The Hotel Robinson, built in 1897, was one of the first businesses in San Diego County, California to be owned and operated by an African American, and the oldest continuously operated hotel in Southern California. The hotel is now a part of the National Register of Historic Places and is a Point of Historic Interest for the state of California, thanks to the present owners’ efforts.
Albert Robinson and his wife, Margaret Tull Robinson, originally ran the hotel. Margaret Tull’s father was the first African American man to be a juror in San Diego County. Her mother, Susan Tull, owned property and was possibly the financial backer of the building of the hotel.
Albert Robinson was born a slave in 1845 in Missouri, but the exact location is not known. During the Civil War, he befriended a military officer and came to San Diego with the officer after the war. The officer may have been Major Levi Chase, who came to San Diego in 1868, but this cannot be confirmed. In 1886 Robinson was living in Julian and was a cook for a ranch. He met Margaret Tull, a San Diego native, and married her that year. As a wedding gift from Margaret’s parents, the couple received a piece of land in Julian, which would become the site of the hotel.
Soon after their marriage, the Robinsons opened a restaurant and bakery, named the Robinson Restaurant and Bakery. Margaret served a Sunday night chicken dinner every night that quickly made their restaurant popular within the community. For almost a decade, the restaurant enjoyed success.
In 1897 the Robinson Restaurant and Bakery was demolished to begin construction on the Hotel Robinson. Margaret’s mother, Susan, was most likely involved in financing the construction. Local community members, C. R. Wellington and F.L. Blanc, oversaw the construction. It was completed and opened in the same year. The hotel was built with fourteen guest rooms, a full kitchen, dining room, and a parlor room.
The hotel became a social center of the community, famous for its hospitality and cooking. Many settlers