Metropole Hotel, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island

From Islapedia
Shatto's Hotel Metropole, c. 1888
Santa Catalina Island
Banning's Hotel Metropole, pre-1896 construction of west wing
Santa Catalina Island
Hotel Metropole with sloop Avalon anchored out front, c. 1900 Santa Catalina Island
[cabinet card original in SCIF archives]
Hotel Metropole with the new sea wall built in 1902, Santa Catalina Island
Hotel Metropole Gorham Co. cutlery (oyster fork)
[original in SCIF archives; 2022.21.Huff]
Hotel Metropole Gorham Co. cutlery (oyster fork)
Saxony (pattern), silverplate, 1891
engraved 'Hotel Metropole' on both sides of the handle
[original in SCIF archives; 2022.21.Huff]

Metropole Hotel, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island (Hotel Metropole) (1888-1915) was begun by George Shatto in 1888. After the Bannings purchased the island in 1892, a number of additions and improvements were made:

  • 1892 first turret
  • 1893 east wing
  • 1896 west wing
  • 1897 ballroom annex
  • 1898-1902 second turret
  • 1902 sea wall (May)
  • 1902-1903 glass sun-parlor
  • 1913 barber shop
  • 1915 shoe-shining

In the 1890s the Hotel Metropole served as the island's voting precinct.

November 29, 1915 the hotel burned in the Avalon fire. Today’s Hotel Metropole is on the site of the original Metropole. Two souvenir spoon makers, Joseph Mayer & Brothers and M. Robbins incorporated manufactured images of the hotel in its spoons.

The Hotel Metropole on the handle of this Mayer spoon is one of only two known examples of the Hotel Metropole to appear on a manufactured Santa Catalina Island souvenir spoon currently known.
[original in SCIF archives]
Hotel Metropole manufactured feature on
verso of C. M. Robbins spoon
[original in SCIF archives]

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In the News~

May 28, 1888 [LAH]: “Catalina Island. A pleasant summer resort—notes from the Metropole. A number of pleasure seekers are encamped at Catalina Island and are loud in their praises of the beauties of the place. Mr. Shatto has spent a great deal of money on the beautification of Avalon and it is now one of the best towns in Southern California. Cement sidewalks are laid on all the principal thoroughfares and pure mountain water is piped to every residential lot. A number of very handsome cottages have been erected and it may be interesting to note that this has been decreed that no more liquor shall be offered for sale on the island. As stated in the Herald a few days ago, an enterprising individual named Reynolds squatted in from of the Hotel Metropole with a saloon tent, but was summarily ejected and his place burned to the ground. A pleasant dance was given in the Pavilion on Saturday night, in which all on the island participated. The following is a list of the guests at present quartered at the Hotel Metropole...”

June 26, 1888

June 26, 1888 [LAH]: “The Hotel Metropole on Catalina Island is now open for the summer season, under the capable management of Messrs. Cowley & Baker. Tents will be supplied by the management to parties wishing to camp. Also those having tents are invited to bring them and camp on the island. Cowley & Baker, Prop's. J. E. Aull, Manager.”

July 17, 1889

February 6, 1889 [LAH]: “The Hermosa. A successful run to San Pedro from San Francisco. Cleaving the water with her keen-pointed prow, Captain Banning's new vessel, the Hermosa, steamed into Wilmington harbor at 10 o'clock yesterday morning, amid the criticisms of all of the residents of that place who could manage to be at the ocean's side. Critical old salts said "she 's a good 'un," as they watched her steady movement, and the female element of the assemblage went into ecstasies of admiration at the stately craft which rode so proudly and looked so trim and taut as she made her debut in Southern California. On her decks stood a group of merry-makers waving their handkerchiefs in response to the salutes from shore, and when, a few minutes later, the boat was at rest, it was seen that the following gentlemen comprised the party: Baron Rogniat, Assistant Division Superintendent J. A. Muir, of the Southern Pacific, Mr. Hinkle, of the firm Hinkle, Sears & Co., (builders of the boat), Mr. Will Lacy, Mr. Wachtel, Mr. McCarty, Mr. McWilliams, Mr. James Hubbell and Captain Banning and his brother...The boat is a splendid mover, steady and without a roll. She is 140 feet long, 30 foot beam and 24 feet deep, and will answer admirably for the traffic between San Pedro and Catalina. Her trial trip has undoubtedly been a success in every way, and as regard s personal comfort during the trip down from San Francisco need I say anything, when you know Captain Banning was on bard? We had a princely, nay, more than that—a regal time, and the journey has been the most delightful I have ever taken." The Hermosa will be put into commission at once, and Mr. Conley, of the firm Conley & Baker, announces that the Hotel Metropole on Catalina Island will be opened on the 15th instant. Captain Simmie is in charge of the craft, aided by First Officer Downing, both of these gentlemen bearing first-class records in the nautical world. An excursion to the island will leave San Pedro at 1 o'clock today, and will be largely patronized by the Ocean city. ”

July 14, 1889 [LAH]: “The Hotel Metropole at Catalina Island is now under the management of C. A. Sumner, who intends to personally see that his guests are satisfied. Those who remember how the Pico House flourished in old days, under Mr. Sumner's direction, will welcome the news.”

July 7, 1890 [LAH]: “The Yachtsmen's Ball. The event of the season was the first annual ball of the Southern California yachtsmen at the Hotel Metropole. The large dining-hall was converted into a ballroom, and light feet and merry hearts beat time to the music until a late hour. The fair sex was represented in good numbers, from near and far, and together with the gallant yachtsmen and other gentlemen in attendance, made up a brilliant company. The floor management was under the direction of Mr. Hugh Vail, assisted by Messrs. Richard Lacy and A. T. Harvey.”

May 9, 1892 [LAH]: “Mr. R. Scott, of the new management of Hotel Metropole, at Catalina, spent yesterday at Santa Monica.”

June 23, 1892

May 12, 1892 [LAH]: “Charming Catalina. Being put in trim for the summer. Streets and Boulevards made—a new Pavilion—additions to the hotel. Water being developed. From a gentleman who has just returned from a visit to Santa Catalina Island, a Herald reporter yesterday got some interesting points as to the many improvements being made over there by the Banning Brothers. A good compact macadamized street has been made of Crescent Avenue. The material for making the road was obtained from the west end of Avalon bay and a beautiful promenade is made in that side as well. The Pavilion is rapidly approaching completion. It is circular in form, with a dancing floor 75 feet in diameter. There is a stage at the land side 70 feet wide and 50 feet deep. The building is glass enclosed and on the outside is a verandah ten feet wide, which will be utilized as a cafe. A complete sewer system is being put in. The sewage is carried in pipes out beyond seal rock and emptied into the ocean. This is a system for the whole island. Much water has been developed, and a reservoir 35 feet in diameter and 15 feet deep is being built, and there is a new track house going up west of the wharf. The biggest improvement is being made at the Hotel Metropole. Forty rooms have been added, a new kitchen built and building erected for the bar and billiard room. The hotel is being repainted and repapered and will be newly furnished throughout. The Grand View is the name of a new thirty-room hotel erected by George E. Weaver. The Avalon Home, a new house erected by E. J. Whitney, and half a dozen large boarding houses will furnish accommodations for all. The season will open about June 15, and on July 1 a large steamer will be out on and daily trips made. This year there will be no charge to campers for ground or water. Everything points to the fact that there will be a great flow of visitors to Catalina this season.”

June 25, 1892 [SPT]: “The Hotel Metropole at Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, was opened on the 15th, under new management of Messrs. Auld and Scott, who have newly furnished it throughout, and added a new billiard room, dining room and kitchen.”

August 28, 1895 [SFCall]: “Justinian Caire, owner of the Santa Cruz Island in the Santa Barbara Channel, and a resident of San Francisco, is at the Metropole accompanied by his wife and daughter. Mr. Caire is not here solely for recreation, it is rumored, but he is quietly taking notes of this famous island resort with a view to establishing a similar watering-place on his own island. While Mr. Caire is very reserved in regard to his future plans, it is currently understood that he intends to compete for custom[ers] with other coast resorts. It is said that the other parties are interested in the enterprise with Mr. Caire, and all necessary money is at their command. A magnificent hotel will be erected and the island made a first-class resort. Santa Cruz Island is situated some twenty-five miles out at sea from Santa Barbara, and comprises about 60,000 acres of land. It is, like Catalina, of mountainous formation.”

September 26, 1901 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Manager H. E. Fletcher has given notice to his guests that Hotel Metropole will be closed next Friday and no guests will be received after that date until further notice. It is the plan of the management to make extensive improvements in the hotel, but just to what extent the improvements will be carried has not been decided upon. The entire building will be repainted and renovated, steam heat will be introduced into all the rooms, some of the stairways will be altered and changes in the lobby and music room, which will add grace and beauty to the interior, and possibly a radical changing of the central portion with the addition of elevators, may be undertaken. The hotel will be closed for two months, and the improvements may require even more time, so that it may not be reopened until about the holidays.”

May 24, 1902 [LAH]: “Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, May 23.—Work is under way on all sides in anticipation of an early and large influx of visitors. The sea wall is completed and the street is being graded to it. The effect when complete will be pleasing and an improvement on the former ragged beach...”

January 12, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. H. E. Fletcher, the new manager of the Metropole, arrived today, accompanied by his wife. Mr. Fletcher for a number of years was manager of the Lake Hotel in Yellowstone Park and lately was chief clerk at the Westminster, Los Angeles.”

April 12, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Captain McKinistry, in charge of the harbor work at San Pedro for the government, was a guest of Hancock Banning at Hotel Metropole on Sunday.”

October 1, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The Metropole closed its doors today for repairs and improvements…”

August 17, 1906 [LAH]: “Hotel Metropole — American plan, strictly first-class.”

August 3, 1908 [LAH]: “Pasadena, August 2. …Another book which Prof. Holder has in preparation, to be published some time this winter, is The Channel Islands. This will cover a field which has hardly been touched by writers. It is already half written. ‘For the last few years I have been particularly engaged in archaeological researches in these islands,’ said Prof. Holder to The Herald correspondent this afternoon. ‘I have secured hundreds of photographs and much new data. Few people realize that these islands, now many of them entirely unpopulated, were once the homes of thousands of Indians. When I first visited San Nicolas Island, twenty-five years ago, there was a pile of abalone shells ten feet high and at least a mile long, the refuse from the Indians’ cooking operations. The site of the Hotel Metropole at Avalon, when I first saw it, was as black as ink from the fires, which had burned there during generations. Traces can still be seen by crawling under the porches there...’”

January 12, 1915 [TI/Avalon]: “With the streets brilliantly lighted and the Hotel Metropole again open, Avalon begins to lose the ‘graveyard’ appearance which has prevailed for the past few months.”

January 19, 1915 [TI/Avalon]: “The lawn in front of the Hotel Metropole is being beautified with palm trees.”

May 9, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “In the excavations now going on at the site of the famous hotel Metropole recently destroyed by fire and for ten feet beneath the surface, are found portions of human bones estimated to be 300 years old…”

September 4, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Several heavy blasts at the new hotel site near Sugar Loaf last week moved tons of rock and gravel. It is estimated that about 9000 cubic yards have yet to be moved before the site will be ready for the foundations of the new hotel building.”

September 18, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Approximately 7000 yards of rock and gravel remain to be removed to bring down to its proper level the site for the new Hotel Metropole, located near Sugar Loaf, on the north side of Avalon Bay… There is a possibility that the hotel may be completed for next season…”

October 2, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “On the site of the new proposed Hotel Metropole, near Sugar Loaf, a huge blast yesterday morning sent tons of rock and gravel hundreds of feet into the air. As the broken mass fell into the water a series of beautiful splashes followed. Over thirty-five tons of blasting powder have been used by the Santa Catalina Island Company in the work of removing the hill to prepare a suitable site for the projected hostelty. The work is progressing rapidly. Monday’s upheaval was probably the last large one that will be required in completing the leveling of the ground.”

December 18, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Captain George B. Johnson passed away Tuesday morning, at his winter residence in Banning, Cal. He was 41 years of age… During the past ten years he has been Master of the different vessels operated by the Meteor Boat Company, and last summer was compelled to resign his position as Master of the Emperor, (the largest glass-bottomed power boat in the world) owing to ill health. Six years ago he made a trip to Lower California as navigator of the yacht Comfort.”

January 1, 1918 [LAT]: “Avalon… The Catalina Hotel was rebuilt during the year and the excavation and foundation for the palatial new Metropole completed. Work on this pile is now being pushed and it is expected that the building will be ready for the reception of guests by the first of next June. This will give Catalina one of the best hotels in the state, where every comfort and luxury will be provided for the guest, who come from every land and clime. The hotel will cost between $300,000 and $400,000.”