The US Grant Hotel
The luxurious US Grant Hotel was born to be a top-shelf hotel. It opened in October of 1910 after five years of construction. The downtown San Diego building cost $1.9 million and became a local sensation. It drew thousands of curious people for its grand opening. Built in honor of former president Ulysses S. Grant, the Hotel also features the world’s first electrically lit fountain, designed by the hotel's architect Irving Gill and given to the hotel as a gift from the city of San Diego.
Backstory and Context
The building, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places, was built with 437 rooms and luxury in mind by Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. In 1919, Baron Long made the hotel enormous profits by finding ways to secretly sell alcohol during Prohibition. Long acquired partial interest in the hotel and completed the lower level rooms, including the ballroom, and added radio towers atop the building--and upgrade which eventually led to President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivering an address to the nation from the hotel's radio station.
Another change of ownership occurred at the end of World War II. New owners made a number of changes including adding the Grant Grill. It was hugely popular and was the site of a sit-in by a group of female attorneys in 1969 to protest gender inequality: at the time, women weren’t allowed inside the establishment until 3 p.m. The policy was eventually changed.
Time had taken its toll by the late 1970s. The shine of the fancy hotel had dulled. There was talk of tearing it down to make room for new development. Christopher “Kit” Sickels bought the building in 1979 and successfully got it added to the National Register. In 1983, he found investors for major renovations and began bring the luxurious hotel back to life. The final bill for the renovation was $80 million. New city developments were underway in the area but Sickels couldn’t afford to wait. He sold the hotel to a Japanese brand.
In 2003, the hotel was sold again, this time to Sycuan Tribal Development Corporation with the sovereign Tribe of the Kymeyaay Nation, which originally owned the land where the hotel stands. They renovated it again for $56 million and then added another $13 million redesign completed in 2017. Today the hotel is a vibrant and popular place in downtown San Diego. It also boasts an art collection valued at $6.5 million.
U.S. Grant Hotel. 1912-28-09. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/1b8c0a70-f22e-0130-0a07-58d385a7b928. (Accessed April 27, 2018.)
U.S. Grant Hotel San Diego Cal. # 135. [19--]. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://catalog.library.ca.gov/F/?func=find-b&request=001416190&find_code=SYS. (Accessed April 27, 2018.)
Passmore, Lee (Levi Nickerson), 1874-1958. View of US Grant Hotel lobby. 1910 1910. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt9x0nc7fc. (Accessed April 27, 2018.)
Arcade View Co. The Broadway Fountain and the U.S. Grant Hotel by night. San Diego, Cal. circa 1915. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, https://library.ucsd.edu/dc/object/bb53265639. (Accessed April 27, 2018.)