From the razing of Horton House to the jazz-and-booze joints of the 1920s, to the invasion of the Grant Grill and the day she was saved from the wrecking ball, THE US GRANT has remained an icon of the city. She has hosted presidents and celebrities, been a hallmark of women's rights, and served as an eternal light during the city's hungrier and darker days.
In late 2003, the hotel was purchased by the very ancestors of the land on which she stood. Sycuan Tribal Development Corporation (STDC), the business arm of Sycuan, a sovereign Tribe of the Kumeyaay Nation, acquired the 11-story icon for $45 million. With this purchase, THE US GRANT and her legacy was returned, in so many ways, to her original roots.
Sycuan made the decision to renovate THE US GRANT. What was to be a seven-month, $26 million endeavor became a 21 month, $56 million dollar testament and commitment to the property.
The project combined the efforts and willpower of a team of experts led by designer Deniece Duscheone. They worked tirelessly to weave the legacy, integrity and heritage of Sycuan into the fabric of the hotel's intriguing ambiance. STDC and their design team made the wise decision early on to work with the hotel's pre-existing strengths, rather than attempt to create new assets.
The Evening Primrose, the tribal flower of Sycuan and a symbol of life to the entire Kumeyaay Nation, became a common thread to bridge past and present. The primrose, in some form or another, had resonated throughout the hotel for almost a century. Versions of the flower appear in the lobby, bronze banister of the Broadway staircase, the intricate patterns lining the Spanish tiles of the Celestial Ballroom, original plaster ceilings of the Crystal Ballroom and the molding of the Chaffee Court. Perhaps most spectacularly represented is the Grand Lobby's $250,000 carpet, hand milled in Thailand in shades of gold and blue, and shipped by boat to the United States.
Much of the renovation process can be likened to peeling an onion. After many decades, designs, owners and visionaries, the hotel was layered in years of paint and parquetry. Each layer told a story but it also kept the workers and craftsmen even further removed from the hotel's original 1910 design.
To circumvent these challenges, historical post cards became inexpensive tools of reference. In the Celestial Ballroom, the mahogany wood cladding for the support columns was replicated by a single woodcrafter who hand milled each piece to match the historically accurate renderings. In the Crystal Ballroom, artists were able to re-create a new version of the original hand-painted ceiling.
During the renovation, unearthed surprises turned the hotel into a veritable treasure box of history. After removing the plush carpet of the Grand Staircase, workers realized the original white Italian marble was still intact, albeit, badly damaged. The staircase posts and balustrades, thought to be made of wood, were revealed to be carved alabaster. To compliment these discoveries, rare white marble with gray vein was purchased and installed at the base of the staircase and throughout the Grand Lobby to compliment the grand staircase.
The original carriage entrance on Fourth Avenue was renovated and re-opened for the first time in four decades. Complete with its restored travertine floor in jazzy gold and black tiles, it was crowned with a priceless, circa 1930s crystal chandelier.
One of the most crucial renovation decisions related to color. The final color palate strikes a chord of beauty and dignity. The suites and guest rooms, done in earth tones, recall the land that is so precious to the Kumeyaay - the deserts, the mountains, the sand, the woods, even the seashells. The blue theme, apparent in multiple tones in every room, represents "Presidential Blue," in homage to President U.S. Grant and the United States Presidents who have enjoyed the hotel, as well as symbolizing San Diego itself, with its magnificent cobalt skies and endless sea.
The final result is a hotel that pays respect to its grand history and the heritage of Sycuan in an enriching ambiance, while offering all the luxuries and amenities of a modern, residential palace.
In nearly a century, THE US GRANT has seen it all. A great city rose at her steps in large part because of her persuasion. Those who have known her have embraced the new romance with her return. And those who now find her for the first time are captured by her grace, elegance and enduring presence.
For over 100 years, THE US GRANT has been celebrated as a San Diego icon, steeped in timeless elegance and legendary style.