A few short years after the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Wyatt Earp arrived in San Diego with wife Josie, and brother Virgil. The saloon pictured above now operates as the Tivoli Bar and Grill.
The original wooden bar and back bar attract long lines of patrons who delight in the fact that they are sitting where Wyatt Earp sat 137 years ago. The bar was handcrafted in Boston, and shipped around Cape Horn to San Diego. Customers pay their tab at the original cash register which is on display at the end of the bar. Daily receipts are stored in the original safe.
The bar is located in what was known back then as the Stingaree District. It was so-named because visitors — mostly sailors — were “stung” for every last dime by gamblers, prostitutes and hustlers.
In an oral history presented by the San Diego Historical Society, the Stingaree was described as …
” … crazy with gambling fever developed from fortunes made in real estate, saloons and gambling houses. Crime was rampant. Murder, theft, robbery, fights and general licentiousness was the order of the day, hold-ups were a daily occurrence.”
The Stingaree — known today as the Gaslamp Quarter — was San Diego’s Red Light District. It continued to be so through the 1980’s until the city received a grant to revitalize the area. The Gaslamp is now a trendy hotspot — home to world-class cuisine, million dollar lofts, and baseball’s San Diego Padres (Petco Park).
Wyatt and Virgil owned (or leased) four saloons and gambling houses in San Diego including the building pictured below which housed Wyatt’s Oyster Bar.
The top floor of the Tivoli was a brothel as were the upper floors of the Oyster Bar. Wife Josie, who was very protective of her husband’s reputation, downplayed that fact by telling the local newspaper that the Earp’s saloons only attracted first-class clientele.
Wyatt and Josie lived at San Diego’s oldest hotel — the Horton Grand — seen below.
Built shortly before the Earp’s arrival, the still-operating hotel recalls the Earp years in its promotional brochures:
In 1885, at the age of 37, famed lawman Wyatt Earp arrived in San Diego, at the urging of his brother Virgil, to investigate reports of a real-estate boom in what was dubbed the “land of the sundown sea.”
Although he has been both glorified and vilified for his role in taming the West, due mainly to his participation in the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Earp was in fact an itinerant adventurer and opportunist who spent much of his life roaming from boom to boom town.
Wyatt Earp spent seven years as a guest of the hotel.
Josie told a reporter:
“San Diego was a wonderful new place to find out all about. Wyatt and I had some of our most wonderful times together there.”
Wyatt was not so gracious to the hound dog reporters who persisted in asking questions about Tombstone and the O.K. Corral. His usual response was:
“I reckon we could talk about something a little more cheerful than that.”
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