Thanks to my good friend Sandra for tagging me in this photo on Facebook! It got me going to find out more about the claim on the historical marker. Where was the first electrically lighted outdoor Christmas tree? The claim reads that it was there in San Diego at the Hotel Coronado in 1904. As we’ve learned with all claims for the “first” or “birthplace of” for any Christmas related items, there is ALWAYS a debate about the facts and someone or someplace else asserting the same claim. The tree at the Coronado was first lit in 1904, but historical evidence has uncovered that the Edison Electric Light Company lit an outdoor tree with electric lights in 1882. But that was a cut tree! The Coronado was a living tree, and thus is the first electrically lighted outdoor LIVING Christmas tree. The Norfolk Island Pine was planted in 1888 when the hotel was constructed. In 1904 the 50 foot tree was lit with 250 white lights (that was a lot back then- even though I have over 500 on my 7 foot tree now). To put the draw of a tree like this in perspective remember that only about 1 in 5 American families even had a Christmas tree in 1900, so a brightly lit outdoor tree would be quite amazing!
The tree changed to colored lights in 1914. A bright white star was also added to the top that year. The Coronado tree was lit every year until World War II when black out regulations prevented the lighting of the tree for safety. Today the tree is 140 feet tall. The tree was lit regularly after the war until the energy crisis in the 1970s. After that an indoor tree in the lobby became the new tradition at the Coronado. Beyond this Christmas point of distinction, the Hotel del Coronado is pretty remarkable. It was built in 1888 in San Diego. It is a wooden Victorian Beach Resort and was the largest resort hotel in the world at its completion. Today it is one of the oldest and largest all wooden buildings in California. The “Del” is world-renowned as a retreat for the wealthy and famous including royals, presidents, and the Hollywood elite. Guests of note include Wizard of Oz author Frank Baum, Thomas Edison, Charlie Chaplin, Vincent Price, Babe Ruth, and Edward Prince of Wales. Sixteen presidents have stayed at the resort, including every head of state since Eisenhower. The imagineers at Walt Disney World patterned the Grand Floridian on the Del. Looking at the website for the hotel I see the allure. Who wouldn’t want to stay there, especially at Christmas?