HISTORY


Chapter 1: The Beginning

On October 15, 1910, with great pomp and circumstance, THE US GRANT opened her doors. Five years of construction in the heart of San Diego had built up a flurry of curiosity, a storm of excited press, and a staggering cost of $1.9 million. Thousands of guests flocked from all across the region to take part in the opening ceremonies of this hotel of untold luxury.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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In time, the Kumeyaay would honor this very special leader. But first history had to pave the way.

General-U.S.-Grant

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Chapter 2: Building a Dream

In the mid-1800's, California had Gold Rush fever. Settlers, dreaming of their golden riches, moved into a part of the city that is now called Old Town. One of these settlers was a tireless visionary named Alonzo Horton.
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Horton headed west, settling in San Francisco in 1849. Stories of San Diego's "perfect" climate and natural harbor reached him, and Horton was intrigued. He was especially attracted by the rumors of a proposed rail line, heading east and one day, branching all the way to the Atlantic.
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Steaming in from San Francisco in the 1860's, Horton was one of many sea-weary passengers who disembarked at the old Fifth Avenue wharf, in the very spot where San Diego's momentous convention center now stands.
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He bought the land for less than $1,000.  His success was almost immediate:  newcomers and locals alike flocked to him to purchase the cheap land, and within twenty years "New Town San Diego" had replaced "Old Town" as the city center.
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His keen eye for profit led him to lay out the streets of this new city in their distinctive grid pattern, making them one-fourth the size of standard city blocks with no alleys, and hence, giving him more corner lots to sell.
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One of Horton's greatest contributions to the city was Horton House, the city's first major hotel. The 100-room mansion was the city's crown centerpiece. It became a stopping point for tourists, businessmen, and anyone else weary for a bed.
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Later, Fannie Chaffee Grant, wife of Ulysses S. Grant Jr. and daughter of Jerome B. Chaffee, Colorado's first Senator, saw a great deal of opportunity in the Horton House. Shortly after her husband suffered a financial blow on Wall Street, she made the wise and fateful decision to purchase the property for a price of $56,000. She deeded it to her husband, the son of President Ulysses S. Grant. What would happen next was nothing short of history.
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At the turn of the 20th century, Ulysses S. Grant Jr. moved his family to San Diego. Almost immediately, Grant found himself up to his ears with investments - and their complications. He made money, lost money, and occasionally did better than break even. Adventurous and resourceful, he saw a future in San Diego that most of its citizens couldn't even imagine. What the city needed, Grant Jr. believed, was a truly great hotel. THE US GRANT was born the day that Horton House went down.
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Dark winds seemed to hover on the plans, however: Fannie Chaffee Grant was in extremely poor health, and continuous financial problems cast a cloud over the project.
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With a short stash of funds in hand, the initial beams of the structure were raised above Broadway. In 1906, however, San Francisco was shaken by a massive earthquake. The effects were felt as far south as San Diego; the transfer of lumber and other materials was completely paralyzed and the skeletal construction site of the hotel was silent and still.
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Upon rebuilding San Francisco, the original lobby plans for THE US GRANT were provided to the developers of the splendid Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Visitors to that famous hotel can enjoy its lovely "Garden Court" and marvel at the fact that the room was originally intended for THE US GRANT.
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When construction resumed in 1907, Grant Jr. embedded a time capsule in the arch above the grand entry door on Broadway complete with family photos, memories and newspaper clippings of his dream. A story in itself, the capsule was embellished in 1910 with mementos of the hotel's opening day and a San Diego Tribune headline story. Lost for decades, the remaining capsule contents were recovered in 2005 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.
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On November 10, 1909, one year before the hotel's opening, the Grant family experienced a personal tragedy:  Fannie Chaffee Grant passed away.
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In 1910, the daunting project was completed. A palace of luxury, the 437 room hotel featured architecture that is both classic and timeless, with top floor arcadia windows, balcony balustrades and imposing dentil cornices. Inside, a white marble staircase capped by a carved alabaster railing led visitors away from the lobby and off to the luxury of their rented rooms.

Excavating-the-U.S.-Grant-Hotel

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