Chapter 1: A Legacy through the Eras
It was an evening for violins, the best silver, sparkling champagne and the ladies' finest silk. The best and brightest of California society were on hand that autumn evening to toast the success of the hotel and to honor the memory of Ulysses S. Grant, the United States President in whose memory she was built. The day-long opening ceremony and celebration 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 famed local architect Irving Gill.
Most guests arrived at the elegant carriage entrance on Fourth Avenue. They took their first steps into THE US GRANT on gleaming tiles in the massive grand lobby, followed by an ascent up an Italian marble main staircase, which guided guests into the elegant Palm Court above. This sweeping terrace included a large fountain and delicate pergola, and offered views across the city to a distant Coronado Island - then a two hour ride from downtown. The celebration lasted well into the night, with a divine evening meal for 750, followed by dancing in the hotel's grand 9th floor ballroom, which could hold 1,200 and was flanked by two elegant rooftop terraces ringed by bronze and alabaster light strands.
The story of THE US GRANT begins officially on that evening in 1910, but like all great stories, there were whispers of intrigue long before the splendor began. It reaches beyond Broadway Avenue, into the regions of Baja and all the way north of Escondido. It is a story as American as they come. It begins with a tribe called the Kumeyaay.
The Kumeyaay Indians are 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. Their people lived from the northern edges of San Diego and Imperial Counties in California and south past the Mexican border, with land that includes the very spot where THE US GRANT now stands.
The Kumeyaay's first brush with Europeans came with Juan Cabrillo anchoring his ship at San Diego Bay in the 1500s. The Spanish acquisition and Mexican-American wars that followed only increased their troubles. Soon, this nation of 30,000 saw their numbers dwindle to barely 3,000. In 1850, 18 California Indian Tribes, including the Kumeyaay, negotiated treaties with the government to set aside land. The state of California balked at the idea, however, and the treaties were never ratified.
President Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States, disapproved of the treatment of the Indians of the American West. In 1875, he passed an executive order setting aside 640 acres of land in Dehasa Valley in East San Diego County for the Kumeyaay Tribes. In great part due to his efforts, the United States Government in 1891 passed the "Act for the Relief of the Mission Indians" which officially recognized the sovereign status of California's Indian Tribes.
The Kumeyaay, who had suffered so enormously at the hands of generations of Westerners, remember Ulysses S. Grant as a rare soul among politicians - forthright and generous, he gave them what so many before attempted to take away: dignity, in the form of land.
In time, the Kumeyaay would honor this very special leader. But first history had to pave the way.