a screenshot of a cell phone screen with text: The Westgate Hotel opened in 1970. (The San Diego Union)

© (The San Diego Union)
The Westgate Hotel opened in 1970. (The San Diego Union)

The luxurious Westgate Hotel opened its doors in downtown San Diego 50 years ago this week. At it’s dedication developer C. Arnholt Smith described the hotel as “our contribution to San Diego’s steps toward a metropolitan city.”

Smith, chairman of Westgate California corp., was owner of the 20-story 235-room downtown hotel and a major player in politics and business in San Diego before his empire crumbled with the collapse of his U.S. National Bank bank in 1973.

a close up of a newspaper: Front page of The San Diego Union on August 30, 1970 as the Westgate Hotel was dedicated. (The San Diego Union)

© (The San Diego Union)
Front page of The San Diego Union on August 30, 1970 as the Westgate Hotel was dedicated. (The San Diego Union)

As the hotel opened with Rolls Royce limousine service and other luxury amenities, The Union published a special section grandly hailing the Westgate as “America’s most beautiful hotel.”


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From The San Diego Union, Tuesday September 1, 1970:


Westgate Plaza Opens Era

By Jim McVicar

The golden-domed Westgate Plaza, first skyscraper hotel built in downtown San Diego in 43 years, is open for business.

The building, with the ultra-modern exterior and the elegance inside of a European palace, cost $14.5 million. the complex includes 235 guest rooms and suites, two restaurants, parking facilities , a flower-bedecked terrace and business places ranging from airlines offices and a savings and loan firm to a shoe store and gourmet delicatessen.

The 20-level building was begun on Jan. 18, 1968. It occupies a full block between Broadway and C Streets and Second and third Avenues.

Full Service Hotel

Although several motor hotels and hotels have been built, and existing hostelries have remodeled or built additions, the Plaza is the first major, full-service hotel built since 1927 when El Cortez Hotel was completed.

Westgate-California corp. owns the Plaza. The corporation’s chairman of the board is C. Arnholt Smith, a prominent San Diego businessman with diversified interests.

a close up of a newspaper: San Diego Union Westgate Special Section page from September 1, 1970. (The San Diego Union)

© (The San Diego Union)
San Diego Union Westgate Special Section page from September 1, 1970. (The San Diego Union)

A spokesman for the corporation said the Westgate Plaza is among “the most elegant hotels built in the 20th Century.”

“Its guest room, meeting facilities, lobby restaurants and overall mood represent luxury rarely found in modern hotels, even the large ones,” the spokesman said.

Leslie L. White, 52, general manager of the hotel, has compared the Plaza with some of the great hotels of the world, including those in Europe famed for “old-world luxury and grand service.”

Two Architect Firms

The architects for the project were Associated Hotel Planners, a joint venture of Richard George Wheeler & Associates and Bird, Fujimoto & Fish, both San Diego firms.

Two contractors, South Coast Construction Co. and Riha construction Co., combined to build the hotel.

Grand opening ceremonies were held Saturday and the hotel welcomed its first guest Sunday.

the Plaza complex is two buildings separated by a open court between Second and third Avenues. the hotel building is on the north side of the court. It rises 20 stories from the street with a lower level that provides 145 parking spaces and several hotel shops, including a men’s store, barber shop and beauty salon.

A Landscaped Court

South of the landscaped court is the two-story Westgate Life Insurance Building which has 28,641 square feet of floor space. The insurance building fronts on Broadway and houses various commercial businesses, offices and stores.

The main hotel tower has 322,000 square feet of floor space. On the street level are the lobby, registration desk and hotel offices, the Westgate Room — one of two restaurants in the hotel — and more shops.

Gourmet Restaurant

The second level contains the Fontainebleu Room, the hotel’s gourmet restaurant; the Versailles Ballroom largest of the hotel’s reception and meeting facilities, and other meeting rooms that will accomodate from 10 to 300 persons.

There are more seminar and meeting rooms on the third floor. a fountain terrace on that level is accessible from the meeting rooms by sliding glass doors. Walkways lead from the hotel terrace to a landscaped roof terrace atop the Westgate Life Insurance Building.

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