< UNITED STATES | SAN DIEGO: The US Grant
After five years of construction and cost of $1.9 million, The US Grant Hotel opened its doors on October 15, 1910. It was created by Ulysses S.
Grant Jr., son of president Ulysses S. Grant, who named the hotel after his father. The whole area and the very spot on which hotel now stands, once belonged to the
Kumeyaay Indians, one of four Native American tribes that are indigenous to San Diego County. The Kumeyaay can trace their San Diego roots back more than 10,000 years.
It all started in 1870 when the real estate developer, Alonzo Horton, opened the three-story, 100-room Horton House which became the first major hotel in the newly established town of San Diego. Horton family managed the hotel until 1895, when it was purchased by Fannie Chaffee Grant, wife of Ulysses S. Grant Jr. and daughter of Jerome B. Chaffee, Colorado's first Senator.
To make way for the new, 437 room palace of luxury designed by noted architect Harrison Albright, the Horton House was torn down in 1905. One year late, on April 18, 1906, while The US Grant Hotel was still under construction, a massive earthquake struck San Francisco and northern California and completely paralyzed the transfer of lumber and other materials. The construction site stood still and silent until 1907.
When construction finally resumed, Grant Jr. embedded a time capsule in the arch above the entry door on Broadway, complete with family photos, memories and newspaper clippings. The capsule was embellished in 1910 with documents from the hotel's opening day and a San Diego Tribune headline story.
For the day-long opening ceremony, thousands of guests arrived from all across the region. Grand ceremony included the unveiling of a new fountain in the adjacent Horton Park Plaza, a personal gift from the city of San Diego. It was the world's first electrically lit fountain, designed by architect Irving J. Gill.
Hotel originally had 437 rooms (350 of which with private baths), a roof garden, palm court, Bivouac Grill Room (now known as the Celestial Ballroom), dining room, Ballroom (today, the Crystal Ballroom) and two large salt-water swimming pools fed by water from the bay.
Baron Long acquired partial interest in the hotel in 1919 and in 1939, Long installed the largest radio towers on the West Coast on the roof of the hotel and the new, 11th floor space became the offices for radio station KFVW. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered one of his first radio addresses to the nation from the hotel.
During the 1950s, the Palm Court and the hotel's second floor Garden Terrace - gathering point for local society, was enclosed to create the Palm Pavilion. 9th floor Grand Ballroom was converted into 9th and 10th floor guestrooms (today's twin Presidential bi-level suites) and hotel's signature restaurant, the Grant Grill was opened.
From the moment it opened its doors, the Grant Grill was a hit. In the 1950s and ‘60s, the Grant Grill became a power-lunch spot for downtown businessmen, politicians, lawyers, bankers and newspaper editors, while ladies were not permitted in the restaurant until 3:00 PM. In 1969, a group of local female attorneys, Lynn Schenk, Judith McConnell and, soon-to-be Deputy Attorney General, Elaine Alexander, staged a sit-in which resulted in the restaurant abandoning its men-only policy. McConnell, Schenk, and Alexander have been honored dozens of times for what has come to be called "The Grant Grill Invasion." As a tribute to these brave women, the plaque with the story of their movement is on display outside of the new Grant Grill.
By the 1979, The US Grant's splendour began to fade and San Diego's grand hotel faced the prospect of demolition. In 1979, Christopher "Kit" Sickels purchased the building and succeeded in his plan to protect it from the wrecking ball by adding the hotel to the National Register of Historic Sites. When the city of San Diego announced plans for a massive inner-city redevelopment project, Sickles declared plans for an $80+ million hotel renovation. The renovation began in early 1984 and it was the first time that The US Grant closed its doors since opening in 1910. On December 15th, 1985, the hotel reopened.
On December 3, 2003, the hotel was purchased by the very ancestors of the land on which she stood, the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Indians. After a multimillion-dollar project, The US Grant reopened in 2006 as a member of Starwood Hotels & Resorts' Luxury Collection.
In 2005, the remaining time capsule contents were recovered by local resident Veva Haache and are now part of the hotel's permanent collection. A new treasure of history was sealed into the hotel in 2006 beneath a stone medallion on the lobby elevator foyer, while in 2010, on the hotel's 100th Anniversary, capsule's content was enriched with: commemorative invitation to the Centennial Celebration; an ipad with photos of both the Mayoral Proclamation and grand Centennial Celebration; saber used to open a bottle of champagne at the Mayoral Proclamation; the first bottle of the Centennial Manhattan (the first barrel-aged cocktail in the world, aged for 100 days in an oak barrel to commemorate the hotel’s 100th Anniversary); business cards of hotel management; wish cards from the hotel staff noting what they hope the hotel would accomplish in the next 100 years.
For over 100 years, San Diego's iconic grand hotel has hosted numerous celebrities and luminaries, including 14 US presidents — from Woodrow Wilson to John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush. Some of the famous names found in it's Golden Book are: Albert Einstein, Charles Lindbergh, Mamie Eisenhower, Demi Moore, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger... Hotel's VIP guests during the last year were: Steven Spielberg, Adam West, Elijah Wood, Bradley Cooper, and Luis Miguel.
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