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U. S. Grant Hotel Records

Identifier: MS-0256

Scope and Contents

The U.S. Grant Hotel Records consist of financial reports, correspondence, purchase orders, and committee reports mostly documenting Roy Lake's management, but including much earlier records, as well.  The collection also includes blueprints and architectural renderings documenting its numerous renovations.  The U.S. Grant Hotel records date from 1922 to 1977.  The blueprints and architectural renderings date from 1926 to 1970.  The collection is arranged in three series: Monthly Financial Reports, Managing Director's Files, and Blueprints and Architectural Renderings.

Monthly Financial Reports (1922-1964) consists of bound volumes of the hotel's financial records, including expenditures, income, inventories and schedules.  Records are missing for the years 1923, 1925 to 1927, 1931, 1933 to 1936, 1939 to 1940, and September to November 1944.  The series is arranged chronologically.

Managing Director’s Files (1970-1977) contains the files and records used by Roy Lake, who served as managing director for the hotel beginning in 1970, including some documents used and created by his predecessors.  It includes items such as the legal documents from the discrimination lawsuit, 1972-73; a copy of the Loyola University Foundation Lease, dated May 1945; records of the Restaurant – Hotel Employers’ Council, 1973 to 1977; records of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau; the San Diego Convention Center, dates; and planning notes from the U.S. Grant Grill 25th anniversary party, 1976 to 1977.  The series is arranged alphabetically by file name.

Blueprints and Architectural Renderings (1926-1970) consist of numerous architectural blueprints and renderings, arranged alphabetically by architect or company name.  Within folders, materials are organized by room or equipment type.  Architects represented include Harrison Albright, Al Goodman, Thomas Bouman, Kenneth Lind Associates, Earl Heitschmidt, Holmes & Narver, Design Consultants (DC), H. Milligan, Frank L. Hope Associates, and many more. Blueprints with no discernable architect are in folders labeled "Unidentified Architects." Items of note include a copy of one drawing by the original architect, Harrison Albright; the floor plans for the remodeling that occurred to accommodate Radio Station KFSD dated 1939, and a colored drawing of the U.S. Grant exterior by Kenneth Lind Associates.  The blueprints include architectural plans documenting the Grant's original floor plans, renovations, equipment layouts, and exterior drawings, as well as three folders containing specifications for several renovation projects.


  • Creation: 1922-1977


Conditions Governing Access

This collecion is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some or all of these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creator(s) of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of archival collections is such that multiple creators are often applicable and copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. In any case, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, obtaining publication rights and copyright infringement. When requesting images from Special Collections & University Archives for publication, we require a signed agreement waiving San Diego State University of any liability in the event of a copyright violation.

Historical Note

Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. (1852-1929), son of the eighteenth President of the United States, arrived with his family in San Diego in 1893. He soon became interested in real estate and decided to build a hotel in San Diego in honor of his father. His wife, Fannie Chaffee Grant, purchased the Horton House, an existing hotel, in 1893. They planned to raze it and use the site for a new hotel. The Horton House remained in operation until it was torn down in 1905. Architect Harrison Albright (1866-1933) designed the new hotel, but because of lumber shortages resulting from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and Grant's personal financial setbacks, construction was delayed. Mrs. Grant died in 1909, before the hotel was completed.

The U.S. Grant Hotel officially opened October 15, 1910. It had 437 rooms, 350 of which offered private baths, a roof garden and palm court, bivouac grill, dining room, and Grand Ballroom. It also included two large salt-water swimming pools fed by water piped up Broadway from the bay. Mr. Grant remarried in 1913, and he and his new wife became permanent residents of the hotel in 1919. Though Mr. Grant died in 1929, the second Mrs. Grant remained a resident until her death in 1942.

Throughout its history many celebrities have stayed at the U.S. Grant Hotel, including several dignitaries visiting San Diego for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915, and Charlie Chaplin in April 1917. Baron Long, an entrepreneur who held interests in Agua-Caliente Hotel and Spa in Tijuana and the Biltmore in Los Angeles acquired partial ownership in 1919. He touted the Biltmore and Grant as ideal places to stay while visiting across the border where gambling and alcohol were still legal. Long elaborately redesigned much of the Grant Hotel's lower level in the late 1920s. In 1926, radio towers were erected on the roof and much of the eleventh floor was converted to a radio station from which KFVW broadcasted.

Though the hotel did not prosper during the Great Depression, it still attracted guests. The 1935 California-Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park brought many visitors, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt. During WWII, some of the Grant's guest accommodations became quarters for servicemen and their families, and the hotel became a popular meeting place for sailors. Because of constant overcrowding, the Grant even sold blankets to those willing to sleep in the hallways. In 1944, Joseph W. Drown bought the hotel for $3 million. Since then it has had many owners, including Loyola University (1945), Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company (1950), M. Bert Fisher (1958), Harry Woolf and Daniel Bernstein (1963), Vernon E. Shipp (1964), and Roy Lake (1971).

In the mid-1950s, during a tourism boom, the Grant again underwent a major renovation. The Palm Court and roof garden were enclosed and became the spacious and modern Palm Ballroom. The fountain from the Palm Court was removed to the Agua-Caliente Racetrack. The goal of renovation had been to make the hotel more accommodating to automotive travelers and family vacationers, but these years also saw the growth of Mission Valley's hotel industry, just a few miles northwest of downtown San Diego, which lured many guests away from the Grant's downtown location.

In 1969, six women held a sit-in at the Grant's restaurant, the Grill, in order to protest its practice of not allowing women patrons to dine at the restaurant before 3:00 p.m. This led to a discrimination lawsuit in 1972 and '73.

The hotel was scheduled for demolition in 1979, but Christopher Sickels of the CDS Grant Corporation purchased it, and made plans to once again make major renovations. In July of that year the U.S. Grant Hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Sites. The hotel closed from August 1982 through December 1985 until renovations were completed.

While these renovations brought back much of the hotel’s original elegance, financial difficulties still plagued it. In December 1993, Grand Heritage Hotels International acquired ownership. That company also renovated the hotel, and in 1994 the Grant Hotel became the 104th member of the elite Historic Hotels of America Program under the auspices of the congressionally charted National Trust for Historic Preservation. In June of 2001, Wyndham International purchased the hotel and additional renovations were completed. Finally, in December 2003, the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Indians purchased the hotel for $45 million, returning this parcel of land to its original inhabitants' ancestors. It is still in operation.


6.43 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

I. Monthly Financial Reports, 1922-64
II. Managing Director's Files, 1970-77
III. U.S. Grant Hotel Blueprints and Architectural Renderings, 1926-1970

Source of Acquisition

Sickles and Associates

Method of Acquisition


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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US