History of Hotel Laguna

Hotel Laguna was the first hotel in Laguna Beach and the first substantial business building. It remains today as the most known structure. It is picturesque, romantic and has quite an intriguing past. It has graciously provided more than 100 years of almost continuous service.

People feel emotional about Hotel Laguna, probably because years of experience and memories pervade its walls. Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn and John Barrymore are said to have visited and these days it is used as a hide-away by many dignitaries and movie industry people. The original structure burned to the ground 60 days after opening and was rebuilt in 1888. The hotel did well providing rooms for many visitors who streamed into California during the travel boom. Unfortunately, a depression came about in 1896 and the hotel was sold twice before it began to make a profit again.

The History of Hotel Laguna Continues …
A Mr. Yoch now owned the hotel and, after purchasing the Arch Beach Hotel which was located south of the Hotel Laguna, moved the two hotels together at the present site, Laguna Avenue and Coast Highway. He called this building the “New Hotel Laguna.” It proved highly successful and was visited by many dignitaries, including Madam Modjeska (the canyon was named after her) and James Irvine, who was said to be the life of the party circa 1900.

The history of Hotel Laguna seemed destined for the history books, indeed, when in 1928 the hotel was demolished on speculation that its bat and board construction was considered a fire hazard. Work started on a more modern establishment which was dedicated in 1930. This is the hotel we know today, painted white with side Spanish arches in relief and featuring a bell tower (that never had a bell!).

At one time there was a huge neon sign on the top of the hotel proclaiming “Hotel Laguna” to all those traveling north and south on the Coast Highway. It was a beacon to all but finally gave way to a 1996 ordinance law. In 1985 the hotel was purchased by Mr. Claes Andersen who refurbished the interior and exterior of this ‘Grand Old Lady” and created an award winning establishment with a European flair.

Of the thousands of visitors that check in each year, few will know the historical significance but will simply enjoy the relaxation and escape provided by the Hotel Laguna.

Excerpts from “Laguna Yesteryears: The Famous Hotel” Written by Bill Farnham, Kamiaru 1981

Laguna Beach Hotel in 1898!

The building consisted of 14 bedrooms, one small kitchen, a parlor and a veranda that wrapped around the building.

Photo from our Historical Hallway from the early 1930s

It was before it was demolished to make way for the Spanish-style Hotel we all are familiar with today! This Hotel had ‘features’ such as Lace Curtains and Window Shades. It also had a front porch perfect for lounging!

A portrait of the Hotel Laguna shortly after opening in the 1930s

Managers, Lloyd and Gerta Seilset, promoted the Hotel Laguna in Hollywood as a movie location. It became a favorite hideaway and cozy retreat for the famous! The stars that we have on record (We still have the 1920’s-1930’s registry book with signatures!) as Hotel Guests are Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Errol Flynn, James Irvine, Madame Modjeska and John Barrymore.

Laguna Beach’s Greeter, Eiler Larsen (Pictured Left)

Born March 27,1890 in Denmark. At 19, he traveled to Siberia, where he sold Danish butter. He soon immigrated to the United States and attended college in Minnesota. Larsen walked from the east coast arriving in Laguna Beach in 1934, a place that artist friends had recommended. Beginning in 1938, Larsen was cast for several years as Judas in “

The Last Supper,” Da Vinci’s painting featured in the Pageant of the Masters. He was a gardener by trade and a “greeter” out of his love for people. His simple acts of kindness prompted the Laguna Beach City Council to proclaim him the town’s official greeter — an unpaid position with occasional benefits, such as free meals at local restaurants and a low-rent room at the Hotel Laguna! He passed away in 1975 but his “Helloooo” still echoes through the streets of Laguna!

Actual Guest Registry Book from 1931

This amazing piece of history, on display in a hand-crafted case at the entrance to our Historical Hallway, was preserved by the Andersens upon purchase of the Hotel Laguna in 1985. It’s always on display and available for viewing the signatures from guests that stayed here in the 1930s!

1932 – Early Morning View of Main Beach from the Terrace at the Hotel Laguna.


The Hotel Laguna in 1935!

Owned at the time by the W.I. Hollingsworth Company of which Bert O. Miller was President.

Hotel Laguna from the late 1940’s

Photo before the Laguna Room (our main banquet hall) and OceanView Bar and Grill was built on! You can get a glimpse of the Vintage Cafe Las Ondas!

A view of the intersection of Laguna Ave. and Pacific Coast Highway.

Hotel Laguna, dated from 1940s with it’s grand neon sign and the corner coffee shop that is now Exclusive Collections!


Breakfast Menu that he took back in 1947

Tony, a long time visiting customer, shared this menu with us.

The Hotel Laguna in the 1950s

So much has changed, but the essence of what we stand for remains the same!

1960s Brochure of the Hotel Laguna

Owned by Borge and Grete Nielsen from 1967 to March 1985.