Traditional Building Portfolio




Heavy Lifting

1906 Lodge at Coronado, Coronado, CA

Bushman Dreyfus Architects, Charlottesville, VA; Jeffrey G. Dreyfus, project architect; Neil Higgins, project manager

Erickson-Hall Construction, Escondido, CA; Mike Hall, principal; Jim Fisher, construction manager

By Martha McDonald

When Trant Manor, LLC, a group of local investors, acquired the dilapidated former boarding house in Coronado, CA, they saw something others had missed – potential. Purportedly designed by Irving Gill and William Hebbard, the 1906 building had been abandoned for some time and was in derelict condition. Prior to being abandoned, it had become a haven for transients and an eyesore for the neighborhood. Today it is a much-sought-after Arts-and-Crafts-style boutique hotel with 17 suites, a restful garden and underground parking.

The transformation was led by Bushman Dreyfus Architects of Charlottesville, VA. The project involved not only the restoration and reconfiguration of the original 3,913-sq.ft. structure, but also the design of an additional compatible 15,697-sq.ft. building on the 90x131-ft. site. And that's not all – the historic building was raised, and the entire site was excavated for a new basement.

"The owners saw in this particular site an opportunity that many people in Coronado would not have recognized. It is close to the core of the business district and to the beach, in a very nice, quiet neighborhood," says Jeff Dreyfus, principal, Bushman Dreyfus Architects. "They also knew that six rooms – the number that could be fit into the original building – wouldn't be enough to make it financially viable. And, they knew they were going to have to provide parking."

"Originally we were going to restore the building and build condos on the rest of the lot; it was zoned for condos," says Sue Gillingham, who is one of the eight investors. She is also the manager of the 1906 Lodge. "Then we thought about it and decided it would be a good idea to restore it back to the boarding house days. That's when we decided to add the suites and underground parking."

"There were many challenges in this project," Dreyfus notes. "We had to hide the systems for the historic structure and also not let the building systems overtake the new structure. In addition, the new structure had to be deferential and relatively small scale compared to the original. It was a very tightly scripted design – to hide all of that infrastructure and keep the character of the place."

Before restoration began on the original building, an unreinforced concrete building sitting on grade with no footings or foundation, the designers had to solve the problem of parking and where to put mechanical systems. The owners knew that the project wouldn't work without underground parking, and the designers understood that the systems would also have to be put underground. "The historic structure is a four-sided building," says Dreyfus. "The roof was not an option for containing the mechanical equipment and we didn't want to put any additional structures around it. Going below grade was the only way to deal with the parking and mechanical infrastructure."

Steel beams were threaded under the building so that it could be lifted and supported while the basement was excavated, sometimes by hand digging. (The building lifting contractor was John Hansen House Moving, El Cajon, CA.) Once the basement was excavated below the historic structure, the rest of the site was excavated as well to provide the underground parking.

Before the historic building was put back in place – ultimately it was lifted 6 in. for grading reasons – new columns and masonry walls were installed in the basement to support it. "We also had to strap the exterior walls together so they would not crumble when it was lifted," Dreyfus explains.

A seismic retrofit was also required. This involved the addition of a rigid elevator core in the center of the building and two walls coming off that core that serve as a rigid core inside the building. All of the floor joists were attached to these.

With the building back in place, historic preservation could begin. "The challenge was reprogramming a boarding house into a luxury hotel," says Dreyfus. "The solution was to keep the public spaces – the parlor and dining room on the first floor – as close to their original purposes as possible. The plan was then carefully designed to add individual bathrooms for each of the six guest rooms on the second floor."

He notes that the only historic photos available showed the exterior of the building, but there was enough original material to guide the restoration. All non-original construction was removed, including a fire escape, back porch and a two-story addition of kitchens and bathrooms that had been tacked on in the 1950s.

Most of the windows were restored by Philco Construction of San Diego, CA, but a few of the leaded windows in the parlor had to be re-created. "The real challenge was not to destroy the character of the building," says Dreyfus. "We documented details to be replicated and were very careful about how and where we inserted the mechanical systems. For example, the flat portion of the coffered ceiling was lowered a bit to allow room for new plumbing in the rooms above." One of the significant features restored was the Mission-style brick fireplace with an arched leaded-glass window over the mantel.

Another issue was fire safety. The original building has only one open central stairwell, and code required that a second, enclosed stair be added. "By incorporating an array of fire-related wall and floor assemblies along with a new sprinkler system, we were able to get the requirement waived," Dreyfus points out. "We had an extensive approval process with the city's design review board, and they were great. They were always on the side of making this happen and it was very gratifying."

A breakfast veranda was added to the back of the lodge, looking on to the new courtyard garden and reflecting pool. The basement that was created with the excavation now houses the mechanical systems, storage, conference rooms, laundry, trash collection and a manager's apartment.

While the restoration of the historic building was the starting point of the project, the design of the additional 11 guest suites surrounding the courtyard and reflecting pool was key to the project's financial success. "The new building is sympathetic to the historic building in scale, material and details – without duplicating the old one," says Dreyfus. "The idea was to subtly distinguish the historic building from the new one."

"The new building housing 11 guest suites, each with its own private porch, appears to be several structures, but it is actually one continuous building," he adds. "The addition of this building on the perimeter of the site created a space for a courtyard garden and reflecting pool. This garden is an important element of the overall design, but it was a challenge for the landscape architect, with a maximum of 12 inches of soil depth atop the parking garage. He planted many larger species in tall pots and removed the bottoms to provide more soil depth. The resultant garden is a luxuriant oasis with a variety of Southern California's native plants." David Reed Landscape Architects of San Diego, CA, was the landscape designer.

Just how did an architecture firm from the heart of historic Virginia find its way to Southern California? "As it happens," Dreyfus says, "we had done a similar project, the Cobb Island Coast Guard Station relocation and renovation, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The project involved moving an historic building across 10 miles of open water to place it on a new foundation and then renovating it as a guest lodge." The Virginia project won a 2004 Palladio Award. (See Traditional Building, June 2004, page 16)

The 1906 Lodge at Coronado has been a tremendous success, according to Gilllingham, who adds that it opened in 2009 during a difficult economic period. "For the last two years we have been rated the number one Coronado hotel on Trip Advisor," she says. In addition, the project has won two preservation awards – a 2009 Orchid Award from the San Diego Architectural Foundation, and a 2010 preservation award from Save Our Heritage Organisation in San Diego.

Today the partially renovated, partially new 1906 Lodge stands ready to greet visitors for another century, thanks to devoted owners, a cooperative local design review board and the design team at Bushman Dreyfus Architects. TB

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