Wednesday, January 24, 2018
The Catalina Island Company is excited to announce the beginning of long-awaited renovations at the Hotel Atwater!
Built at the start of the roaring twenties, this city-block-sized property was named in honor of Ada and William Wrigley Jr.’s daughter-in–law, Helen Atwater Wrigley, wife of Philip K. Wrigley. The hotel once featured a ground floor cafeteria, billed as the world’s largest, that could seat 1,500 people, and during World War II, served as the main housing and headquarters for the Merchant Marines.
“There’s so much history wrapped up in this wonderful building,” said Randall Herrel, CEO of the Catalina Island Company, which owns and operates the hotel. “It was the first major construction project undertaken by William Wrigley Jr. and, for that reason alone, we want to make sure it will be here to carry on the Wrigley legacy for another 100 years.”
The original construction was overseen by the famed, Pasadena-based architect, David Malcolm “D.M.” Renton, who was tasked by William Wrigley Jr. with delivering the building in time for the 1920 summer tourist season—less than a year after Wrigley purchased control of the Catalina Island Company in 1919. Defying all expectations, Renton, who would later add Mt. Ada, the Casino Ballroom, the Wrigley Memorial and the El Encanto building to his long list of Catalina Island projects, proved himself up to the task, and the Hotel Atwater opened on July 1, 1920.
Although the historic building has been partially upgraded several times over the years, it has never undergone an extensive renovation such as this. Planned improvements include a more spacious lobby, with seating areas where guests can mingle, a ground floor restaurant and bar (including a glass-walled wine room), which will be open to guests and non-guests, an elevator and meeting facilities. New custom-designed furniture will grace the guest rooms, along with upgraded finishes and larger bathrooms – all featuring a modern aesthetic, with a nod to the art deco style of the era in which the hotel was built.
As part of the renovation, the façade of Hotel Atwater will be returned to a look more in keeping with Renton’s original vision, in which the retail shops on the building’s Sumner side were to match the rest of the building. Of note, is the fact that the structure was designed and constructed without Catalina tiles; the familiar blue tiles and arrows and the more elaborate bird tiles and surround were added much later. During construction, these will all be carefully removed by tile experts, cleaned, cataloged and temporarily stored while the Island Company determines the best location to display them in the future. The company will keep everyone posted as plans evolve.
In the meantime, Hotel Atwater will reopen in summer 2019, with a fresh new look from top to bottom—perfect timing to plan its 100th anniversary party the following year!