With so many other well written websites and books in circulation, rather than attempt to compete with these publications, I decided to post those links under the home page. If you are visiting this site for the first time in search for an in-depth history on the Palace Hotel, I recommend you visit Bruce Cooper's fantastic website or purchase Richard Harned's book. These sources will give you a full history as to why the original hotel was built and many facts about it.
Even though my primary directive in the creation of this website is to showcase relics of the Palace's past, I felt that a brief photographic history on the hotel still needs to be shown. The first Palace Hotel was built in 1875 (above) and at that time was the largest hotel in the world. The building covered 2.5 acres and featured 880 guest rooms, a top floor Conservatory, Billiard Room, private dining rooms, Wine Room, Reception Rooms, Drawing Rooms, and several other public spaces that left no expense spared.
The main entrance was a grand, gates porte cochere on New Montgomery Street. It was a unique concept to have horses pull their coaches directly into the hotel itself onto a marble-paved floor. However, after 1901, it was enclosed due to the smell and noise of the horses, and soon after, automobiles. This gave way to the beautiful Palm Court, which became famous for the hotel to this day.
Below: The original blueprints / building plans for the Palace Hotel of 1875. These were originally published in the California Spirit of the Times and Underwriters' Journal in the late 1870s / 1880s. Luckily, a very high resolution copy of these plans are kept by Stanford University in their Department of Special Collections and Archives. These can be downloaded for free HERE. I had these blown up onto a 24"x36" poster for framing and they came out fantastic! A rare glimpse into what the original layout of the hotel looked like. The most interesting thing shown is a staircase from the Central Court up to the second floor. There are no photographs that show this was ever built.
The Palace Hotel's architect, John Gaynor, knew about the risk of earthquakes in San Francisco, and their frequency. He designed the hotel to be as earthquake proof as possible for the time with many reinforcements throughout and a large cistern under the building that held 675,000 gallons of water.
The Palace withstood the initial earthquake quite well, receiving some structural damage and most of the glass within was shattered. Soon after, however, fires began to spread throughout the city. The staff were confident they could save the hotel, hosing the roof and surrounding areas down with water. Unfortunately, by the time the fire reached the Palace Hotel, the cistern was out of water and the staff had no choice but to evacuate with the remaining guests. Soon, the Palace was burning. After a 3 day fire, all that was left was a burnt out shell. Her lavish fittings, silver, and china settings were gone.
Once the fires were out, there was a debate whether to rebuild the Palace with the current shell, or demolish the old building and rebuild a new hotel. The decision was eventually made to teardown the superstructure that was left and rebuild brand new. Before long, there were only four columns left on Market Street remaining of the old Palace. Soon, steel beams and concrete took the place of the rubble. The original cistern was the only portion of the old Palace to be saved and is currently under the new Palace Hotel.
While the new Palace was being built, a "Little Palace Hotel" was built for guests and operated for just under a year. The current Palace Hotel was completed in 1909 at a cost of $10 million dollars. It featured 550 rooms across nine stories and was built on the same property as the first. The grandest room in the hotel was the Palace Palm Court, or currently known as the Garden Court and GC Lounge (collection postcard below). Over 8,000 square feet, 70,000 pieces of glass, extensive use of Italian marble, and 20 chandeliers make this room world-famous. As of 2019, the large chandeliers were worth $85,000 each, with the smaller ones worth $15,000 each.
The room has hosted countless historical and grand events throughout its 111 year history and still welcomes awe-inspired guests into its space.
Countless guests have been entertained throughout the years at the Palace as seen with a dinner in 1945 on the left and dancing in the Grand Ballroom on the right.
After years of use, the Palace soon began to show its age and was in dire need of restoration. The hotel was closed to guests in January of 1989 to be restored to its original splendor. The Loma Prieta earthquake on October 7th of that year cause significant damage to the hotel, but eventually, the restoration was completed at $150 million.
*All of the photographs on this page were internet sourced except those noted.
Mascot Copper Company Banquet - January 14th, 1912
Dinner in the Garden Court, Palace Hotel, December 15th, 1951
Honoring Mr. A.T. Mercier
On his retirement from the presidency of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company after 48 years with the railroad.
List of Palace Hotel Managers.
I am always updating this information as new dates are discovered. These years are known dates and their actual position may have gone years prior or afterwards. The Palace Hotel Company ran the new hotel from 1909 until around 1933 based on information I found.
Original Palace Hotel:
John C. Kirkpatrick - 1895
C.H. Livingston - 1897
New Palace Hotel:
Halsey E. Manwaring - 1921 to 1934.
Archibald H. Price - 1934 to 1939.
Edmond A. Rieder - 1941 to c1960.
Charles Stanley Sackett - Unknown, but likely early 1960s.
Morgan J. Smith - 1968.
San Francisco, a Trip down Market Street, April 14, 1906.
Filmed 4 days before the earthquake and fires, these may be the last images of the original Palace Hotel ever taken. The building comes into view on the right around 4:00 and the trolley passes in front of it around 6:00. Below are two screenshots of the hotel with the Ferry Building straight ahead.
The following images of the Palace Hotel come from the Berkeley Library, University of California, Library Archives online.
Photos are credited from this website and the original photographer is listed as Herman Davis, 1906.
Below: A collection post card photograph of the new Palace Hotel before it even opened. Dated May 30th, 1909, the 7 months before the hotel officially opened its doors. The back reads "When you saw this row of buildings there was nothing but twisted scrap iron and skeletons from work when I was here 16 months ago. It is marvelous how the city is building up in the old business xx."
Collection items from the original Palace Hotel: Envelope with the return address of Palace Hotel San Francisco, A.D. Sharon, Lessee. Postmarked January 2, 1882. Invitation to Issac Morse, ruling class San Franciscan who owned canning factories in California. Arrived from Massachusetts in the late 1850s. Invitation was to attend the first annual SF Chamber Of Commerce Banquet at the Palace Hotel on Thursday May 5th 1887. Across the top of the invitation: Oro en Paz Fierro en Guerra " Gold in Peace Iron In War " the official San Francisco Motto. Ripped envelope from the Palace Hotel. Postmarked June 18th, 1891. Business card for Union Gas-Electric Co., Palace Hotel.
Below: Images of the exterior of the Palace Hotel. The bridge connecting the Grand Hotel to the Palace wasn't constructed until later in its life, connecting just adjacent to the Drawing Rooms on the second floor. The two stereoscope images are part of the collection, while others are internet sourced. The second shows President McKinley's visit to the Palace on May 18th, 1901.
Below: The first image is an artist rendering of the hotel's porte cochere after the hotel's opening in 1875. The second shows carriages waiting for or dropping off guests. The next two images are beautifully detailed views of the Central Court as it was called at that time. The craftsmanship seen on the pillars was exquisitely done as was everything else in the hotel. The next view is a colorized postcard of the same space.
The group photo shows John Philip Sousa and the U.S. Marine Band at the Palace Hotel, c1901. Next is the Central Court decked out in decorations for either President McKinley or Ulysses S. Grant's visit to the hotel.
Perhaps the most sterile photo of the lot is the Central Court completely void of anything but a few chairs. I can only surmise that this was taken around 1901/1902 during the renovation of the Central Court into the Palm Court (Collection photograph). The large two story arch with palm urns against the back section is missing, but the carriage circle is still shown. The photos afterwards show the Palm Court as it looked from 1902 to 1906.
Below: Collection Photo: "One of the famous cafes in the Palace Hotel - noted far and wide for its perfect service and unexcelled cuisine. The Palace Hotel is thoroughly modern and up-to-date with steam heat, room telephones, and compressed air cleaning plant. Every convenience. Moderate prices."
This fantastic photograph was published in a 1905 San Francisco sightseeing booklet. It features the Palm Court set up for dinner with china and silver on the tables and waiters at the ready to serve discerning customers. This is the first photograph I've seen (and have) that clearly shows examples of the dinnerware used in the original hotel.
The interior of the Palace Hotel: Upon entry, there were parlors and reception rooms for the ladies and gentleman on either side of the porte cochere (1). The main entrance brought you into the Central or Palm Court (2,3). To the left of the Central Court was the lobby office (4) where guests would check in upon arrival. The Maple Hall (5) and Ladies' Grill Room (6) were the same room called by different names, but it is not shown on the blueprints above. I am not sure where this room would have been based on the floorplans.
The Gentleman's Bar (7) and Billiard Room (8) were in the rear left corner of the hotel past the barber shop and lavatories. The Men's Grill Room (9) was likely the dining room across from the previous two rooms via an open court. To the right upon entering the hotel was the Ballroom (10) and behind that was the Main Dining Room (11). According to a period pamphlet, the American Dining Room was directly off the main office, however, based on the size of the dining room in this image, it is obvious this is the full length room on the right. I am sure the room changed names and places over the hotel's 30 years of service. The final image shows the Conservatory on the top floor under the glass roof.
Several of these images are credited to: thepalacehotel.org, opensfhistory.org, and various internet searches for original photographs.
The Palace Hotel Explosion. Tuesday, April 3, 1883, AT 1.45 P.M
The Palace Hotel suffered an explosion and fire that few know about. The cause of the explosion was the breaking in two of an eight-inch gas main, while some plumbers were engaged in connecting a pipe with the fifteen-hundred light gas meter which had just been put in place by the Central Gas Company, without turning off the gas at the main. Whether it was caused by a light taken down by some person, or a plumber's furnace which was filled with live coals in the passage-way a short distance from the vault then ignited, is a matter of great doubt. A volume of flame poured into the street from the place in the sidewalk where light was admitted into the vault through plates of thick glass, which had been shattered to atoms by the explosion. The full article can be read HERE at Guardians of the City, San Franciso Fire Department.
The new Palace Hotel Palm Court, 1909.
A San Francisco souvenir plate done in pink and gold. Clockwise, it features Ocean Beach Cliff House and Seal Rocks, Fairmont Hotel, Union Ferry Depot, and The Palace Hotel. Made by Wheelock Germany for Chas. Brown & Sons, San Francisco, Cal.
It is interesting that the plate has the 1896 Cliff House which burned in a spectacular fire in 1907, yet it has the new Palace Hotel, which wasn't completed until 1909.
December 13th, 1954. A packet sent to Edward J. Schultheis in State College, PA from Richard E. Paltenghi, Sales Manager of the Palace Hotel.
This great little piece of history has a beautiful version of the PH logo on the return address I have not previously seen. Mr. Schultheis was studying to become a hotel administrator and requested information on the Palace Hotel. Mr. Paltenghi sent him this letter, along with a 6 page document on the history of the hotel which features some information I did not previously know about the original and new hotel buildings.
While the original letter states that the contents of the envelope included brochures and a holiday article, unfortunately, these pieces were lost and not included with the lot. However, the most important pieces still remain - a 1st and 2nd floor blueprint of the hotel! Shown below, the 1st floor was printed on vellum and the 2nd floor is standard paper. It is interesting to compare the plans for both the original and new hotels.
Palace Hotel, San Francisco Envelope. Postmarked August 17th, 1912, with a World's Panama-Pacific Exposition 1915 cancellation.
Palace Hotel postcard sent to Miss Mabel Benjamin on April 27th, 1906 - just 8 days after the hotel was destroyed.
Photo taken c1890s.
Below: Glass lantern slide of the Palace Hotel. "No. 4893. California San Francisco Palace Hotel 2." The image with the label is reversed. The second image is shown correctly with New Montgomery Street to the left, Market Street to the right. The image is so clear, you can read the sign on the bottom left: Apothecaries Hall.