Ida Belle Humbel Bainbridge Frazier in 1907 with her third son, Ray, for whom she named her hotel
Ida Belle was only 19 as she rode a lumber wagon from Riverside. Just a year before she had come there from Illinois with her husband, John, and their two-year-old son, Arvel. Now in 1887 they were moving on to the promise of a new townsite.
Main, Sixth and the Grand Circle were being plowed for grading. The mesa was brown and bare without a house in sight. In the middle was an office of the land company with the only well for drinking water. Water for washing and bathing had to be hauled from the Santa Ana River.
On a lot on Sheridan between Ninth and Tenth, the three of them spent nights sleeping under boards leaned against their wagon while building their house. When finished off, their house was just 12 by 14 feet. It lacked most conveniences, including a floor.
Hardships were part of daily life where everywhere you walked was ankle-deep dust, or mud when it rained. The land was a wild and dangerous place for anyone, but especially for little Arvel. It was often part of Ida’s day to pick up their rifle and take aim at a skulking coyote. One morning when the bedding was taken up, the family found a rattlesnake had been sharing their comforts.
Their second son, Cecil, came the following year. Only two weeks after, she watched helplessly as her husband, John, died in agony of acute appendicitis. Though misery was common, kindness was very much a part of the people of early Corona. Left widowed and penniless, Ida was comforted by Mrs. W. H. Jameson who pressed a $20 gold piece into her hand. A merchant who was owed $50 on their new wagon cleared her debt, handing her a receipt showing “paid in full.”
The first railroad tracks were being laid towards town and Ida survived by baking bread, up to 100 loaves a day for the crews. Between 1888-1889, a grasshopper invasion ravaged the lemon groves and Ida helped sew cheesecloth covers for the young trees. Ida survived with her two children but they were hard and lonely times.
When the Hotel Temescal was built, Ida was finally able to work a regular job. In the short time that this first hotel existed, Ida became quite famous as the cook. The Temescal burnt down and left Corona, as before, without a hotel. And, Ida, without steady employment.
It was several more lonely years before things started to turn around for Ida. She fell in love and wed William Henry Frazier. Their son, Ray, became the first child born in the incorporated City of Corona.
Mrs. Ida B. Frazier’s incredible life is punctuated by one story after another of her pioneering efforts. Ida was well-known for her courage, intelligence and hard work. So much so, the city fathers asked her one day if she would be willing to construct and operate a new hotel herself. The city advanced her money and Ida Frazier was registered as the new property owner of a lot on Sixth and Victoria. She drew the plans for the hotel and it was built just in time to board the arriving telephone crews. She named it after her son Ray. It was in this hotel that Corona’s first telephone was installed.
In the midst of this blossoming town, Ida’s years of poverty were replaced with prosperity. She was soon able to repay the loan to the city and continued a long life of service to the community.
You could hardly begin to contemplate the number of people who were guests over all those years. The men that built the new railroad and trolley stations. The crew that built the Prado Dam. Business people passing through. Families coming to stay. People who would build and shape the future of Corona.
The Hotel Del Rey’s banquet hall was the unrivaled center of social activity. The first of many community events were held there, and it continued to serve for countless seasons of receptions, fundraisers and fancy affairs.
In 1998, after many remodelings and name changes, the Hotel Del Rey was about to meet its end. The land was destined to become a parking lot. But the story didn’t end there.
Volunteers who knew of its history, raised money to somehow save the historic building. With no place to move the hotel, it was meticulously disassembled by a professional restoration team. Each nail was pulled. Each piece of lathe was cleaned and stacked. Every piece of molding, siding and framing was carefully photographed, marked and blueprinted for reassembly. In its entirety, it was sealed into five shipping containers for storage until a new site could be found.
Two years later, Corona Heritage Park and Museum was established by those same volunteers. And as part of that vision, it was to be the new home of the Hotel Del Rey. To be reassembled with the same care. To insure it looked as it did 100 years ago. To again become the social centerpiece of Corona.
The modest hotel, though simple in its architecture, is of pivotal importance to Corona’s history, as is the Mission Inn to Riverside, or the Del Coronado to San Diego. Its importance is also pivotal to the future of Corona Heritage Park.
As an icon to Corona’s culture, the restoration of the hotel at the park will carry history far into the future by its ability to generate rental income to help the park’s self-sufficiency. There are very few all-volunteer non-profit organizations that can operate without regular infusions of charitable donations. The Corona Heritage Foundation is one of those few that has survived on business and venue rentals, and will continue to flourish with the Del Rey.
Though the hotel will appear the same on the exterior, the inside will be new stories of elegance and functionality. A grand ballroom with surrounding mezzanines and a large reception hall, with spacious balconies and exquisite views of the valley. Dressing rooms and lounges for wedding parties. A modern catering kitchen. It all adds up to a highly-desirable event venue that will be sought-after regionally, placing and punctuating Corona’s history in the pioneering of America.
The restoration of the Hotel Del Rey honors, and historically represents, the unsung story of one of Corona’s first settlers, Ida Belle Frazier. It will insure that Corona Heritage Park and Museum will be able to continue its unique and diverse contributions to the community. And it will preserve a rare and irreplaceable, living cultural example for many generations to come.
Construction began on the Hotel Del Rey begun late 1903 and opened to the public March 15, 1904.
In 1906, the two-story hotel was jacked up and a third floor was built underneath at ground level.
At the time of its disassembly in 1998, it was Corona’s oldest surviving commercial building.
Corona Independent, Sept. 25, 1956
WOMAN WHO HAD FIRST PHONE IN TOWN NOW DIALS “. . . the city was left without a hotel and the city fathers asked Mrs. Frazier if she would operate a hotel. The city advanced her the money and she drew the plans for the hotel . . . The hotel was called the Del Rey, named after her son (“the first baby born in Corona”), Ray Frazier. It was in this hotel that Corona’s first telephone was installed in 1904.”
Corona Independent, Obituaries, Sept. 4, 1959
IDA FRAZIER, CORONA PIONEER, SUCCUMBS, 91 “. . . a pioneer of the Corona area who was connected with several phases of its early development . . .”,”. . . believed to have had the distinction of giving birth to the first baby born in Corona.”