“– a modern, up-to-date, three-story hotel arose as if by magic out of the very flower-laden margin of the romantic Lake Lindo; and in defiance of the ravages of time, the busted boom, and taxes, she has never yet acknowledged a superior in Southern California.” Or so James A. Jasper wrote in an article entitled “Picturesque Lakeside” in The Silver Gate for January of 1900. Many old-timers still agree.
The Lakeside Inn, which was located just to the right of and inside what is now the Lakeside County Park, was started in 1887 at the height of the great boom, and completed a year later, in time for the collapse. In December of 1888 Thomas C. Miller, the manager, ran an advertisement mentioning the eighty rooms, gas, electric bells, and telephone, as well as the fact that there was a daily stage from San Diego that left at 6 o’clock every morning except Sundays. In a short four hours you could be in Lakeside. Round trip tickets good at any time were to be obtained at the office of the El Cajon Valley Company in the PierceMorse Block.
On March 30, 1889, the San Diego, Cuyamaca & Eastern Railroad officially reached Lakeside, amid considerable rejoicing, and business picked up, despite depressed local conditions. Consequently the Lakeside Inn was able to operate successfully when other hotels built for promotional purposes during the boom could not.
John H. Gay was perhaps the best known owner of the Inn. He is remembered for planting the cork elms that line the highway that enters Lakeside from the west, for the automobile race track he built in 1906, where Barney Oldfield is supposed to have set his first world’s speed records, and for the unfailing hospitality that made his hotel a favorite place for residents of San Diego County.
The Inn continued to operate until 1916, despite a fire severe enough to require a partial reconstruction. When the old building was torn down in 1920 it was only to make way for a new hotel, which, unfortunately, was never built.