San Diego's Horton Grand Hotel -- from warehouse to restoration

It is impossible to make a reservation at San Diego's Horton Grand Hotel. A decent night's sleep is hard to get because there are no beds. And there is no room service because there are no rooms.

The vintage 1887 luxury hotel is currently stored in a warehouse, awaiting reconstruction by a group of preservation-minded investors.

''This is an idea whose time has come,'' says Dan Pearson, president of Gaslamp Quarter Enterprises.

Late last year, Mr. Pearson and his partners spent $200,000 and three months to have the Horton Grand carefully dismantled. The exterior bricks were individually numbered. The hotel's skylight, staircase, door frames, windows, and trim -- called its ''historic fabric'' -- were all painstakingly labeled and organized.

Within two years, Pearson says, the Grand will be reassembled three blocks south of its original site and will offer authentic Victorian elegance for about downtown shopping center considered the focal point of San Diego's redevelopment efforts.

Pearson was among those who fought to preserve the Horton Grand when it was slated for demolition. Built in 1887 during a boom period in San Diego, it was considered one of the city's finest hotels in its heyday. It had fallen into disrepair and was a home for transients when the city fathers decided it should be torn down for a parking lot.

''I took a walk over to the hotel with a representative of the Nob Hill Hotel in San Francisco,'' says Pearson. ''We stood in front of the Horton and he said, 'Why not take it down and move it?' ''

''My first reaction was 'Oh boy, this guy is crazy!' ''

But because the Nob Hill was successfully moved and renovated into a luxury hotel charging upwards of $100 a night, Pearson says he was convinced it could be done in San Diego. Investors were found, architects hired, and he formed a partnership with the owners of the Nob Hill. Pearson also negotiated with the city's redevelopment agency for a new site and was promised city funds toward its purchase.

The rebuilding and furnishing of the Horton Grand Hotel will cost about $2.5 million. The land costs another $1 million.

The Horton's ideal clientele will be executives who want unusual, elegant lodgings within walking distance of San Diego's civic center and corporate and government offices.

Pearson admits he must tie the reconstruction of his hotel to developer Ernest Hahn's proposed shopping and office complex. This project is the showpiece of the city's redevelopment effort.

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