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Historic hotel, restaurant returning to Old Town

After a three-year restoration and rehabilitation, the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Old Town is nearing its grand opening once again.

A preview event was held Wednesday to tour the historic locale before it opens for business June 16.

"They're going to see life like it was back in the 1850s (and) 1860s," said Chuck Ross, operator of the Cosmopolitan Hotel. "It will be a part of Old Town that people can really be proud of because it represents their heritage and really the beginning of San Diego."

The $6.5 million restoration and rehabilitation of the Cosmopolitan involved renovating 10 hotel rooms with authentic antique furnishings, including beds, bathtubs, dressers, cabinets, wallpaper and more, to restore the rooms to their 1869 d├ęcor.

The downstairs of the hotel -- where the Casa De Bandini Restaurant used to be located -- is now a renovated lobby. The first floor will also have a whisky bar, dining rooms that are part of the new restaurant and a grand parlor.

The first phase of the project began in April 2007 when archaeologists began removing sample sections of the building's stucco to analyze its construction history.

Nini Minovi, archeologist for the California Department of Parks and Recreation who oversaw the project, talked about what was done to the Cosmopolitan to uncover and preserve the hotel's history.

The renovated Cosmopolitan Hotel in Old Town will reopen June 16.

"What we did was strip the 1950s (materials) -- the raw iron, the rusted posts -- off the building and underneath that element was the 1930s," she explained. "And in the 1930s ... was a Louisiana-style building ... and that was another layer that got peeled off. And as we peeled that layer off, then the Cosmopolitan hotel began to come through."

Minovi added that during the three-year restoration project, several things were uncovered, such as fireplaces, staircases and the original colors of the hotel, which were color-matched and are what visitors will see in the restored design.

"One of the things that we found that was remarkable was the upstairs redwood clapboard sidings," she said. "It was visible and in excellent condition and 90 percent of it (was in) perfect, flawless condition. So the siding you see on the building is the one from 1869."

Outside the Cosmopolitan, there is a patio area where most tables will be for the new restaurant. In addition, the old Casa de Bandini kitchen has been moved outside of the Cosmopolitan building and into a separate area.

The 7,225-square-foot Cosmopolitan building was also upgraded to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements with the addition of an elevator and wheelchair ramps. The building also was seismically retrofitted.

The restoration was done because the California Department of Parks and Recreations wanted to restore one of the oldest buildings in the Old Town state park and bring it back to its former glory.

"There was an opportunity when there was a change in concessions to come in and upgrade the facilities," said Ross. "The Cosmopolitan was one of these dreams the state park had to really renovate it back to its original state."

The Cosmopolitan was originally constructed between 1827 and 1829 as the home of Juan Bandini and his family. In 1869, a second floor was added to the home and it was converted to a hotel and stagecoach stop.

Over the years, it has also been converted to an apartment building, olive factory and a restaurant.

The first floor is built with adobe and was thoroughly preserved, along with the exterior side of the upper level, which has wood framing installed from 1869.

The restoration of the Cosmopolitan Hotel was funded by the state of California, a California Cultural and Historical Endowment, Delaware North Companies and the Old Town Family Hospitality Corp.

Those involved in the design and construction of the restoration project included Heritage Architecture and Planning, Soltek Pacific Construction, ASM Affiliates and IS Architecture.

Send your comments to Carlos.Rico@sddt.com

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