The Horton Grand Hotel is a restoration of two separate hotels (The Grand Horton Hotel and the Brooklyn Kahle Saddlery Hotel) built at different locations and opened in 1886.
The Grand Horton was an elegant, ornate structure built by a German immigrant as a replica of the Innsbruck Inn in Vienna, Austria. Opened in 1886, the hotel was one of many constructed during the "Boom of the Eighties" to accommodate the influx of people. During 1886, some 26,000 visitors flocked to the little town of 5,000 during 1886, after the arrival of San Diego's first trans-continental train in 1885.
The Brooklyn-Kahle Saddlery Hotel, a less formal building with a Cowboy/Victorian flavor, sprang up at about the same time. Originally named the Brooklyn Hotel, it was later dubbed The Kahle Saddlery after the prominent saddle and harness shop that occupied the ground floor in 1912. Wyatt Earp lived in this hotel most of the seven years he resided in San Diego.
The 100-year-old oak Grand Staircase is from the original Grand Horton. The staircase was dismantled and shipped to Austria, where, at a cost of over $200,000, all damage was repaired to restore it to its former glory.
The Grand Horton and Brooklyn hotels were scheduled for demolition in the late 1970's and were purchased from the City of San Diego for $1.00 each. The redwood infrastructures were swapped for the labor needed to dismantle them brick by brick. Over 10,000 pieces were cataloged and stored in a warehouse until the rebuilt "Horton Grand Hotel" reopened at its present location in May, 1986.
The exuberant Gaslamp Quarter has also been restored. Indeed, Third Avenue and "I" (now Island Avenue) was the heart of San Diego's notorious version of the Barbary Coast's Stingaree District. Also called an "entertainment district", the Stingaree was the "wide open" section of the young, raw city, an amalgamation of saloons, gambling halls, opium dens and brothels...with a few legitimate businesses mixed in. It was around Third and Island that the majority of the city's estimated 71 saloons and 120 bawdy houses sprang up during the "Boom of the Eighties."
Despite occasional "clean-up campaigns", the Stingaree remained the center of disreputable activity in San Diego for nearly three decades. Ida Bailey, for whom the Horton Grand Hotel's turn-of-the-century restaurant is named, was the district's most famous - and classiest - Madam, with an establishment less than two blocks from where the Horton Grand Hotel now stands. But by 1909, when Chief of Police Keno Wilson expressed opposition to closing down the red light district (he preferred the status quo so the police could keep an eye on things), the public outcry to "clean up" the Stingaree was nearing the point of no return.
The "Great Raid" was finally planned for November 11, 1912. At 6 a.m. on Sunday morning the police struck and 138 ladies were arrested. There was so much confusion over the date the raid was going to be held, that the Mayor of San Diego and three Councilmen got the dates confused and were picked up by the police while visiting Ida Bailey's brothel which by now was next door (and now part of the Horton Grand Hotel). The Mayor offered the ladies their choice of leaving the profession by accepting a job with the city or leaving San Diego. Only one lady took him up on his offer and worked on the switchboard. Her replica can be seen in one of the whimsical vignettes, visible when using the Horton Grand's north elevator.
The Horton Grand's adjacent building, with 24 luxury suites, has its own unique history. Originally called the Anita and Regal hotels, they were the scene of the "Great Raid" of 1912. The Regal suites were built and opened in June 1990 as the Chinese Regal. They are connected to the hotel at the 2nd, 3rd and 4th levels.
Guests of the original hotels included President Benjamin Harrison, George Raft, Lou Costello, Jack Dempsy, Joe Lewis, Babe Ruth and Wyatt Earp, among others.
The ground floor area near the front desk was, from 1912 to the late 1960's, a prominent saddle and harness shop making hand-crafted saddles and leathers for such notables as Tom Mix and Roy Rogers. The life-size papier maché horse named Sunshine, in the front lobby, is a local landmark from the saddle shop.
In the late 1980's, the Horton Grand achieved a certain notoriety because the hotel was supposedly haunted by at least one, possibly several, ghosts. Most famous of these if Roger Whitaker who occupies Room 309. All appear to be very friendly and pose no threat to guests. The Horton Grand leaves it up to you to accept or reject the ghost theory.