The Tip Post

Chapter 8: A slyce off ye olde tip

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Though he never apparently signed the hotel register, it is well-established (via his wife’s extensive journals) that another exalted guest of the Tip in its heyday was the Union general turned whiskey enthusiast who followed Lincoln into the White House, Ulysses Simpson Grant. A dedicated heterosexual, Grant nonetheless was constantly on the lookout in his wide travels for what his openly bitter wife called a “saucy” atmosphere. And he fell in love with the Tip. Indeed, the very day he departed the White House, President U.S. Grant headed straight for DC’s Union Station and decamped, without further ado (and without bitter wife), for San Francisco, where he purchased a modest Victorian home on California Street from which he could sally forth nightly to the “pickle circus” on the waterfront.

When Grant died — of cirrhosis — his son Adam hosted a three-day wake on the top floor of the Tip. But that was not the end of the tribute.

Where his father had turned into a bankrupt lush, Adam Grant had turned into an audacious young businessman and construction mogul, as skilled at leading men into complicated building projects as his father was leading them into battle. As San Francisco stretched vertically and Adam’s business prospered mightily, the builder made plans to raise a grand edifice to house his own expanding enterprises at 114 San Somme Street, on the corner of Bush. In fact, construction was almost complete when Grant received a tip from a city hall insider that the Tip had been formally (if surreptitiously) slated for destruction, posthaste. Without pause, he assembled his team and developed a brilliantly mad plan, a plan more than worthy of the son of the architect of the victory of Bull Run.

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At two in the morning, a crew of 75, with vast mule teams, sleds, wagons, pullies, saws, awls, horse-drawn cranes and torches, made their way east on Bush to the Embarcadero. Within 90 minutes they had erected a complex scaffolding around the building. Within three-and-a-half hours, they had completely sliced the top off the Tip. With great guile and greater courage, they then strained to slide the one-story fragment off the rest of the five-story structure and onto two massive wagons, lashed together with nautical rope and drawn by 40 mules, whereupon, creaking like a massive schooner at sea, they returned with their booty to San Somme by dawn. As the City awakened for a new business day, crowds of men in bowler hats, workmen in canvas pants and ladies in long hoop-skirts carrying parasols gathered in the middle of the street to stare up in awe at what Adam Grant had wrought.

Above the 14th floor of the almost completed U.S. Grant Building was nothing less than the top of the Tip, and 75 burly men bolting it in place.

“This,” Adam announced to the astonished reporters crowding around him 14 stories below,

“is for Dad.”

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