Unofficial Website for Historical Artifacts from the Palace Hotel.

The Original Palace Hotel, San Francisco - 1875

     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, gated 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 things shown are a staircase from the Central Court up to the second floor and a fountain in the central court. While an early sketch showed what this would've looked like, both were never built. Later images of the court show what looks like an organ on the second floor where the stairs would've gone.

     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.

The San Francisco Earthquake - April 18th, 1906

     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. 

The New Palace Hotel - 1909

     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. 

The Palace Hotel in the 21st Century

*All of the photographs on this page were internet sourced except those noted.

Mascot Copper Company Banquet - January 14th, 1912

Palace Hotel. Internet sourced.

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. Internet Sourced.

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:

S. F. Thorn - 1889 to1890

John C. Kirkpatrick - 1895

C.H. Livingston - 1897


New Palace Hotel:

John C. Kirkpatrick - 1906

Halsey E. Manwaring - 1921 to 1934.

Archibald H. Price - 1934 to 1939.

William "Will" P. Taylor - 1939 to 1941.

Edmond A. Rieder - 1941 to c1960.

Charles Stanley Sackett - Unknown, but likely early 1960s.

Morgan J. Smith - 1968 - 1971.

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.

The second photo by E.E. Ford is a postcard that I have in my collection. 

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 image of Lotta's Fountain and the last one are internet sourced. The second stereoscope 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. 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. The only images that are in my collection are 8, 10, and 11 while the others are internet sourced.

     

     Below: "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 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. 

     Some 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.

Palace Hotel Blueprints - 1st and 2nd floors - 1954.

     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. 

Large 8x5" Taber photograph taken c1890.

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. 

     In 1894, the Palace Hotel had its most beautiful photo-booklet souvenir printed by Bonestell & Co, SF. Measuring 9"x7" and bound together with a string, it features 14 pages of photographs from the Palace Hotel, one of the Hotel Del Monte, one of the Tavern of Castle Crag, and one from Golden Gate Park. Between each page is a tissue paper sheet with text describing the rooms of the hotel to the right. On the back side of the photos are advertisements for Gorham Silver, Pacific Coast Steamship Company, Pommery Sec Champagne, Napa Valley Wine Company, Moet & Chandon, and more! 

     Bruce Cooper also has a variation of this same souvenir on his site with a more intricate cover and 12 photographs. While his is not dated, it is a slightly later publication as the PH logo on mine is an earlier version. Also featuring previously unseen images, it showcases some of the machinery of the hotel, as well as photos of different rooms not seen before.

     Perhaps the rarest photograph is the last one shown - the fire department for the Palace Hotel! They are shown practicing with their equipment on the Conservatory Floor in 1894. One would imagine many of these same men would try valiantly to save the burning hotel in 1906, only to escape when the cistern dried out. 

The Baby Palace Hotel - 1906 to 1907

A previously unseen angle of the Baby Palace, Collection Postcard.

Above: The new Palace Hotel under construction from 1908. The first two photographs are from the Facebook group "San Francisco History to the 1920's" The first is courtesy of calisphere.org, 1908, "Market St. (South side) E. from Chronicle Building, Palace Hotel." The second was posted by Philip Williams in the group, where the main structure of the hotel is completed. The third is from my collection. A large 9x7" photograph of the hotel with its front facade completed on August 7th, 1908. 

Another unique image of the demolition of the old Palace Hotel, with an 1880 view of the top floor underneath it. Courtesy of calisphere.org. 

Six colorized postcards showing the new Palace Hotel in 1909.

A vintage 1950s brochure for the Palace Hotel, where you could stay for $11.50 a night! Followed by a Sheraton Palace Hotel brochure for the buffet dinner in the Garden Court. 

Complete envelope and letter written at the Palace Hotel on May 6th, 1887

It is obvious the woman writing the letter has lost almost everything she owned whether it be in a fire or other. 

Listed on the back as being taken in 1909, this stereoscope image was from a presidential visit to the Palace Hotel sometime after it's opening. While I am not sure of the date, it definitely isn't from the 1909 reopening, as the decor is completely different from that evening. 

Palace Hotel postcard sent to Mr. L.F. Grashel on May 26th, 1096 from San Francisco. Return address PO Box 714, SF. The sender wrote on the front "On April 17, 1906" showing how everything looked the day before it was all destroyed. 

Below: Three 5"x8.5" original photographs of the Palace Hotel around the 1880s. The first is by Perkins, 333 Hayes St, SF # 767 of the exterior of the hotel. The last two are of different views of the "Court Cafe" by A.J. McDonald, SF. 

Panoramic photo of San Francisco burning.

The Palace is circled below:

98% of the images of the remains of the Palace Hotel are from postcards made at the time. There aren't too many unpublished photographs of the ruins taken by everyday San Franciscians. This is one of the few I found and was able to purchase. A 1906 photo of a person standing by the ruins of the hotel that appears to have been taken on one of the side streets. 

A large 7x10" photograph of the burnt out remains of the Palace Hotel. 

Republican League of California card from the Palace Hotel, May 5th 1892. 


Features toasts and committees on a rigid card with gold around the edges. 

Below: A Jersey Coffee Photo Lithographic View Card of the "Court Palace Hotel, San Francisco, U.S.A." Next to that, a photograph of the same space at the main entrance as it was built in 1875. 

Typical of California.

The Palace Hotel, San Francisco. 

Made famous by its sensible rates and efficient service. 


Room rate card c1910 when the Fairmont Hotel and Palace Hotel were both run under the Palace Hotel Company. 

Small 2" high Souvenir of San Francisco, Cal cup. Made of bronze or brass possibly with staining due to age, I wasn't going to try to clean it up. Features the Ferry Building, Cliff House, Palace Hotel, St. Francis, and Mission Dolores. c1910s. No makers mark, but identical pieces were made by M. N. Co., Japan.

Three stereoscopic images of the ruins of the Palace Hotel and of the demolishing of buildings on Market Street.

Letter sent from the Palace Hotel on August 17th, 1918. 

Palace Hotel Page Boy Charles Aaron delivering messages to movie stars Lyle Talbot & June Lang. February 18th, 1938.


If anyone knows where I can get a hold of one of these uniforms (or bellman uniform / cap), please email me! 

Artist rendering of The Grand Court of the Palace Hotel before it was built. While the ornate staircase and fountain were on the original plans, they were never included in the finished hotel. Image: Alamy

Scientific American, Vol XXXIII - No. 16. October 16th, 1875.

Features an article on the newly opened Palace Hotel.

     The Palace Hotel. Visitors to San Francisco will hereafter be struck with a new and conspicuous feature in the face of the young giant town. Seven stories high, with a base of 96,250 square feet, at the corner of Market and New Montgomery streets, now looms up the Palace Hotel. Its huge brick walls are ribbed from the top to bottom with tiers of bay windows, and spotted like the sides of an ironclad with bolt heads that clinch the great rods running over and under and through and through the building, making it a kind of Cyclopean open work iron safe, filled in and lined with fireproof brick, where all treasure of human life and limb should be secure against fire or earthquake while the Peninsula stands. It is, indeed, to this element of security that we would draw special attention, while so many buildings are going up today in our great cities, which are a disgrace in flimsy and tawdry pretension, and a danger in their inflammable and carelessly thrown together materials. 

     The whole work of constructing this hotel was done by the day's work and not by the piece, and so done carefully and well. Seventy-one partition walls of brick run from the foundation up through the roof, and two feet above it, and the roof is of tin. There are four artesian wells, two in each outer court, with a tested capacity of 28,000 gallons of water per hour. Under the center court is a 630,000 gallon reservoir, with walls of brick and cement five feet thick and buttressed. On the roof are seven tanks of boiler iron, with an aggregate capacity of 128,000 gallons. Seven steam pumps force this water through the whole house by a system of arteries and mains, with 392 outlets in the corridors, provided in each case with three inch hose, from 10 to 100 feet in length, with nozzles. Under the sidewalks without the building, there are eight four inch fire mains connecting with the city water, by means of which the city engines can, if found necessary at any time, force water into the hotel mains. 

     In every room and passage there is an automatic fire alarm, by which any extraordinary heat will be instantly and noisily known at the central office of the hotel; and six watchmen will patrol day and night every part of the structure, and touch, half hour by half hour, at seventy-nine stations, which will report by electricity and fix the place and time of a dereliction of duty.

     Through the heart of the hotel from top to bottom runs a fire brick tunnel, within which is a solid brick and iron staircase opening on each floor. In five like tunnels are five elevators, run by hydraulic power, besides six additional stairways from garret to basement. Wood is avoided where possible. In the construction of kitchen, oven room, bakery, store rooms, steam pump room, water heating room, coal vaults, ash vaults and shafts, and corridors, wood is supplanted by asphaltum and marble, iron beams, and brick arches. If the Palace Hotel can burn, the lessons of Chicago and Boston are lost, and all human precaution is vain against fire in this year of our Lord eighteen hundred and seventy-five. (The most interesting line I've read).

     Architect J.P. Gaynor was instructed by the owners to travel and study the best hotels elsewhere before submitting his plans for the Palace Hotel, and Warren Leland - mine host of the old New York Metropolitan Hotel, of the Leland family, famous as hotel keepers - was appointed lessee of the house, and manager of all things. The sunning and ventilation of the 755 rooms for guests are excellent, every room opening on the open light, having a fire place, and a separate flue of four by eight inches running clear through to the roof. Every second room has a bath room attached, most rooms are twenty feet square, and none of a less size than sixteen by sixteen feet. Two thousand and forty-two ventilating tubes open outward on the roof of the hotel. 

     Three great canons or courts, cut down from roof to base, air and lighten the mountain building. The center court measures 144 by 84 feet, is covered with glass, made brilliant by the lights of the pillared verandahs surrounding it, floor above floor; with a tropical garden, fountains, statues, an instrumental band of music in the evenings, and a circular carriage drive fifty-four feet in diameter. Opening upon this "garden floor" there is an "arcade promenade," four yards wide, with a show window looking on the promenade from each of the stores under the hotel. Letter tubes, pneumatic dispatch tubes, and electric bells knit all this miniature Palais Royal and the hotel into one body of wonderful life. 

     Ministering to the 1,200 guests that can be accommodated are four clerks, two book keepers, a French head cook who is a brilliant particular star in his profession, five assistant cooks of rising name, and three specialists - namely, a chief confectioner from Milan, a chief baker from Vienna, and "Muffin Tom" from New York, an old negro the fame of whose egg muffins and corn bread has made him the aristocrat of his race for the last half century from Charleston to Long Branch. The 150 waiters are to be negros also. Forty chambermaids and a host of Chinese will see that the beds and bed linen are white and fresh. This is the kind of hotel we keep in San Francisco.

     From China and India to Japan a stream of invalids and visitors pours yearly upon the city, and great sanitarium of the future for the languid oriental world. From the islands of the peaceful sea, from our own east and north, from Spanish America, a great host shall make a Babel of the Palace Hotel, whose builders have not been confounded. Its white towering walls, dotted with the gilded iron bolts that bind the great rods of the building together, shall be familiar to strange eyes from far lands. The sick down easter shall abandon his nutmegs of wood and satisfy his soul with the grapes and the oranges of our State; yellow aristocrats from Siam and tawny revolutionists from Bogota shall join hands and pass the sirup over the steaming triumphs of Muffin Tom. 

     We have seven big world wonders now: the Bay of San Francisco, the Central Pacific Railroad, the Big Trees, the Bonanza, Yosemite, the Geysers, the Palace Hotel - and Assessor Rosener. - Overland Monthly

Souvenir of San Francisco, Cal. Published and Copyrighted 1880 by C.P. Heininger. 

It appears the date was corrected at some point and could be 1883 or 1888. 

     This souvenir book of San Francisco features a pull-out section in the entire first half. This shows a map of San Francisco at the time (the Palace Hotel is on the crease, No. 32), and several postcard views from around the city. The second half is various articles about the city, including one from the Palace Hotel. There is also a stamp in the back (presumably where the book was bought) - R.S. Denison, Oakland Pier, with a 10 in the middle of the circle.     

     Its commodious and elegant character is assured in the fact that, in the inception of the enterprise, the owner, the late Hon. William Sharon, instructed his architect to visit the hotels of the principal cities of the United States and Europe, for the express purpose of including in the plans of the Palace all existing improvements, and such additional ones that experience and observation had suggested, he desired it to be a palatial hotel in every respect.     

     The Palace Hotel occupies the entire block upon the southwest corner of New Montgomery and Market Streets; rearing its huge fronts a hundred and twenty feet, extending two hundred and seventy-five feet westerly up Market and Jessie, and stretching its vast flanks three hundred and fifty feet southerly along New Montgomery and Annie, this architectural monarch lifts its colossal bulk above the very business and social centers of the Pacific Metropolis.
     The general style of architecture, within and without, is almost severely simple, amplitude, solidity, strength and permanency reign in every part. Of the imposing exterior of the stately structure, with myriads of bay windows diversifying its four immense fronts, from top to bottom, and partially relieving the oppressive massiveness which must otherwise characterize it, of its stupendous proportions and its absolute immensity. Ninety-six thousand two hundred and fifty square feet, or nearly two and a quarter acres, underlie the stupendous structure itself, while the sub-sidewalk extensions increase the basement area to upwards of three acres. Its general form is an immense triplicate, hollow quadrangle, including one grand central, crystal-roofed garden court, flanked by a lesser and parallel court on either side. Seven lofty stories surmount the deep and airy basement, and through a considerable portion it has eight. The lower story has a height of twenty-seven feet; the uppermost sixteen. The deep foundation wall is twelve feet thick; stone, iron, brick and marble are the chief materials. Of the brick alone, its construction consumed thirty-one million. All outer and inner and partition walls, from base to top, are solid stone and brick built around, within, and upon a huge skeleton of broad wrought-iron bands, thickly bolted together, and of such immense size as to have required three thousand tons for this purpose alone. Thus, the building is really duplex - a huge, self-supporting frame of iron, of enormous strength, within massive walls of firm-set brick and solid stone. The outer and visible walls are proof against fire; the inner and invisible frames secure against earthquake. The supporting columns, within and without, are iron; the cornice of iron and zinc. Four artesian wells, having a tested capacity of 28,000 gallons an hour, supply the great 630,000 gallon reservoir under the central court, besides filling seven roof-tanks holding 130,000 gallons more. Three large steam fire-pumps force water through 45 4-inch wrought iron upright fire-mains, reaching above the roof, and distribute it through 327 2 1/2-inch hose bibs, and 15,000 feet of 5-ply carbonized firehose, thus doubly and trebly commanding every inch of the vast structure from roof to basement, within and without. Five patent safety-catch hydraulic elevators, running noiselessly within fire-proof brick walls, ascend even to the roof promenades. Electric fire-alarms, self-acting, instantly report at the office the exact locality of any fire, or even of extraordinary beat in any parlor, bedroom, closet, hall, passage, stairway or storeroom. Special hotel watchmen regularly patrol all parts of the building every thirty minutes, day and night. A self-acting and self-registering tell-tale indicator instantly reports at the office any neglect or omission of their duty. Besides all these precautions, a fire-proof iron staircase, enclosed in solid brick and stone, and opening through iron doors upon every floor, ascends from basement to roof. Every floor has its exclusive annunciator, and its own tabular conductors, carrying all letters for the post office directory to the main letterbox in the general office. A pneumatic dispatch tube instantly conveys letters, messages or parcels to and from any point of the different floors. Two thousand and forty-two ventilating tubes, opening outward upon the roof from every room, bathroom and closet, insure constant purity and thorough sweetness of air in every part. The grand central court, 144 x 48 feet, has a carriage and promenade entrance, through the east front on New Montgomery Street, of 44 feet width, expanding into a circular driveway of fifty-two feet in diameter, surrounded by a marble-tiled promenade and a tropical garden of rare exotics, with choice statuary and artistic fountains. Within this court, opposite the main entrance, is the music pavilion, in which the instrumental band, exclusively attached to the Palace, renders choice selections, at stated intervals, during every afternoon and evening.
     Off the central court open the main entrance to the hotel office, 65 x 55 ; entrances to the breakfast room, 110 x 55; the grand dining room, 150 x 55; the music and ball room, 65 x 55; the ladies' lower reception room, 40 x 40 ; reading room of the same size ; billiard rooms, 65 x 40; barber shop and bath rooms, 40 x 40; committee rooms, and other general apartments, devoted to the pleasure or convenience of guests and patrons.
     On the second floor are private dining rooms, children's dining hall, and the ladies' drawing rooms, 84 x 40. The total number of rooms exclusively for guests above the garden floor is 755. Most are twenty feet square - none less than 16 x 16. They are equally well finished and furnished throughout. The heavy carpets, of most artistic and beautiful designs, were manufactured exclusively for this hotel. The massive furniture, original and unique in design, was made by special contract in San Francisco, of the finest and most beautiful native woods, at an aggregate cost of over half a million dollars. The rooms are expressly arranged for use, either singly or in suits of two or more. Their connections and approaches are such that an individual, family, or a party of any size, can have a suite of any number of rooms, combining the seclusion of the most elegant private residence, with the numberless luxuries of the most perfect hotel. Every outer room has its bay window, while every parlor and guest chamber has its own private toilet, ample clothes closet and fire grate.
     The capitals of the columns along the upper corridors are crowded with elegant urns and vases of rare and beautiful flowers and plants, whose twining tendrils in luxuriant growth gracefully festoon the balconies, while the delicious fragrance of this tropical conservatory pervades the air of the court, as well as that of the neighboring rooms, with delightful perfumes. Independent of outward atmospheric changes, this crystal-roofed garden enjoys its own local sub-tropical climate of perpetual summer, where, as in some charming nook of fairyland, the balmy breath of incense-laden air may at once refresh and recreate its delighted guests. Classic statues of the four seasons also adorn the corridors of this aerial tropical conservatory.

     From broad walks and observatories, surrounding the lofty roof, and readily accessible by the elevators, the guests enjoy a panoramic view unsurpassed in breadth and beauty. Within and without, in all approaches, appointments and belongings, the kingly structure, far surpassing, not only in size but in grandeur, all the hotels of Europe and America, richly justifies the propriety of its happily chosen nameā€”The Palace Hotel.

Edward Bosqui Poster

Palace Hotel. San Francisco, Cal.


"Large chromolithographed newsprint broadside illustrating the lavishly appointed hotel with vignettes of guests enjoying its interiors and scenic overlooks. 19 1/2x25 1/2 inches sheet size, ample margins; mounted to archival board to stabilize old folds and repairs. San Francisco, 1886." Issued with Christmas Number, S.F. News Letter, 1886.


It is also interesting that is shows hotel guests walking around the roof taking in the view of the city in the upper center! This came up for auction in December 2023, but I unfortunately was not able to make the winning bid. 

What is probably the most unique view of the Palace Hotel. Someone took an image from the neighboring building looking towards the Ferry Building and captured the roof of the Palace. It is interesting to view all of the details and walkways, which until now were a mystery. I came across this image in the Berkeley Library, University of California, Library Archives online.

Ink architectural drawing of the new Palace Hotel. Measuring 5 x 8.5", this beautiful drawing would've likely been used for newspaper and other published articles on the hotel. 

Going, going, gone. Courtesy of Calisphere.org.

The Architectural Review, Special Hotel Number. Volume II, No. IV. April, 1913


     This large 14" x 11", 200 page book  features floorplans, exterior photos, interior photos, architectural detail photos, and information from the grandest hotels of 1913! Some of the other hotels highlighted are The Blackstone, Chicago - St. Regis, New York - Plaza Hotel, NYC - The Vanderbilt, NYC - The Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco - St. Francis, San Francisco - Hotel La Salle, Chicago - The New Willard Hotel, Washington, D.C., and many others!


     "The Palace Hotel occupies an entire city block and actually covers nearly three acres of ground, with a frontage of two hundred and seventy-five feet on Market Street and three hundred and forty-four feet on New Montgomery Street. It occupies the site of the famous hostelry of the same name and contains seven hundred guest rooms.

     The building is constructed of light-colored brick, with a stone base and finely modeled roof-cresting of terra-cotta. Ornamental iron plays an important part in enlivening the design, and the large cornice-like balcony at the eighth story, supported by large iron brackets arranged in pairs, as well as the grilles at the windows, relieve the facade of any barren look it might have otherwise. 

     The Sun Court is an immense apartment, eighty-five feet wide by one hundred and ten feet long, and with its great dome of bronze and leaded glass, springing to a height of three stories, presents a most unique architectural feature. The dome is supported on either side by a double row of Italian marble columns, and wide corridors directly behind afford ample circulation for crowds and yet maintain a homelike effect.

     On the south side of the court is the main restaurant, and to the right as one enters is the Gothic Grill for men. The ballroom occupies the southwest corner of the main floor, and can be used independently of the rest of the hotel because of its own entrance and group of reception and dressing rooms immediately adjoining."

The 1913 Floor Plan of the Palace Hotel.


The Garden Court was originally called the Sun Court, or Main Court. The Ralston Room was the Gothic Grill or Men's Grill Room, The Rose Room was the Ladies' Dining Room with the Concert Room next door. The Gold Ballroom was the Banquet Room. I was surprised to see another "lobby" at the opposite end of the Main Court.


The front of The Pied Piper was the Barber Shop, with the Bar Room behind it. This is the first plan I've seen that shows the layout of the kitchen and pantries as well. 

Left: The last remnant of the Palace Hotel. This grouping of pillars was the entryway into the hotel's main corridor on Market Street. It's a shame they couldn't be preserved in memory of the original building. A tall ladder can be seen directly in front of them, which once was attached to the corner of the building. Both can be seen clearly in the photo at the top of the page. 


Below: Postcard of the same entryway. 

Below: A 1905 copy of Oscar Wilde's De Profundis book. The owner, John F. Pogue, read it on the night of April 1st, 1906, which was only 17 days before the earthquake and fires stuck. What makes this book special is that he was staying at the Palace Hotel when he read it and attended a music concert on the same night, gluing the music program into the cover! In his lament in the back of the book, he also speaks of the Palace Hotel in the 5th verse.


Inside cover, "The night I read this book. San Francisco, Calif. Before the Earthquake (see back of book)."


Inside the back cover:

Fallen Frisco

"'Tis warm on the Bay of the Beautiful Gate,

The red sun is lifting his head to the Dawn;

The air fails to signal the our horrible fate -

Fair Frisco rests easy as light on the lawn.


Far out under Ocean there travels the terror -

The waves of destruction are full on the way;

While slumbering the city has lost sense of error,

She's sleepeth as light as the light on her Bay.


O! Frisco thou marvel, thou queen of the Ocean!

How stealth'ly thy judgement has fallen on thee,

The earth falls a tremble - a fearful commotion -

And Frisco has fallen as falleth a tree!


Her seconds are number'd, each stroke of the dial,

E'er shakes her again like a rag in the wind;

Yea Frisco the mighty is facing her trial -

Ere three minutes ended we mothing may find. 


O! Palace of Pleasure, how sad is thy state -

Thy garlands are crisped and seared by the flame;

Thy high storied chambers where slumber'd the great,

Are prostrate and ruined, and burried thy name.


Tho Frisco may shake herself free from the ruin -

No age thy past glory to thee can restore,

For faith and to treasure are lost to thy wooin',

And safety's denied - evermore! evermore!


O! Pity the Frisco, thy past and thy future,

For Destiny's stript thee and left thee all bare,

The world weepeth with thee, and quickly would nurture,

But Frisco; O, Frisco! of thee I dispair" - J.F.P. 1906.


"A lament and a prophesy, en route home, written on the train out of Spokane as I learned of the fate of San Francisco after a week's departure from there prior to the earthquake."

A letter written from the Palace Hotel on March 2nd, 1892. Most of the original stationery was simply worded "Palace Hotel, San Francisco" in plain font, but this letterhead is a stunner!

"Downtown Aerial circa 1930. View northeast from above Market Street near 3rd St. Russ Building, Hunter-Dulin Building, Chronicle Building, Hobart Building, Palace Hotel, Call Building, Ferry Building and Yerba Buena Island. Photographer, Fred Mae. (Marilyn Blaisdell Collection)." You can clearly see the roof of the Palace Hotel and the glass ceiling of the Rose Room before the conference rooms were built above it. 

Palace Hotel Letter, to Mr. Harry Belcher, R.A. Rowan & Company, Los Angeles, CA. October 1, 1913.


Friend Harry,

Just a few lines to let you know that we are enjoying our trip at San Francisco, principally on account of the fine weather that they are having here. I expect that my little girl will be greatly benefited by the treatment, that the Doctor here at San Francisco proposes for her. 

I had hope to hear from you by this time, that you had ties up with Muller & Rass; I hope you will be able to land them, together with a few others before I get home. Max writes me that the new building looks very swell. I hope you have had no trouble with Donovan, Fowler Bros. or Mathison in regard to the rents. 

I hope that Mrs. Belcher is enjoying the change, not seeing me around her desk so much. I know that she can enjoy my absence and I hope no one else is bothering her, because she needs a reset. Please give my kindest regards to Mrs. Belcher and trusting that the ranch is being well taken care of, I am. 

Sincerely Yours, Louis Isaacs. 

     I came across a research paper written by Robert Bardell entitled, "Where the Rubble Went" online. It is a fascinating account of what happened to all of the debris from the earthquake and made several mentions of the Palace Hotel! I always assumed beautiful and burned remnants of the Palace were hiding somewhere under the city, but that isn't very likely.

     He wrote that in late September of 1906, a bunker was constructed at the site to specifically bring down the shell of the Palace and reuse what could be. The photo at right shows this from the California Historical Society. Note the railroad track on New Montgomery St. used to haul away the debris. "Broken brick from the Palace Hotel was fed into a rock crusher and sold to the railroads for track ballast" and usable bricks were cleaned and stacked in empty lots ready to be reused in the reconstruction of the city. Found light fixtures, metal, bathtubs, ceramics, etc. were melted down, crushed, and recycled as well. Very little, if anything, was left of the Palace to bury in a landfill. 

     Collapsing buildings were always a concern as the work progressed in San Francisco. "On November 30th, 1906, high winds dislodged a large chunk of masonry from a window of the Palace Hotel above Market Street. Part of this mass struck Edward Cuneo, 14, killing him instantly." The track next to the hotel site "remained in service until most of the ruins of the hotel were hauled away. The debris railroad ceased regular operation in March of 1907." Robert estimated that train cars were loaded for roughly 100 days from the Palace site carrying 25,000 cubic yards of debris in the first phase, and 90,000 in the second. Debris came from other buildings in the area and not just the hotel. He also noted that 25% of the bricks were salvaged whole and reused elsewhere. Finally, he states that the debris from the Palace Hotel was taken away and dumped at Islais Creek.

Below: A 1909 Grand Reopening Ad for the Palace Hotel.