History checks in at Hotel Stockton


Hotel Stockton, located on 133 E. Weber Ave. Downtown, has been a part of the city for more than 100 years.

The building’s classic, Spanish-mission revival type architecture makes it stand out. Though parts of the building have been refurbished over the years, it replicates the original design as close as possible.

The inside is lit by dim, vintage looking lamps with iron trimmings that hang on the walls and from the ceiling.

“In 1903, city leaders decided that Stockton needed a beautiful, fancy hotel,” said Manuel Laguna, a Stockton Historian. “So some venture capitalists got together and funded it, including the man known as ‘The Potato-King,’ Mr. Shima. He was the first Japanese American millionaire in the country.”

With the funding from Shima and the venture capitalists, the Hotel Stockton was finished in 1910.

After it opened, people would sail from the Bay Area and get off on El Dorado and go inside the hotel, according to Laguna.  

In the early 1900s, Stockton was a big attraction like San Francisco or Hollywood is today.

Many movies were filmed here, including Oscar-winning film All the Kingsman, where some scenes are recorded in Hotel Stockton and at the old Stockton courthouse on 222 E. Weber.

Other movies filmed in Stockton were Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Arc at University of the Pacific and Back to The Future, said Laguna.

“It is famous,” Laguna said. “A lot of famous stars stayed here because Stockton was Hollywood North.”

One of the famous stars that stayed at the Hotel Stockton was Frank Sinatra.

“Of the three great hotels, there were many beautiful hotels,” Laguna said. “There was The Stockton, there was The Clark and The Wolf, The Clark and The Wolf were knocked down.

The Clark was replaced by a garage and The Wolf was replaced by a bank building. So this is the last of the big three here.”  

Hotel Stockton stopped fuctioning as a hotel in the 1960s due to lack of business and was used as child welfare offices by San Joaquin County.

In 2005, the building was refurbished. It reopened as an apartment building for those on fixed incomes.

“They removed all of the doors and stripped all the paint off of them, restrained them,” said Laguna. “The lamps are either original, or they’re replicas patterned to look after them.

The stained glass windows, some of them were damaged so they redid them in the same pattern.”

After the renovations, the number of rooms went from 252 to 156.

Lynn Harwell, manager of Hotel Stockton, loves working there and cares for those who take residence in the building.

“There were a lot of good people that stayed here with a good, solid history behind them.” said Harwell. “There was Mr. Edwin Nixon, founder of ‘Black Family Friday,’ he passed away a few years ago here.

And that’s what a lot of people say when they come here, that they’re going to live and die here.”

To Harwell, the residennts in the building are more than just people that live there.

She builds relationships with a lot of them, getting to know what their interests are and making conversation.

“There are a lot of good artists that stay here. Some do stain glass, pipes, quite a few that paint, there should be an artist loft,” she said.

Tenants like Mary Taylor talk highly of the building.

“I really like being here. I’ve been here like four years, I like it, I’ll probably be here forever.

I like the pictures and stuff on the walls, two laundry rooms and and exercise room.”

Taylor lived in a duplex before she came to Hotel Stockton and has been satisfied with where she’s at ever since.

“I’m really satisfied, I always tell everybody to come over here. I really like Lynn, she’s actually the best manager I’ve ever had. Some managers ignore what you say, they don’t come right away, but she’s quick. I like how they (staff) treats you with respect.”

According to Laguna, people from all over the world come to see Stockton because it’s a Port City with a ton of history with other port cities from around the world.

Visitors are impressed with what they see.

“One thing with the Japanese group I had them her,” Laguna said. “The leader said ‘One thing we appreciate about Stockton that we don’t have in our city is diversity.’ And that is something Mr. Shima wanted when Stockton was founded.”