My wife and I are currently on vacation in California and ended up visiting Coronado Island yesterday, which is just off San Diego.
I have actually been to Coronado once before, but this time around I had a little more time to explore the city and, especially, snuffle up some of the haunts of one of my all-time favourite authors and inspirations: L. Frank Baum, author of the Oz series.
About the Oz series
Most people know Oz from the 1939 movie or the book—a lot less know that L. Frank Baum actually wrote fourteen Oz books in total. As much as I love the first book, with its establishment of the iconic world, characters, and elements (yellow brick road!), some of my favourite titles are the ones later in the series. It just so happens that some of those titles were written while Baum was staying ion Coronado Island.
Getting to Coronado Island
Once you’re in San Diego, it’s quite easy to get across to the island. You can drive or take the bus, but Marcie and I opted for the ferry. We caught it at Broadway Pier, which was only about a fifteen-minute walk from our hotel (incidentally, we’re staying in the historic Horton Grand Hotel—a beautiful building with very affordable rates).
The ferry is about $5 per person, each way. After a fifteen-minute ride, we arrived at the island, where we took the free summer shuttle across to the west side of the island, where most of the restaurants, hotels, and sites are located. Also, it’s where you can hear those gorgeous waves rumbling in from the Pacific.
Baum on Coronado Island
L. Frank Baum spent many winters in California. Not only did he stay at the Hotel Del Coronado, but he rented a nearby home and it’s here where he wrote part of his second Oz book, The Marvellous Land of Oz. Subsequently, he wrote three more of his books on the island: Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (#4 in the series), The Road to Oz (#5), and The Emerald City of Oz (#6).
The house that Baum rented while writing the three books can still be found today. It’s on 1101 Star Park Circle (aptly named!) and is only a short walk from the hotel.
You can’t go inside the house, but you can stand on the doorstep to see the plaque commemorating Baum. Also, there’s a few fun knick-knacks decorating the front.
After visiting the house, we went to the Coronado Museum of History and Art (1100 Orange Avenue) where you can see first editions of the three books Baum wrote on the island.
The Emerald City
As the story goes, Baum took inspiration for the conception and description of his own Emerald City from the Hotel del Coronado.
This fact is in some dispute, but it’s hard not to look at the spires of the historic building and ignore their “Oz-ness.” You will note the flag on one of the spires—it looks like an emerald crown. Coronado is known as the Crown City, but also has the nickname “Emerald City.”
Baum also designed the crown-shaped chandeliers in the Crown room at the hotel.
I highly recommend visiting Coronado, especially if you’re already in the San Diego area. And, if you are an Oz nerd like me, then you’re in for an extra treat, discovering the historic connection between Baum and the island.
In Baum’s own words: “Those who do not find Coronado a paradise have doubtless brought with them the same conditions that would render heaven unpleasant to them did they chance to gain admittance.”