Gaslamp Quarter is a hip, young neighborhood that’s home to beautiful Victorian buildings and some of Downtown San Diego’s best restaurants, shopping, nightlife, and art galleries. Take a look at the area’s most historic hotels.
As San Diego’s oldest standing hotel, the Horton Grand is a destination hotel in the wildly popular Gaslamp Quarter. Its roots date from the 1880s, when two hotels were built on the site where the Horton Plaza mall now stands. The properties were eventually moved to their current location and meticulously reconstructed in the 1980s. Anyone with an appreciation of history or architecture will appreciate the attention to detail here. Polished marble floors, period antiques, and rich oak paneling help to make the hotel truly special. Vintage photographs of old San Diego enhance the sense of history, but modern touches, such as skylights, keep the hotel from feeling old and stuffy. The brick-lined, New Orleans-style interior courtyard and opulent Palace Bar with its majestic wood staircase and huge mural are standout features. This is a quiet and classy oasis in the midst of the sometimes raucous Gaslamp Quarter.
Built by Ulysses S. Grant's son in 1910, the 270-room U.S. Grant Hotel is one of the most celebrated hotels in San Diego, known for its American luxury with a traditional European twist. Rooms are bright and classically elegant, with crown molding, crisp white linens, and modern amenities like flat-screen TVs. Bathrooms have large walk-in showers and deep bowl sinks. The hotel's overall elegance and luxe vibe are captivating, but the property lacks a pool (although guests can use the Westin's across the street). Also note that the U.S. Grant is just outside of the Gaslamp Quarter, and is steps away from various parks, restaurants, and other San Diego attractions.
Originally built as a bank in 1913, this nationally registered historic site had the city's first high-speed elevators. It became the Jewelers' Exchange, housing gemologists, jewelers, and a variety of importers and exporters within its marbled halls, before finally converting to a hotel. Renovations in 2013 and 2014 preserved the structure’s beautiful natural materials, chandeliers, and Australian gumwood carpentry while giving the hotel a striking romantic update. Old photos from the building's past decorate the moody lobby, but the old brass elevator doors steal the show. And although it's no longer the tallest "skyscraper" around, the hotel still towers above most, giving its rooftop terrace captivating views of San Diego.
Courtyard by Marriott chain properties are typically mid-range, but this San Diego incarnation deserves to be categorized as upscale -- it certainly has wow factor, particularly given the competitive price. The 245-room hotel is housed in a 14-story bank building dating to 1928, and a number of historical details have been preserved. The lobby has stunning Romanesque Revival architecture: soaring ceilings with intricate wood coffering, lots of marble, arched windows, metal hoop chandeliers, and ornate interior wrought-iron gates. For a further taste of the building's history, the authentic bank vault room -- complete with a 47,000-pound Mosler safe door -- can be occupied for business meetings.
What was built in 1890 as the San Diego Trust and Savings Bank is now the Keating Hotel by Pininfarina (Pininfarina is the Italian car company behind Ferrari and Maserati.) The building's original brick-and-stone facade and interior exposed brick (seen throughout the lobby and rooms) remain, but Pininfarina covered everything else with striking red and black interior design -- purposeful motifs that evoke the company's most iconic cars. Vintage black-and-white photographs from the hotel's history adorn the walls of the small lobby. Guests should have patience with the slow elevators, which -- unlike the high horsepower engines with which the designer is associated -- still operate by the hotel's original steam powered system.
This budget hotel is set in a 10-story red-brick building built in 1913. Outside are charming lanterns and fire escapes crawling up the facade, and inside are a pair of original elevators, plus original chandeliers and marble stairs. The hotel’s location in the middle of San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter is arguably its best feature, and puts it within stumbling distance of many restaurants, bars, and clubs.