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Begun in 1926 and completed the following year, San Diego’s towering El Cortez Hotel has dominated its hilltop site through good times and bad.  Built by local capitalist Richard T. Robinson Jr. on a budget of two million dollars, the fourteen-story structure was designed by the prominent Southern California architects Walker & Eisen.  Robinson’s fortunes declined during the Depression, and he sold the hotel to the El Cortez Company in 1936; the huge illuminated roof sign was added the following year.  The aging structure was sold again in 1951, and under the new owner, hotel tycoon Harry Handlery, it received a number of almost comically incongruous additions, including a glassed-in “Starlight Room” with pagoda-like eaves atop the eleventh-floor roof, and a neon-star-bedecked glass elevator mounted on its facade (changes which, it should be noted, were widely considered aesthetic improvements at the time).  Today, under yet another owner, these features have been deleted and the exterior has been largely returned to its original appearance--a vivid illustration of architecture’s ever-shifting fashions.