Overlooking the view that made it famous, about 150 guests of the La Jolla Historical Society gathered to listen to the history of The Marine Room in honor of its 75th anniversary, March 20.
As told by La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club/Marine Room president — and fourth generation manager — Bill Kellogg, the historical retrospective came during an invitation-only celebration at the landmark restaurant. Held in connection with La Jolla Historical Society, the event marks one of many historic anniversaries in town this year.
“Our mission at La Jolla Historical Society is to inspire and empower the community to make La Jolla’s diverse past a meaningful part of contemporary life. … Part of our mission is historical preservation. This year, we are recognizing the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, which was signed by President Johnson in 1966, and which lead to programs at the state and local level,” said Heath Fox, executive director of La Jolla Historical Society. “So it is especially poetic that we are celebrating The Marine Room’s 75th anniversary during the 50th anniversary year of National Historic Preservation Act. … One of our best friends at the Historical Society is Bill Kellogg, and his family history roots run deep in the history of this community.”
Although The Marine Room opened officially in 1941, the developments that lead to it becoming the famed La Jolla Shores establishment it is today reach well ahead of that.
It was in 1927 that Kellogg’s great-grandfather Frederick William Kellogg (known as F.W. Kellogg) decided to build the La Jolla Beach & Yacht Club. “That’s right, they really thought they were going to sail yachts into the harbor,” Kellogg joked. “In the La Jolla Historical Society archives, there is a picture of the bulldozers on the beach, digging out the channel.”
But between an uncooperative ocean that filled in the trenching efforts within a year and the onset of the Great Depression (coupled with the fact that there were no roads into La Jolla Shores — just a railroad system) the La Jolla Beach & Yacht Club did not work out.
“Some ideas are great, others are just dreams,” Kellogg said.
Refusing to give up, F.W. Kellogg and his wife, Florence Scripps Kellogg, shifted gears and developed the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club. “In 1935, for some delusional reason, they decided to install four tennis courts in the middle of nowhere. Why they decided to do that was beyond me, but they did it,” Kellogg said. The Beach & Tennis Club, Marine Room restaurant, and La Jolla Shores Hotel all are managed by the Kellogg family.
According to the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club history, F.W. Kellogg never lived to see the opening of The Marine Room; he died on Sept. 4, 1940, while on a trans-Pacific cruise to Japan. The responsibility for managing the club fell to his son William Scripps Kellogg (known as W.S. Kellogg).
“W.S. Kellogg had this great vision of a restaurant that would be open year round, and he was pretty sad when the first winter came along and bashed in the restaurant’s windows,” Kellogg said. “So what they had to do in the winter is install these big brackets on the windows and board up the windows so you couldn’t see anything, which defeated the purpose and ruined the ambiance. So for those few years, The Marine Room was not a great success.”
But soon came the onset of World War II, and with it, the advent of bulletproof glass. “So what was an impossibility when they purchased the property became a possibility, not only for us, but for SeaWorld, as well,” he said. “Contractors were able to install super thick windows and keep the restaurant open year round. In 1941, they had a grand opening.”
But during the celebration, many of the guests found themselves outside. Not for an after-dinner stroll on the beach, but because it was too hot in the restaurant.
“My grandfather had some set beliefs, one of them was no air conditioning in La Jolla. So the grand opening had a whole bunch of people outside because it got to be too hot,” Kellogg said. “In response to that, they created an unusual feature in the north dining room, and that was a movable roof. It was on rollers and would slide back on nice evenings. It was a pretty inventive way to handle the air conditioning, but it wasn’t great when the winter storms hit.”
He added, “I remember being a kid and watching them roll back the roof, it was a neat thing to see.” Bill Kellogg’s father, William Crowe Kellogg, took over management in 1973.
Just under 10 years into his management, an El Niño year hit in 1982, bringing storms so intense the surf came over the roof and into the restaurant.
“The bulletproof glass they installed was great, it held up! The problem was the rest of the building didn’t,” Kellogg said, and that for nine months after the flood, crews rebuilt the restaurant using materials that wouldn’t corrode from saltwater, and increased the thickness of the windows — just in case. “If we were ever subject to a bomb attack, the safest place in La Jolla would be The Marine Room kitchen because those walls are 10 feet thick. But the other great thing that happened in 1983 when we reopened was, we installed air conditioning.”
Since then, and now under Bill Kellogg’s leadership, The Marine Room has maintained its reputation for fresh seafood and serene ambiance. “We’ve done our best to stay current … and I have Chef Bernard Guillas to thank for that. He and chef Ron Oliver have created an award winning cookbook, which is a testament to their skill and experience with cuisine around the world.”
He added, “To me, this is a wonderful family treasure. I know that F.W. Kellogg would be pleased with how this is running today.”
Concluding the afternoon’s festivities, Historical Society director Fox commented, “History is more than the sum of individual periods. History is a continuum, an ongoing narrative. Part poetry, part conjecture, but a continuum. And it’s not just about the past, but a conversation that brings the past in dialogue with the present out of mutual concern for the future.
“History is made every day. And the decisions of this community become part of that poetry of La Jolla’s historical narrative. There are many historical people who have helped write the story of La Jolla: F.W. Kellogg, Ellen Browning Scripps, Irving Gill, Ted Geisel, Jonas Salk, Roger Revelle, and many others. But they are not the most important people in this historic continuum, the most important people in the history of the community is you all. And the most important period of significance is now. Because it is you, now, that has a stake in writing the next chapter of La Jolla’s history.”