Old Photos San Diego Grand Horton Hotel Old Photos
Original location of Grand Horton Hotel – History of Grand Horton Hotel
Old Grand Horton Hotel San Diego Photos : the original location address of the Grand Horton Hotel was 328 F street San Diego until it was dismantled and put in storage in 1981. If you happen to visit the Grand Horton Hotel in San Diego you might be surprised to see the hotel in it’s many states of existence over the years. Today the Grand Horton Hotel in San Diego is very romantic and captures the essence of what we believe it looked like in the late 1800’s. With it’s tall ceilings, immaculate wood interior fitted with a beautiful bar it must be authentic to it’s history! But it isn’t. What you see today is a modern designed space. These images I’m about to show you aren’t easy to find, I really had to dig to get them. So I wanted to make it easier for you the tourist, the historian, to see what the Grand Horton Hotel in San Diego looked like before it was reassembled brick by brick in 1986 at it’s present location at 4th and Island.
It once resided at 328 F street. If you google that address on your map app you get 328 West F street, but that is not the location, 328 was the block now occupied by Horton Plaza Shopping Mall. For those who believe it is haunted, particularly room 317, remember the whole building moved and likely walls changed as you can see in the photos below. The original internal timber structure was demolished and only the outside brick walls preserved*. Notice the stair case in the “Horton House” photo, center of the building, going up a level right from the street. Currently that center entrance is on the ground floor. This hotel entrance was once isolated which means that grand staircase must have been greatly modified to fit as it starts on the ground floor now. For the “official history” check on the hotel’s page. And to fully grasp late 1800’s San Diego and the Stingery Red Light District where the Grand Horton Hotel now stands read this 1974 article. Remember that article is pre redevelopment and the “Gaslamp District” did not exist as it is today. From the 50’s through 1980s x-rated movie theaters and adult book stores occupied that part of town. Today if you walk half a block north on 4th you’ll see a Historic Building Marker showing the alley that led to Ida Baily’s Canary Cottage Brothel. That conflicts with the idea that Ida’s place was where the hotel now sits. Grand Horton Hotel Wiki Page Notice the name changes over time; “Horton House” not to be confused with the original Horton House Hotel; Grand Hotel.
Bob Johnston’s Sports Palace – Occupied the space where the Grand Horton Hotel bar is now.
“Money from the theater also allowed him to acquire the Palace Buffet, a bar in
the ground floor of the Horton Hotel at 328 F Street, next door to the Hollywood.
Under his proprietorship, the Sports Palace became one of San Diego’s unique
watering holes, notable for photographs of famous athletes, celebrities, and high-
class strippers covering almost every inch of wall space. It was also known for its
colorful regulars. Johnston had friends from all walks of life, including politicians,
ex-boxers, and movie actors, not to mention, downtown’s resident characters.”
Los Angeles Times Article 1979 – Grand Horton about to be Demolished.
“6 Pirt ll-Mon., Oct i, 1979 j Hob Angeles Sftnefi LANDMARK SALOON Sports Palace These Days the Game Is Wrecker’s Ball 1 BY BILL OWENS A gauntlet of athletes guard the entrance. You walk by Rocky Marciano making a fist for former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, past Joe Louis and Jack Johnson, Joe DiMaggio and Lef ty ODouL Pictures of boxers, strippers, ballplayers, entertainers and racehorses cover nearly every inch of the walls at Bob Johnston’s Sports Palace, 328 F St And both Johnston and the Sports Palace go back a long way. Before Johnston renamed it in the 1950s, the
Sports Palace was simply called the Palace. The Palace originally was a livery stable, and part of the historic Grand Hotel which was built in 1887, and was itself redubbed the Grand Hor-ton Hotel in 1907. In the early days of Prohibition, the former stable was transformed into a “near-beer” saloon. And in the late ’30s and ’40s, the bar became a hotspot and local rendezvous for The walls of the Sports Palace are lined with memories for Johnston. Trudging into the front bar, he grabs a pool cue for a pointer and conducts a tour of his gallery. “There’s me in 1917,” he begins, pointing out the faded image of a thin and handsome doughboy. “And that’s Jack Johnson,” he says, stepping along the wall and tapping another leather photograph with the cue. “He worked for me at the theater for two weeks in 1929. The guy was down, out, and broke when I took him in. He would answer a few questions on stage about his fights, and shadow-box with a character called Abe the Newsboy. Jack had a big cigar and a gold tooth with a diamond in it Helluva nice fella. One of the best” “There’s Spaghetti Joe, my old manager. Another character. He knew Sinatra’s father and Durante and all those people back in New York. Damon Runyon wrote about him.” He beams at a picture of his daughter. Dee Ann, now 33, performing the famous “Who’s on First” routine with Lou Costello at the Balboa Hospital in 1954. Johnston, a naturalized citizen, says he is from the “old country.” Bom in Belfast and raised in England, he wound up in San Diego just after World War I. “I’m still in here every day. Keeps me young. At home I’d just sit around and watch the television. I get a lot of laughs in here, and I don’t think I’ve got an enemy in town. Even girls who worked for me 20 or 30 years ago still come back and say hello.” , . is IN THE GALLERY Pool tables and photos of sports, show biz personalities fill Sports Palace. i iPSk KIBHT LIFE – m back bar, where plastic bowls of popcorn are set out The jazz nights are sponsored by a group called the Downtowners, Limited, an organization intent on saving the Horton Grand and keeping the historic city block intact The laughter and applause in the back bar on Thursday evening is fresh and enthusiastic. Jim Schneider, general partner of the Downtowners, Limited, feels that the Sports Palace “represents the es sence of preservation. It is a building which is currently being occupied and used in a manner which represents many years of city life.” He adds that Johnston’s pictures are “a kind of history of San Diego.” Johnston and two business partners own the Horton Grand Hotel, along with six other buildings clustered in the southeast corner of the block. Please Turn to Page 7, Col. 1 The jukebox at the Sports palace offers nostalgic selections such as Tommy Dorsey’s “Marie,” Artie Shaw’s “Begin the Beguine,” and the Glen Miller Orchestra’s recording of “In the Mood.” “I tell the guy not to put no rock-‘n-roll on there,” Johnston says of the jukebox. “Just songs that you heard years ago.” But shrill saxophone riffs pierce the smoky air these Thursday nights. A jazz combo plays for two hours in the San j MOTION PICTURE THFATRF sportsmen, show-business luminaries, and politicos. Twenty-five years ago, the Sports Palace was a popular and successful “in” establishment. But the bar is in trouble now. The city of San Diego wants to raze the Sports Palace, along with most of the surrounding block, to make way for a new parking garage. It’s all part of the proposed Horton Plaza redevelopment plan. Johnston, 82, sits alone at a small table in the darkened back bar, bis hands folded serenely across his ample stomach. A rickety floor fan pushes a steady breeze toward him, as he listens to a baseball game on his transistor radio. The years have creased Johnston’s face and dimmed his vision. Like the old photographs which surround him, he is a character from another age. “I’ve been on this block for a long time,” he says. “I was connected with the theater next door for 52 years. It was called the Liberty years ago. I started out selling peanuts and candy there in 1920, took a 10 interest right away, and pretty soon I owned it” Johnston’s theater offered what were termed “musical comedies” in those days song, dance, patter and pretty girls. Musical comedy became burlesque, and in 1935 the year the World’s Fair came to San Diego Johnston renamed his theater the Hollywood. “I had a lot of good, high-class strippers over the years,” he says proudly. He talks of Tempest Storm, Jennie Lee, Lois DeFe, and Betty Rowland, the “Ball of Fire.” “I gave Lili St Qyr her first job as a stripper in 1948.” But the advent of “go-go girls” in the mid-60s meant the close of an era for Johnston and his Hollywood Theater. “The girls could earn more in one night in those places than I could pay ’em in a week. That’s what killed me.” After more than a half-century of ownership, he sold the theater in 1972. Johnston acquired a liquor license and a lease for the Sports Palace in 1941. In those days, he was known as a “local sportsman,” and had interests in both prizefighters and racehorses. Always quick to make friends, he shared the company of stars like George Raft and Lou Costello. “There was a lot more excitement then,” says Johnston. “George and Lou and I used to go down to the races in Tijuana every Saturday. I would meet ’em at the airport here.”
Reader Article 1973 – interview with Bob Johnston age 77 just before Horton Plaza project.
Full Article here about neighboring Hollywood theater and the history of Burlesque in San Diego.
To see a film of the Horton plaza area near F street see this footage from 55 sec to 1:05 you see from Balboa Theater to Broadway.
*NEW 6/6/2017: Found a Historical Building Survey dated 1974. This describes the building layout, building materials and changes to the building design and layout. As I had speculated, the interior was 2×4″ timber construction with lath and plaster wall coverings. This confirms that the entire interior of the current building is new construction built in 1985/86. READ FULL SURVEY HERE