can see John D.’s love of beautiful things and his vision of a thriving community. His contributions to the cultural life of Coronado include building the Spreckels Building which originally housed a bank and a theater. The building, which still operates a theatre, celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2017.  Nowadays, his mansion on Glorietta Boulevard serves travellers as the Glorietta Bay Inn. Local stories say that when Spreckels lived there you could hear his organ all over town; today his love of music is enjoyed by hundreds of listeners at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park.