The Atwater Building opened in time for the start of the 1920 summer season on July 1, less than a year after William Wrigley Jr. purchased the Santa Catalina Island Company. Wrigley hired David Malcom Renton, known as "DM", a Pasadena builder, to take charge of the project. It was the beginning of a work relationship and friendship that would last Wrigley’s lifetime. Wrigley often referring to DM as “my right hand.” Renton's other Catalina Island projects included Mt. Ada, Thompson Dam, Catalina Pottery, Casino Ballroom, Wrigley Memorial and El Encanto. The Hotel Atwater was built to attract a more budget conscience customer in contrast to the elegant Hotel St. Catherine, which was located where Descanso Beach Club is today. It also offered a much more convenient location, a block off the water in the middle of Avalon.
The building was named in honor of William Wrigley Jr.’s son, Philip’s wife, Helen Atwater Wrigley. The building, which covers an entire city block, housed the Atwater Hotel, Atwater Cafeteria (which served over 1,000 meals a day) and the Atwater Arcade. The Arcade (now known as the Shops at Atwater) runs from the Sumner Avenue side of the building across to Metropole Avenue. The U.S. Post Office moved into the Arcade shortly after its completion. Originally, the Sumner Avenue side of the building had carved wood adornments around the entrance. Catalina tile was added above the entrance in the late 1920’s and still remains. The Metropole Avenue entrance was bordered with Batchelder flat tiles bordered by the “Vine” design.
The Atwater served as the main housing and headquarters for the Merchant Marines during the second World War. After the war, the lobby was reduced in size, a coffee shop was added and rooms were renovated. Since then, the hotel has been through several renovations and upgrades. With its convenient location and 1920’s charm, the hotel continues to be a popular choice for families and budget minded visitors, while still offering many amenities, including freshly baked pastries with the continental breakfast from Ben’s Bakery, located next door.