Built in a grand colonial style by former car dealer and developer Larry Imig, the hotel’s handsome brick façade debuted in 1946 along what was then California Highway 80. In its original incarnation, the 2.36 acre-hotel complex was designed as a “city within a city”, with 24 shops, 4 restaurants, a nightclub and 250 suites, guest rooms and apartments. The hotel became a popular stop over for Hollywood notables making the all-day trip from Los Angeles to casinos in Tijuana, Mexico.
Maybe the most significant Hollywood contribution was from former Tarzan and Olympic gold medalist swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, who’s said to have assisted in the design and construction of the 50-meter terrazzo pool. Shortly thereafter San Diego native and athlete Florence Chadwick used the pool to train for her then record breaking swim across the English Channel.
In the 50’s, San Diego Charger owner and hotelier Conrad Hilton purchased the Lafayette, making several significant changes to the complex. Hilton reduced the room count by demolishing and relocating several of the hotel’s apartment buildings and painted the brick façade. The most evident Hilton change may have been the removal of Imig’s signature from the large terrazzo star in the main lobby floor.