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Leucadia Beach Inn: City’s oldest ‘horseshoe’ style motor lodge still standing

ENCINITAS — Flapper girls, speakeasies and Prohibition were all the norm during the Roaring 1920s, as were the motor lodges where visitors to the California coastline, including San Diego, stayed overnight.

Places such as the Day’s End, now the Leucadia Beach Inn, were popular along the Pacific Coast Highway. And the Leucadia lodging complex remains standing today.

Constructed in the classic California “horseshoe” design in the 1920s, it afforded guests entry and exit from their rooms, straight from the parking lot. Since its early beginnings, the 21-room hotel, remodeled in 2005, has had 25 owners.

The current owners are Charles Marvin III and his wife Kirsten, who reside in Encinitas.

Owners Charles and Kristin Marvin have done extensive cosmetic and structural renovations including awnings, rock facades and masonry walls, Spanish-style ironwork and new Mexican wooden doors for each of the rooms. Courtesy photo/Leucadia Beach Inn

Since their purchase, the couple has done major renovations to the lodge transforming it from a battered-down motel to a highly rated inn.

What makes the Leucadia Beach Inn special? A lot.

According to the Leucadia Beach Inn General Manager Todd Derr, for the past seven years it’s become a popular place, especially in the summer, although winter business has continually picked up over the years. 

“After I started managing the inn and understanding the history of the property, I always wondered how many Hollywood stars traveling from L.A. to Mexico over the years stopped to stay at our inn,” he said. “When Highway 101 was the only route along the California coast, our inn was one of the only places to stay for years.”

It was not uncommon for movie stars and celebrities to travel from Los Angeles to the San Diego area and place bets at the Del Mar Racetrack.

Guests these days travel from all over the globe, Derr said.

“Many of our guests come from places like Australia, China, Denmark, Germany and Italy,” he said. “Most of our guests, outside of our California guests, come from states like Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Utah and Midwestern states like Michigan and Illinois.”

Derr said he believes what makes the Leucadia Beach Inn special is that it offers guests a “personable feel.”

“They get that ‘personal’ feel when they check in and stay with us,” he said. “We treat everyone like family here and because we are a smaller property, we get to know many of our guests on a personal level. A lot of them come back to stay with us a few times each year. 

“Guest service and cleanliness are priorities with us. Over the last few years we’ve been able to build up our ‘guest rating,’ which has surpassed some of the larger five-star properties in the area such as the Aviara and La Costa luxury resorts. We are very proud of that. I’m also very blessed to have the best housekeeping staff in the county.”

He added that many visitors are curious about the year the inn was built.

“Most travelers these days are looking for unique historic properties to stay which they can’t find anywhere else,” he said.  “You can see the curiosity in their eyes about what the Leucadia Beach Inn was like in its early years.”

A look inside a fully renovated room at Leucadia Beach Inn.
Courtesy photo/Leucadia Beach Inn

Renovations

As for the work that has been done since it has been taken over by the Marvins, Derr said most of the property was updated cosmetically with paint, awnings, rock facades and masonry walls, Spanish-style ironwork and new Mexican wooden doors for each of the rooms.

In addition, each of the rooms was updated and all of them now have kitchenettes.

“ …  but the configuration of the building, motor inn-style parking lot, lobby and office area are still the same from the 1920s.” 

Marvin, who moved from LA in 1971, saw Leucadia as one of last “laid-back So Cal beach towns and thought it had lots of potential.”

He said: “I envisioned it as Laguna Beach South by the early 1980s. My crystal ball was only off by about 30 years!”

He and his wife bought the property in late 2004 after trading a property they owned in Idyllwild.

No stranger to the area, Marvin said he had always been interested in the Leucadia Beach Inn and had bought property along the 101 in the 1970s and 1980s.

“I always liked the inn — it has an old Spanish style that appealed to me,” Marvin said. “It originally had 12 units when it was built and then in the 1970s the owner bought the lot next to it and put another nine units in the two-story building.”

Marvin said it also “may be longest continuously operating lodging facility in Encinitas.”

His wife Kirsten, who is Danish, the family’s decorator/designer/general contractor, redid the Leucadia Beach Inn because of its rundown condition.

“It was not in great shape when we bought it,” Marvin said. “In 2005 we did a major remodel. Before then it was still operating but only limping along.”

As this article is being written, they are involved in another upgrading of the rooms in the Leucadia Beach Inn.

Marvin mentioned that he did a title search through a title company and discovered it has had numerous owners — about 25 different sets, for some unexplained reason 12 of which had been from 1936 and 1946.

One owner was Desplina Aslandes, a Greek Resistance fighter who fought the Nazis and communist guerrillas in Greece. She was the grandmother of Charley Sougais, the owner of Charlie’s Foreign Cars.

As a result of her heroics during World War II, she received a letter of commendation from British Field Marshal Alexander.

The Marvins are also very excited about the California Coastal Commission’s recent approval of the Leucadia Streetscape project.

They are looking forward to construction of that project which will afford the Leucadia Beach Inn’s guests much safer pedestrian and bicycle access to Leucadia’s burgeoning restaurant, winery and craft beer scene.

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1 comment

Jeremy December 14, 2018 at 3:40 pm

Old picture? The brown house in the background was built after 2000.

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