Phenomenal businesswomen from San Diego


Mabel rowe

(Courtesy of the San Diego History Center)

George Ramsey, the so-called “Mayor of San Diego’s Harlem,” partnered with racehorse owner Robert Rowe to build the Douglas Hotel in 1924 on Second Avenue and Market Street. But when Rowe died suddenly of heart trouble a few months later, his wife, Mabel, stepped in to co-run the hotel and its nightclub. She lived in her own suite, draped herself in jewelry, and ran her own brothel, Leroy’s Room, nearby. She married Ramsey in 1927 and the club became the Creole Palace, “The Harlem of the West”, the best cabaret in the city center. Big black stars performed and spent the night at the Douglas – including Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie and Fro Brigham of San Diego, who also ran the club. By the time Ramsey and Rowe divorced in 1940, she had become something of a legend. Police raided her facility several times and in 1939 her Pekingese dog Bubbles woke her up when a fire broke out. “Grabbing her pet, Ms Ramsey ran downstairs and alerted the fire department,” a news report said. A thriving hot spot during World War II, it began to lose its luster a few years later, and Rowe sold the building in 1956. It disappeared from the local archives and the building was replaced by an apartment building. ‘apartments in the 1980s.

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