Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Palace Hotel

The Palace Hotel is a landmark historic hotel in San Francisco, California, located at the SW corner of Market and New Montgomery streets. Also referred to as the "New" Palace Hotel to distinguish it from the original 1875 Palace Hotel (which had been demolished after being gutted by the fire caused by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake) that it was built to replace, the present structure opened on December 19, 1909 on the site of its razed predecessor although the hotel was closed from January, 1989 to April, 1991 to undergo a two year renovation and seismic retrofit. Occupying most of a city block, the now century old nine story hotel stands immediately adjacent to both the BART Montgomery Street Station and the Monadnock Building, and across Market Street from
 Lotta's Fountain.
The original Palace Hotel was built by San Francisco banker and entrepreneur William Chapman Ralston who heavily depended on his shaky banking empire to help finance the $5 million project. Although Ralston's Bank of California collapsed in late August 1875, and Ralston himself unexpectedly drowned in San Francisco Bay on the same day that he lost control of the institution, it did not interfere with the opening of the Palace Hotel two months later on October 2, 1875. Ralston's business partner in the project was U.S. Senator William Sharon who had helped cause the collapse of the Bank when he dumped his stock in the Comstock Lode. Sharon ended up in control of the hotel as well as both the Bank and Ralston's debts both of which he paid off at just pennies on the Dollar.
With 755 guest rooms, the original Palace Hotel (also known colloquially as the "Bonanza Inn") was at the time of its construction the largest hotel in the Western United States. The skylighted open center of the building featured a Grand Court overlooked by seven stories of white columned balconies which served as an elegant carriage entrance. Shortly after 1900 this area was converted into a lounge called the "Palm Court." The hotel featured large redwood paneled hydraulic elevators which were known as "rising rooms". Each guest room or suite was equipped with a private bathroom as well as an electric call button to summon a member of the hotel's staff. All guest rooms could be joined together to create suites, or to make up large apartments for long term residents, and the parlor of each guest room featured a large bay window overlooking the street below.
My mother and I had the best time on this "holiday trip" as we tried to wander into every wonderful hotel and experience their "grand" holiday decorations.  It was just all so magical!

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