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US GRANT HOTEL-THE PLACE TO STAY IN SAN DIEGO

 

By Michael Hepworth

The US Grant Hotel is absolutely the place to stay in San Diego if you are looking to be in an “ Art Gallery with rooms.” The 270 room and 47 suites hotel recently underwent a $56 million refurbishment, and re-opened in October 2006 after a two-year closure. The hotel was built by the failed businessman Ulysses S.Grant Jr to honor his father in 1910, and since the opening on October 15th that year, the hotel has hosted 13 US Presidents, including both Nixon and Kennedy who gave speeches there in 1960.

In 1875, President Grant signed the executive order that gave the Sycuan tribe the 640 acres of land in Dehesa Valley that is now their homeland. Just 130 years later, the US Grant closed its doors and embarked on a $52 million restoration project that has turned out far better than anyone could have expected. The hotel is now owned by Sycuan Tribe of the Kumeyaay Nation, descendants of the original settlers of downtown San Diego , and their gambling profits have turned the US Grant into a haven of luxury. Wisely the tribe decided to use the managerial skills of the Starwood Group of Hotels, elevating the hotel from a local phenomenon to becoming a world class facility. The hotel is also in the National Register of Historic Places, an award that is bestowed by the Department of the Interior.

For many of the artists/architects/designers/consultants hired for the project, it has turned out to be the commission of a lifetime. Rare manuscripts by Mark Twain were found during the demolition, and when the carpet was removed on the grand staircase, it was discovered to be grey-veined US Grant, that a walking tour is essential when you visit the hotel for the first time. Make sure that you get to see the official painting of President Ulysses Grant with the bullet hole in his left eye, which was put there one evening by well known Confederate sympathizer Wyatt Earp, in the days when San Diego was a bit rough and ready.

Here are just a few of the amenities available at the Grant. There are 32’’ LCD televisions in the rooms, to go with the marble bathrooms and the stone basin sinks. The beds are extremely comfortable, with 300 count linens and pillow top beds to make sleeping here one of the best experiences ever in a hotel. The luxury carpets make it all very quiet as well, with very little unwelcome noise creeping through in the morning. The natural earth tones of the guest rooms and suites recall the land, mountains, deserts, seashore, stones, woods, seas-shells of the Kumeyaay environment, and the emphasis on blue throughout the hotel honors President Grant and the 13 other Presidents.

They also feature in room spa treatments in association with the local Spa Velia, but major plans are in the works for a world class Spa to be opened in the next couple of years, and when I was at the hotel preliminary discussions were already taking place.

Celebrities and politicians are now regulars, and recent sightings have included Christina Aguilar, Stevie Nicks, Alicia Keys and General Colin Powell, although there have been many more. The location is perfect for a stroll into the Gaslamp District or even a visit to Petco Park , home of the San Diego Padres, still worth a visit despite their recent form.

The spacious lobby is host to a colorful and impressive art gallery run by an ex-patriate Russian art connoisseur. Here they sell a lot of colorful contemporary pieces pleasing to the eye, but of course if you are a serious collector, then this is also a venue where the owner will be more than pleased to consult with you.  Like all quality hotels, there is a fine dining restaurant on premises, this one being the Grant Grill, under the supervision of executive chef Mark Kropczynski and with the help of Chef de Cuisine Chris Kurth. Originally opened in 1951, the Grant Grill was the place to be seen in San Diego , but these days competition is a lot stiffer, so it is the food more than the reputation that will ensure its success. It was such a gentleman’s club at one time, that women were barred from entering until 3pm as late as 1969, before a group of suffragettes invaded the room.

The handsome, late thirtyish chef employs foragers to scour the Farmers Markets all along the California coast, and his menu is virtually all local produce from California . One obvious exception is the Hudson Valley Foie Gras, and Marks version comes with cinnamon scented butternut squash, golden raisins and Verjus Blanc 23. All of the fresh fish items are local such as the Halibut and the Fire Grilled Sea Bass. The restaurant has already picked up a swathe of local awards such as the Dirona, Zagat and Gold Medallion, and is likely to pick up a lot more in the foreseeable future.

When I said earlier that the facility is an art gallery, then three talented artists are represented in the hotel in various guises. Johnny Bear Contreras is the resident sculptor at the hotel, and he has five pieces located in the hotel on different floors. All the pieces can loosely be described as representing the Kumeyaah faith.

 Yves Clement was commissioned to paint all the headboards above the beds in each room, and working like a whirlwind he has delivered in style, reflecting the high end, classy, Bohemianism of the majority of the US Grant visitors. He leases out all 336 of his “sleeping with art” paintings to the hotel, and his unique style gives the hotel a real cutting edge.

 Marie Najera is a multi-media artist whose murals and paintings can be seen in the presidential suites. The San Diego based local artist emphasizes raw emotion in her work, incorporating moments with people and in new places. She often favors chaos over structure in her art and is as comfortable using ink and paper as paint and canvas.

 

Fact Sheet

 

Address:         326 Broadway, San Diego , CA 92101

Phone:             1-800-237-5029

Fax                  619-239-9517

Valet Parking

 

Website:         www.usgrant.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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