National Register of Historic Places in San Diego County
The El Cortez Apartment Hotel, which opened for business in 1927, was designed by the noted Southern California architectural firm of Walker & Eisen in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. The building is situated diagonally on the site to take advantage of the sweeping views of San Diego's downtown and harbor.
The building is in excellent condition. It features such characteristics of the Spanish Colonial Revival style as an asymmetrical facade in massed block form with a dominant, central tower element; a rich, recessed and arched doorway of cast stone flanked by ornate columns; smooth plaster exterior walls with decorative molding; double-hung and quatrefoil windows; false balconies; flat roof with pilasters topped with Corinthian columns, finials and roofline cresting, a dentil course, intricate cross work; courtyard; and tiled terrace area.
Over the years, the El Cortez underwent a number of modifications and alterations incompatible with the historic design of the building. Beginning in June 2000, a substantial Certified Rehabilitation Project reversed these modifications and restored the architectural integrity of the building.
The El Cortez is located on Prospect Hill.
During the 1880s, prominent businessmen built homes here to enjoy the views of the city and harbor. Few of these ornate structures and have survived.
Around 1887, Oren S. Hubbell, a capitalist and banker, built a magnificent Victorian residence on the property where the El Cortez stands today. In 1893, Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. bought the property. From his prominent residence atop Prospect Hill, the son of the former United States President could watch the construction of his U.S. Grant Hotel.
After San Diego recovered from the Panic of 1893, affluent citizens built more modern and less massive residences on the hill. With plans beginning in 1909 for a Panama California Exposition in nearby Balboa Park, the Cortez area experienced a surge in hotel and apartment building.
During the mid-1910s and mid-1920s, San Diego experienced intense urban development, much of which centered around the growing presence of the United States Navy. The installation of major naval bases in San Diego County helped create a new federal city in the West.
Source: Adapted from the NRHP nomination submitted in 2001.