Arcadia was born in in the Presidio–on the hill overlooking San Diego Bay. Sometime between 1827 and 1829, her father completed his home on the Plaza in Old Town San Diego for his growing family. The adobe still sits on the corner of the plaza across from her mother’s family home, the Estudillo House.
A typical adobe California house of the period, the rooms of the then one-story house surrounded an open courtyard. Originally the one-story building had seven rooms and more rooms were added as the family grew until eventualy there were 12-14 rooms.The house was built to a high standard and included adobe-layered cornices and unexposed roof rafters both unusual for 19th century California architecture. As Bandini’s influence grew, the house became the social and political center of San Diego. Here Bandini plotted a successful overthow of Governor Manuel Victoria and made plans to overthrow Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado. The dazzling parties held in the Sala are described in Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years before the Mast. Commodore Stockton used it as his headquarters in 1846 during the American occupation of San Diego.
Bandini’s daughters married prominent Americans and Bandini prospered under American rule. He created a retail store in his casa and successfully sold supplies to the men arriving in San Diego on their way to the gold fields of Northern California. He spent large sums of his profits on a new hotel for the miners, but lost the investment when the gold fields began to play out. Indian attacks on his ranchos and unrest in Baja California where he had substantial land also reduced his wealth. Don Abel Stearns, married to his daughter Arcadia, often bailed him out of financial difficulties. Over the years the house fell into disrepair and was abandoned. Bandini died in 1859, and Stearns was the executer of his estate. The house continued to decline. In 1869, Stearns sold it to Albert L Seeley. Seeley repaired the house and converted it into a two-story hotel.
Renamed the Cosmopolitan Hotel, Seeley advertised the hotel as “large and commodious” with “large well ventilated and finely funished rooms” and a well-stocked table and bar boasting the “choicest wines, liquors, and cigars.” It became the stage stop for passengers going between Los Angeles and San Diego. Seeley also owned the stage. The hotel was sold in 1888, and the adobe went thru a succession of owners. In 1928 Cave J. Counts, Jr, Juan Bandini’s grandson, purchased the hotel and did extensive repairs saving it from further ruin. Couts venture did not prosper and he sold the property. Various owners ran hotels in the adobe until it was sold the State of California in 1968.
The house was leased to Diane Powers, owner of the Bazaar Del Mundo and renovated into a popular restaurant. A recent renovation returned the house to the way it looked in 1869 when it was opened as the Cosmopolitan Hotel. It is now a restaurant and bed and breakfast hotel. The rooms are furnished in period pieces and the downstairs has been returned to the original look and feel of the period.
Read mores stories about Arcadia Bandini and her impact on California in my new book, Westside Chronicles.