OCEANSIDE — As new towering hotels and resorts take up residence in downtown Oceanside, there’s still one oldie but goodie where you can get a decent night’s sleep and then some.
The Fin Boutique Hotel, located in an historic building dating back to 1927, opened on Memorial Day after more than a year’s worth of remodeling. Its new owners are Irvine-based Western Hospitality Group. It is situated at the corner of South Coast Highway at the corner of Topeka Street, and sits four blocks from the ocean.
“We’re different in a lot of ways,” General Manager Matthew Higgins said. “We’re not a resort, we don’t have a workout room, or in-house dining, or a business center … We’ve got a neighborhood right behind us.
“Our customers are those who want to come and visit Oceanside on foot; you can stay here without a car,” Higgins continued. “You can hop on the Metrolink, go shopping, and dine all within walking; this is a place for those looking for something off the beaten path.”
A rich history
The Fin has a long and vibrant history with its origins beginning with the Keisker Hotel followed by the DeWitt, and then The Dolphin before it became The Fin.
In 2015, while it was The Dolphin, a fire broke out and water damaged one of its second-floor rooms. The hotel closed its doors and stayed vacant until the current owners purchased it in 2017, Higgins added.
“The Dolphin was a real landmark in Oceanside and a place for local visitors, for military folks on base, and where people stayed for years,” Higgins said. “We wanted to pay our respects to that history and at the same time have a fresh start, hence a nod to the ‘Fin of the Dolphin.’”
Speaking of a colorful history, it has been reported that during the 1930s and 1940s, the hotel was a place where celebrities visited often.
“It could have been screen stars, military, who knows?” Higgins said. “I wouldn’t be surprised since the train station is half-a-block from us and it stops near the Del Mar track, which had its share of celebrities who went there.”
As mentioned, the original tenant was the Keisker Hotel, built by its namesake.
“Mr. Keisker was a former military man who was based in the area,” Higgins said. “After he was done with duty, he built the hotel because he loved the area.”
It was the first hotel in Oceanside that had hot and cold running water, he added.
In 1936, the Keisker Hotel changed hands when it was bought by Robert and Jesse DeWitt and renamed the DeWitt Hotel. During World War II, the hotel became the regional headquarters of Pacific Telephone Co. The building was turned back to a hotel after the war and renamed the Dolphin Hotel, according to the Oceanside Historical Society archives.
Later, the building was purchased by the Hsue family in 2004, who did their own renovations that included fixing up its exterior and adding new paint colors.
Still a great location
Even though The Fin may not be on the ocean like other five-star resorts nearby, it is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, shopping and more, making it a great destination.
“The hotel has a great location; it’s close to the beach and downtown, and it is also a small boutique hotel with 27 rooms offering a more intimate experience,” Higgins said. “Also, many of us who work here are local, too, including myself. Many of the employees walk to work, and we are here 24-7.”
And speaking of a more intimate, modern experience, the hotel’s remodel was extensive.
“The remodel was needed to bring the building up to modern standards. The rooms were made larger, modern amenities were put in place, and new infrastructure for the building was added, as well as beatification of the building,” Higgins said.
For example, today The Fin mixes a modern interior, including an elevator, along with hints of yesteryear, Higgins said.
“There’s the preservation of the floor tile at the entry, keeping the exterior design, bannister, and Tiffany windows in the lobby,” he said.
What makes it special?
“The best thing about The Fin is that it has character and it is unique, and a very warm friendly place to be,” Higgins said. “It’s got great history and it’s nice that the owners were able to preserve much of that.”
Being a smaller, boutique hotel, one might wonder how it competes with the other newer, larger, fancier hotels in the vicinity.
“We do not look to compete with the larger hotels in the area, we offer an intimate, neighborhood stay in Oceanside that allows you to experience Oceanside like a local,” Higgins said. “We offer a luxury hotel with history and character that’s locally run.”