Horton Grand Hotel – HauntedHouses.com
• Well-mannered, cordial spirits, including a murder victim are now guests.
The Horton Grand Hotel is a 4 story, 110 room, 24 suite Victorian-era Hotel which came to being as a result of restoring two old historic hotels, The Grand Horton Hotel and The Brooklyn Kahle Saddlery Hotel, both which were originally built and open in 1886 in different locations in San Diego. Both were located in respectable areas, not the wild, decadent Stingaree (red-light) District, home to such disgraceful entertainment such as salons, gambling halls, opium dens and of course brothels, whose main heart was located on I and 3rd Avenue, which is the Horton Grand’s current location…
Horton Grand Hotel – HauntedHouses.com
311 Island Avenue
San Diego, California 92101
Website * (619) 544-1886 * (800) 542-1886
One finds the elegant Horton Grand Hotel a few blocks west of the heart of the renovated Gaslamp (historical red-light) District, rebuilt on the same plot of land where Ida Bailey’s original 1880 – 1912 “cat house” once stood, during the wild booming days of San Diego’s rapid growth period.
The Horton Grand Hotel is a 4 story, 110 room, 24 suite Victorian-era Hotel which came to being as a result of restoring two old historic hotels, The Grand Horton Hotel and The Brooklyn Kahle Saddlery Hotel, both which were originally built and open in 1886 in different locations in San Diego. Both were located in respectable areas, not the wild, decadent Stingaree (red-light) District, home to such disgraceful entertainment such as salons, gambling halls, opium dens and of course brothels, whose main heart was located on I and 3rd Avenue, which is the Horton Grand’s current location.
The 24 suites are located in another 1886 building (once used as a brothel), sitting right next to The Horton Grand Hotel. Originally known as the Anita and Regal Hotels, this building became connected to The Horton Grand Hotel during this 1986 Hotel restoration effort at the second – fourth floors. This building was the site of the 1912 cleanup raid of the brothels by the police department as a response to public outcry to this despicable area of the city. The current Mayor and 3 councilmen of the city of San Diego got the dates mixed up on when the raid would happen, and were arrested in this raid, being caught using the facilities! OOPS!!
Needless to say, the brothels on I street were put out of business and the working women were given the opportunity of either taking city jobs or leaving San Diego, which was a kind offer. Out of the 138 women, only one stayed in San Diego and worked on the city phone switchboard.
Because the transcontinental railroad was connected to San Diego in 1885, San Diego experienced a rapid population growth. The classy, upscale Grand Horton Hotel was built by a German immigrant to accommodate the people flowing into the city. Described as being an “elegant, ornate” Victorian structure, it was modeled after the Innsbruck Inn in Vienna, Austria.
Also in response to this huge population influx, The Brooklyn Hotel was built in 1886 as well, a more down to earth hotel described as having a cowboy/Victorian style and flavor. In 1912, a fine, prominent saddle and harness shop, known as the Kahle Saddlery Shop moved into the ground floor of the hotel. The hotel then changed its name to The Brooklyn Kahle Saddlery Hotel. Wyatt Earp lived in this hotel most of the seven years he resided in San Diego.
Over the years, both hotels changed hands many times, slowly sliding into disrepair. It takes a lot of money to keep old buildings in tip top shape. Finally, in 1970, both hotels were given a date with the wrecking ball. However, the city of San Diego has had a history of respecting and renovating its historical buildings. When a private party came forward wanting to buy the parts of the buildings still renewable, offering to reconstruct the hotels as one at another location, the city jumped at the chance to sell each building for a dollar. In exchange for the redwood infrastructures, the hotels were taken apart brick by brick. Over 10,000 pieces were carefully cataloged and put into storage, until this reconstruction project began.
The 100 year old grand oak staircase from The Grand Horton Hotel was carefully dismantled and sent to Austria where it was carefully repaired and restored to the glorious state it was in when the The Grand Horton Hotel opened in 1886, at the cost of over $200,000.
In 1986, skilled workmen with great care, combined the bricks and structural parts, of these two historic old hotels, recreating one fine Victorian upscale hotel, and what a treasure it has become!
As one enters the hotel, the ground area near the front desk was the Saddle Shop area. The hotel lobby has on display a life-size paper mache horse, the advertising mascot of the original saddle shop.
The grand, wide Victorian oak staircase takes the visitor up from the lobby to the other floors. Each room is uniquely decorated with antiques, including antique queen bed, hand-carved armoires, and period decor, including lace curtains. Many of the rooms have large bay windows (taken from the original hotels) or balconies which overlook a view of the city or a view of the New Orleans style open courtyard, which has tree-lined gardens and a bubbling lion fountain, a favorite place for weddings.
The 24 suites are located in another 1886 building (once used as a Brothel in the 1886-1912 era), sitting right next to The Horton Grand Hotel. Originally known as the Anita and Regal Hotels, this building became connected to The Horton Grand Hotel during this 1986 Hotel restoration effort at the second – fourth floors. The suites were open to the public in 1990.
Roger Whitaker – There are two stories which explain why the ghost of this man haunts the hotel, especially room 309 and its hallway.
One theory says he died much earlier in 1843, long before any hotels were built. The father of the love of his life, his would-be bride, shot Roger and killed him. His body was dumped in a swamp located somewhere on what would be Ida Bailey’s property, near where the current hotel stands. Spirits often haunt the land, and when this glorious hotel was built, guess who decided on moving in, choosing Room 309?
Another theory tells the sad tale of a gambler down on his luck caught cheating in a game of cards in a gambling joint located in the Stingaree District. He barely escaped certain bodily harm and ran back to his hotel, hiding in the armoire. Unfortunately, he was shot through the door and died in his room 309. He simply moved with the elements of room 309 to the new building. Or, perhaps his body was taken from the hotel and dumped in the swamp mentioned above and he simply moved back to his old room when the hotel he died in was reconstructed on the same property.
However he died or however he got inside the hotel, the spirit of Roger Whitaker haunts room 309 and the hallway where one finds the room. He isn’t nasty like another ghostly gambler haunting the St. James Hotel, but does let the living know he is present and has appeared.
Roger Whitaker has made numerous appearances. One guest saw him in the hallway, and he looked so real, she asked him where the ice machine was located. Imagine her surprise when he disappeared before her eyes.
Room 309 – Guests have been awakened in Room 309 in the middle of the night by the bed being shaken and the armoire’s doors being opened. Lights have been known to have a will of their own, turning on and off. Objects have been known to move by themselves. The temperature in the room becomes unexplainably warm, unaffected by the air conditioning or opening a window. Sounds of someone playing cards can be heard when the room is locked and vacant. An indentation of a form can be seen on the bed, sometimes just after the maids make the bed.
Several ghosts are known to graciously haunt the Horton Grand, who are polite and friendly to the living. Often when a building is renovated, ghosts and spirits who know the place often take up residence as it is in this case.
Madam Ida Bailey – Some think it is her spirit that makes visitors welcome. This grand hotel was built on the same site as her long-ago brothel. She must have been thrilled to have such a beautiful, grand, classy place built on her property!
Tom and I and our daughters decided to spend New Year’s Eve of 2000 at the Horton Grand. While Tom went out with our daughter to do a quick errand, I was alone in the room on the fourth floor during the early part of the evening for about an hour. For some unexplained reason, the light near the bed, which had no problem, started to flicker off and on. When I said, hello, it stopped flickering. I felt someone was just saying hello!
The grand staircase – One evening, a visitor witnessed a group of spirits dressed in formal 1880s attire floating down the staircase together.
The National Directory of Haunted Places
William Dennis Hauk
Pictures copyright Tom Carr