Tucked away in the 19-unit Carriage Hill subdivision at 5771 Sweetwater Road is a two-story cottage, out of character with its three-car-garage, red-tile-roofed stucco neighbors.
The 2,296-square-foot Dutch Colonial Revival home sports four white columns, leaded windows, brick walls and a 25-foot Moreton Bay Fig tree in the back. There’s no garage or pool.
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But this home on a 2.6-acre lot, listed for $1.76 million, is one of the oldest in Bonita, built as a getaway for the son of the 18th U.S. president. It’s a teller of tales going back to its 1894 construction.
“It’s the crowning jewel of my development career,” said Jeff Phair, who partnered with developer Bill Davidson to restore the house and build out the Bonita subdivision this year. “Preserving our history is important, especially since I’m a third-generation Bonitan. So I needed to see it done right. I’d have been petrified if some other developer had got hold of it.”
This is the Ulysses S. Grant Jr. House, built as a country getaway by “Buck” Grant, son of the Civil War general and president. He called it “Aloha Ranch.”
Developer Jeff Phair with a painting of Ulysses Grant Jr. and his wife at the fully renovated 1894 home built by the son of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant in Bonita.
(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Once one of most prominent but now a little-remembered early civic leaders, the younger Grant had never been to San Diego before he and his family moved here in 1893. Like so many other newcomers at the time, they were seeking a better climate for Buck’s ailing wife, Fannie, and mother, Julia Dent Grant, widowed eight years earlier. Buck’s younger brother Jesse also moved here with his family at the same time.
Their father had passed through San Diego in 1852 on his way from Panama to San Francisco, but news accounts and his memoirs and letters never mentioned any other connection with San Diego, according to presidential scholars.
On his arrival here, Buck Grant bought a three-story property at Eighth Avenue and Ash Street and hired noted San Diego architect William S. Hebbard to build the Bonita home in 1894. That same year Jesse Grant commissioned a similar home from Hebbard at Sixth Avenue and Quince Street, across the street from an as-yet undeveloped Balboa Park.
(In 1925, the Ash Street mansion was sold and razed to make way for the El Cortez Hotel; it was converted to residential condo use in 2004. The Quince property remained in the family’s hands until 1954 and was demolished in 2000, its lot still vacant.)
Buck Grant took a prominent role in local causes, such as water …….