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Bonita’s Historic Home of Ulysses S, Grant, Jr.

The younger Grant has a story of his own

You have to Grant that the porch columns are impressive.
You have to Grant that the porch columns are impressive.

We’ve certainly spent plenty of time here at Unreal Estate peeking into the abodes of famous and influential folks who at one time or another have called San Diego home. From boxing legend Archie Moore to publishing magnate E.W. Scripps and on to soft-rockin’ Beach Boy Mike Love and others, we’ve pretty much run the gamut. But I don’t think we’ve yet come across a home built for the son of a president.

Until now, that is. This week, we’re headed down to Bonita to have a look around 8357 The Grant Place, where a 2300-square-foot residence offers what’s billed in its Zillow listing as the “unique and rare opportunity to live in the Historic Home of Ulysses S, Grant, Jr., son of Ulysses Grant, the 18th President of The United States.”

The home was designed by prominent local architect Will Hebbard and built in 1894 — nearly a decade after the death of the senior Grant, and almost 20 years after he left office. So unfortunately, we can’t say the home ever hosted a presidential visit. The younger Grant, of course, has a story of his own. After starting a law firm back east that ended up bankrupt due to a corrupt partner, he arrived in San Diego in 1893 to join his younger brother Jesse, who was already living here. Grant started another law firm, but quickly gave up the practice to become a real estate investor and civic booster, eventually convincing local voters to put up $700,000 of the $1.5 million he needed to build the U.S. Grant hotel downtown in 1910.

Not nearly cramped and dark enough to be a real olde-timey kitchen!

After pulling off a bold move like that — executed a full century before the Spanos family failed to saddle taxpayers with the bill for a real estate project of their own — and given his understanding of the need to change with the times (he tore down an earlier hotel built by Alonzo Horton to make way for the one carrying his father’s name), one would hope he’d be okay with the fate to which his own home succumbed. But enough with the introduction; let’s have a look.

“This one-of-a-kind property is located on 2.6 acres of preserved land on a hill overlooking San Miguel Mountain, the Bonita Golf Course, and the Sweetwater Valley,” the listing continues. We get a peek of those views right off the bat, as the first handful of listing photos are aerial shots showing the Grant residence tucked at the end of a long drive behind a cul-de-sac of much newer — and much larger — neatly manicured McMansions. It seems 2300 square feet isn’t as palatial today as it was 125 years ago.

A few photos of a perfectly serviceable deck with a very large tree growing out of one end follow, followed by a front shot showing the kind of brickwork, wood siding, and dramatically-pitched roofing that certainly isn’t common for a modern-day build. “The historic Grant House has been meticulously renovated and beautifully upgraded with a modern upscale interior while preserving the last-century charm, elegance and character,” the listing promises. Staying outside and looking around the deck, we can see a full outdoor kitchen that’s decidedly more “modern upscale” than preservationist, but after 15 exterior shots, we’re finally invited indoors.

First up is what appears to be an entry foyer or antechamber — the sort of room that’s fallen out of fashion in the era of “open concept” living. There are some well-polished wood floors and oversized baseboards and molding reminiscent of classic old construction, but something strikes me as off. Perhaps it’s the basic “house-flipper gray” paint on the walls. Let’s move on. A spacious living room features what appear to be leaded windows looking into what might be a dining area or converted mud room. The windows look good, as does the simple arch of glass over more windows looking outside. The wall sconces by the fireplace are a fair stand-in for period-appropriate candle holders, but the canned lights on the ceiling seem out of place.

It’s when we get to the kitchen that the illusion of last-century charm is shattered entirely. These are the same quartz counters and basic white shaker cabinets that come ready to assemble in a flat pack from a place like Ikea that were used by whoever remodeled my kitchen before I moved in. They’re also the same ones I’ve used to remodel dozens of mid-tier apartments. The built-in appliances certainly look expensive, and the space does include a butler’s pantry with an extra prep sink, but this is not the kitchen of a “unique home for a very discerning buyer who values history and tradition and who will preserve its historic integrity” that we were promised. “Gut and gray” is the condescending term used for a generic remodeling job, and it seems to apply here.

Moving on, we see some spacious bedrooms, and the paneled closet doors, coupled with a built-in dresser and more leaded windows, do remind us of the early-Craftsman era when the home was built. One bathroom has a fancy claw-foot tub and the sort of tiny mosaic floor tiles that aren’t used much these days, but those stand in contrast with more generic cabinetry topped with modern counters. Another bath has a metal frame suspending the sink (vintage), but the sink itself is literally a vanity top from Home Depot, minus the vanity. One of the closets upstairs has been repurposed as a laundry room, but that’s one modern convenience I’m not going to gripe about seeing.

A few more bedroom shots follow, then we’re back outside and our tour concludes. I’m left puzzling over what to think of this house. On one hand, the remodel work seems competent, if not imaginative: I would be comfortable living here, and many others would be as well. But aside from a few nods to the home’s 125-year pedigree, this seems like a wasted opportunity to preserve something historic and special.

The Grant House was last sold in 2018 for a reported $500,000 to a limited liability corporation established for the purpose of executing a house flip. Before that, it was owned by a builder, presumably whoever carved up the estate to build all the new homes surrounding it. The current list price of $1,760,000 remains unchanged since the home was listed in mid-December.

8357 The Grant place| Bonita, 91902

current owner: Grant Davidson Phair Partners LLC | listing price: $1,760,000 | beds: 3 | baths: 3 | house size: 2300

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You have to Grant that the porch columns are impressive.
You have to Grant that the porch columns are impressive.

We’ve certainly spent plenty of time here at Unreal Estate peeking into the abodes of famous and influential folks who at one time or another have called San Diego home. From boxing legend Archie Moore to publishing magnate E.W. Scripps and on to soft-rockin’ Beach Boy Mike Love and others, we’ve pretty much run the gamut. But I don’t think we’ve yet come across a home built for the son of a president.

Until now, that is. This week, we’re headed down to Bonita to have a look around 8357 The Grant Place, where a 2300-square-foot residence offers what’s billed in its Zillow listing as the “unique and rare opportunity to live in the Historic Home of Ulysses S, Grant, Jr., son of Ulysses Grant, the 18th President of The United States.”

The home was designed by prominent local architect Will Hebbard and built in 1894 — nearly a decade after the death of the senior Grant, and almost 20 years after he left office. So unfortunately, we can’t say the home ever hosted a presidential visit. The younger Grant, of course, has a story of his own. After starting a law firm back east that ended up bankrupt due to a corrupt partner, he arrived in San Diego in 1893 to join his younger brother Jesse, who was already living here. Grant started another law firm, but quickly gave up the practice to become a real estate investor and civic booster, eventually convincing local voters to put up $700,000 of the $1.5 million he needed to build the U.S. Grant hotel downtown in 1910.

Not nearly cramped and dark enough to be a real olde-timey kitchen!

After pulling off a bold move like that — executed a full century before the Spanos family failed to saddle taxpayers with the bill for a real estate project of their own — and given his understanding of the need to change with the times (he tore down an earlier hotel built by Alonzo Horton to make way for the one carrying his father’s name), one would hope he’d be okay with the fate to which his own home succumbed. But enough with the introduction; let’s have a look.

“This one-of-a-kind property is located on 2.6 acres of preserved land on a hill overlooking San Miguel Mountain, the Bonita Golf Course, and the Sweetwater Valley,” the listing continues. We get a peek of those views right off the bat, as the first handful of listing photos are aerial shots showing the Grant residence tucked at the end of a long drive behind a cul-de-sac of much newer — and much larger — neatly manicured McMansions. It seems 2300 square feet isn’t as palatial today as it was 125 years ago.

A few photos of a perfectly serviceable deck with a very large tree growing out of one end follow, followed by a front shot showing the kind of brickwork, wood siding, and dramatically-pitched roofing that certainly isn’t common for a modern-day build. “The historic Grant House has been meticulously renovated and beautifully upgraded with a modern upscale interior while preserving the last-century charm, elegance and character,” the listing promises. Staying outside and looking around the deck, we can see a full outdoor kitchen that’s decidedly more “modern upscale” than preservationist, but after 15 exterior shots, we’re finally invited indoors.

First up is what appears to be an entry foyer or antechamber — the sort of room that’s fallen out of fashion in the era of “open concept” living. There are some well-polished wood floors and oversized baseboards and molding reminiscent of classic old construction, but something strikes me as off. Perhaps it’s the basic “house-flipper gray” paint on the walls. Let’s move on. A spacious living room features what appear to be leaded windows looking into what might be a dining area or converted mud room. The windows look good, as does the simple arch of glass over more windows looking outside. The wall sconces by the fireplace are a fair stand-in for period-appropriate candle holders, but the canned lights on the ceiling seem out of place.

It’s when we get to the kitchen that the illusion of last-century charm is shattered entirely. These are the same quartz counters and basic white shaker cabinets that come ready to assemble in a flat pack from a place like Ikea that were used by whoever remodeled my kitchen before I moved in. They’re also the same ones I’ve used to remodel dozens of mid-tier apartments. The built-in appliances certainly look expensive, and the space does include a butler’s pantry with an extra prep sink, but this is not the kitchen of a “unique home for a very discerning buyer who values history and tradition and who will preserve its historic integrity” that we were promised. “Gut and gray” is the condescending term used for a generic remodeling job, and it seems to apply here.

Moving on, we see some spacious bedrooms, and the paneled closet doors, coupled with a built-in dresser and more leaded windows, do remind us of the early-Craftsman era when the home was built. One bathroom has a fancy claw-foot tub and the sort of tiny mosaic floor tiles that aren’t used much these days, but those stand in contrast with more generic cabinetry topped with modern counters. Another bath has a metal frame suspending the sink (vintage), but the sink itself is literally a vanity top from Home Depot, minus the vanity. One of the closets upstairs has been repurposed as a laundry room, but that’s one modern convenience I’m not going to gripe about seeing.

A few more bedroom shots follow, then we’re back outside and our tour concludes. I’m left puzzling over what to think of this house. On one hand, the remodel work seems competent, if not imaginative: I would be comfortable living here, and many others would be as well. But aside from a few nods to the home’s 125-year pedigree, this seems like a wasted opportunity to preserve something historic and special.

The Grant House was last sold in 2018 for a reported $500,000 to a limited liability corporation established for the purpose of executing a house flip. Before that, it was owned by a builder, presumably whoever carved up the estate to build all the new homes surrounding it. The current list price of $1,760,000 remains unchanged since the home was listed in mid-December.

8357 The Grant place| Bonita, 91902

current owner: Grant Davidson Phair Partners LLC | listing price: $1,760,000 | beds: 3 | baths: 3 | house size: 2300

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Comments
3

The asking price of over $1 3/4 million seems steep for a house of that size. But with that much land, and with the housing market in the grip of craziness, maybe that isn't at all out of line for a buyer who values uniqueness.

Your comments in regard to the kitchen are spot on. For not all that much more in outlay it could have been done in a faux 19th century style while having modern technology and features.

March 5, 2022

With property values skyrocketing in California, the size of this house as well as the large land seems like a bargain, IMO. So I googled. One large bank values this property at $2.6 million. It's not uncommon for homes in California under 1000 sq ft. selling for over 1 million, as long as they're in the right neighborhood. Crazy.

March 5, 2022

I don't think the US Grant Jr. connection adds much value. It's like buying the home once lived in by charlatan/con artist Thomas Edison Jr. Celebrity ownershilp of a house is usually overrated..

March 5, 2022

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