Horton Grand Hotel

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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 into being as a result of the restoration of two old historic hotels, The Grand Horton Hotel and The Brooklyn Kahle Saddlery Hotel, both of which were originally built and open for business in 1886, in different parts of San Diego. Both were located in respectable areas, not the wild, decadent Stingaree (red-light) District, then home to such disgraceful entertainment as saloons, gambling halls, opium dens and of course brothels, whose main heart could be found on I and 3rd Avenue, which is now the Horton Grand’s current home.


The 24 suites are in another 1886 building (once a brothel), next to The Horton Grand Hotel. Originally known as the Anita and Regal Hotels, this building would become connected to The Horton Grand Hotel during a 1986 restoration effort focused on the second – fourth floors. It was also the site of the 1912 cleanup raid of the brothels by the police, carried out in response to public outcry. The current Mayor and 3 San Diego city councilmen got the raid dates mixed up, and were arrested in said raid, 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. Only one stayed and ended up working on the city phone switchboard.

Because the transcontinental railroad was connected to San Diego in 1885, the city  experienced rapid population growth. The classy, upscale Grand Horton Hotel was built by an amibitious 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 establishment 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. The hotel changed its name to The Brooklyn Kahle Saddlery Hotel. Wyatt Earp lived there 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 were given a date with the wrecking ball. However, the city of San Diego has a history of respecting and renovating its historical buildings. When a private party came forward with an offer to buy those parts of the buildings that were still renewable, and to reconstruct and combine them into one at another location, the city jumped at the chance, selling each one 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 the reconstruction project began.

The 100-year-old grand oak staircase from The Grand Horton was carefully dismantled and sent to Austria, where it was carefully repaired and restored to its original glorious state, at a cost of over $200,000.

In 1986, skilled workmen, with great care, combined the bricks and structural parts of the two old hotels into one fine upscale Victorian establishment, and what a treasure it has become!

As one enters the lobby, the area near the front desk was once the Saddle Shop area. A life-size paper mache horse (once the advertising mascot of the original saddle shop) is on display there.

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 queen beds, hand-carved armoires, and period decor, such as lace curtains. Many of the rooms have large bay windows (taken from the original hotels) or balconies which overlook either a view of the city or a view of the New Orleans style open courtyard, with tree-lined gardens and a bubbling lion fountain, a favorite place for weddings.

The 24 suites are located the other 1886 building (formerly a Brothel in the 1886-1912 era), next door to The Horton Grand.



Roger Whitaker – There are two stories which explain why the ghost of this man haunts the hotel, especially room 309 and its hallway.

One story says he died in 1843, long before the 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 the Horton Grand was built, guess who decided on moving in, choosing Room 309?


Several Unknown Spirits

Another story 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 Room 309. He simply moved with the elements of that room to the new building. Or, perhaps his body was taken from the hotel and dumped in the swamp above-mentioned and he simply moved back to his old room when the hotel he died in was reconstructed on the same property.

Several ghosts are known to graciously haunt the Horton Grand. They are polite and friendly to the living. Often when a building is renovated, ghosts and spirits who know the place take up residence, as is the case here.



Madam Ida Bailey – Some think it is her spirit that makes visitors welcome. The Horton Grand is 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!



Spirit of Roger Whitaker

However he died or however he got inside the hotel, the spirit of Roger Whitaker haunts room 309 and the hallway just outside.

He isn’t nasty (like another ghostly gambler haunting the St. James Hotel in Selma, Alabama), but he 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. Imagine her surprise when he disappeared before her eyes.

Several Unknown Spirits

Room 309 – Guests have been awakened in Room 309 in the middle of the night when the bed was shaken and the armoire’s doors were 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 the opening of a window.

Sounds of someone playing cards can be heard when the room is locked and vacant.

The indentation of a form can be seen on the bed, sometimes just after the maids make the bed.

Spirit of Madam Ida Bailey

The grand staircase – One evening, a visitor witnessed a group of spirits dressed in formal 1880s attire floating down the staircase together.

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 up to that point has not been problem, started to flicker off and on.

When I said, hello, it stopped flickering. I felt someone was just saying hello!


Yes Indeed!



311 Island Avenue
San Diego, California 92101
(619) 544-1886 * (800) 542-1886


One finds the 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 early rapid growth period.


  • Horton Grand Hotel Web-Site
  • GoThere.com
  • Personal Observations & On-Site Research
  • The National Directory of Haunted Places
    William Dennis Hauk – Penguin Books 1996

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Our Photos are copyrighted by Tom Carr

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