History The Palace

The Palace

ImageInspired by visionary, William Chapman Ralston, the Palace Hotel was the result of one man's dream of turning the city from boom town into a booming metropolis, simply by erecting a hotel of timeless elegance and unprecedented luxury. Ralston commissioned an architect to study Europe's finest hotels and make them pale in comparison.

Inspired by visionary, William Chapman Ralston, the Palace Hotel was the result of one man's dream of turning the city from boom town into a booming metropolis, simply by erecting a hotel of timeless elegance and unprecedented luxury. Ralston commissioned an architect to study Europe's finest hotels and make them pale in comparison.

To finance his dream and its $5 million price tag, he exhausted his banking empire. Originally built by architect John P. Gaynor, the majestic building hailed 7,000 windows, 14-foot high ceilings and an unprecedented opulence. Just weeks before The Palace's grand opening, he was told the Bank of California would close. The next day, Ralston's body was found floating in the San Francisco Bay. His partner, Senator William Sharon, was undeterred in fostering the dream.
On October 2, 1875, The Palace Hotel opened its doors to great acclaim, the Garden Court was the carriage entrance to this grand hotel. A parade of famous guests visited San Francisco's Palace and stood in awe of its magnificence. Admirers were awed by the hotel's four hydraulic elevators known as "rising rooms." Now guests could reach the hotel's top floors without effort. Each room was equipped with an electronic call button so that every guest's whim was met quickly and fulfilled completely. Then, on April 18, 1906, a massive earthquake shook all of San Francisco. The Palace survived the quake, but was overtaken by fires that engulfed the city in its wake. In 1906, following the earthquake, the Palace closed its doors for the first restoration. It took three years of rebuilding under the supervision of New York firm, Trowbridge & Livingston, before the Palace Hotel would re-open in 1909. It was for this second opening that the artist Maxfield Parrish was commissioned to paint the 16-foot mural “The Pied Piper of Hamlin” that is being displayed to this day in the Pied Piper Bar. The carriage entrance was transformed and The Garden Court was unveiled. In 1909, on December 15, it opened again. Among the magical creations of 1909 are The Garden Court, The Palace Gold Service and The Pied Piper of Hamelin mural. The Garden Court has been recognized as one of the world's most beautiful public spaces. Its opulence was enjoyed by many generations of society's elite. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson hosted two luncheons in support of the Versailles Treaty which ended World War I. In 1945, the official banquet honoring the opening session of the United Nations was held in The Garden Court. Decades had passed since the Grand Dame's 1909 re-opening and San Francisco's "Beauty" was in desperate need of attention. In January 1989, the Palace closed its doors again for a major restoration. When restoration began, the people of San Francisco were extremely concerned about the plans for the hotel and The Garden Court in particular. Everyone was assured that the goal was to restore the hotel to is 1909 elegance. In 1991, the restoration was complete and The Palace opened its doors. The Garden Court was everything everyone had hoped it would be. It was, once again, one of the most beautiful places in the world. Over the years, The Garden Court has become part of San Francisco history holding many memories for many people. Shared stories of engagements, weddings, elegant dinner dances, fabulous parties and fond childhood celebrations make The Garden Court a truly magical place. And history, shall we say, was made again. 2002 the hotel again faced major renovations.

Famous Guests 1909 - 2009 Konrad Adenauer - West German Chancellor Kevin Bacon - entertainer King Albert and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium Sarah Bernhardt - actress Milton Berle - entertainer Princess Louise of British Columbia - daughter of Queen Victoria First Lady Barbara Bush William Jennings Bryan - attorney and political leader Admiral Richard Byrd - naval officer and polar explorer Andrew Carnegie - industrialist and philanthropist Enrico Caruso - Italian born Opera singer Dana Carvey - comedian Charlie (Sir Charles Spencer) Chaplin - actor, director and producer Tracy Chapman - musician and recording artist Madame Chiang Kai - shek of China Winston Churchill - British Prime Minister First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton Bing Crosby - entertainer New York Governor Mario Cuomo California Governor Grey Davis Vice President Bob Dole and Elizabeth Dole Amelia Earhart - aviator Sir Robert Anthony Eden - British Prime Minister Thomas Edison - inventor Harvey Firestone - industrialist Field Marshall Ferdinand Foch, France William H. Gates III - CEO and Chairman of the Board, Microsoft Corporation Whoopi Goldberg - actress and comedian Prince Phillip of Great Britain President Warren G. Harding (passed away at the Palace) Lady Drummond Hay (first woman to cross the air in a zeppelin) Goldie Hawn - actress Anna Held - French-born entertainer Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Field Marshall Joseph Jacques Joffre, France Nikita Khrushchev - Soviet Premier New York Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia Sir Harry Lauder - Scottish singer and songwriter D.H. Lawrence - English novelist Sir Thomas Lipton - Scottish-born businessman and philanthropist Sophia Loren - Italian actress Princess Louise - Daughter of Queen Victoria Guglielmo Marconi - Italian inventor Colonel John McCormick - newspaper publisher Ed McMahon - entertainer Joe Montana - football player Sean Penn - Actor John Pierpont Morgan - industrialist Lord and Lady Louis Mountbatten of Great Britain Queen Juliana of the Netherlands Prince Olav and Princess Martha of Norway John David Rockefeller - industrialist Ginger Rogers - entertainer Will Rogers - author and actor President Franklin Delano Roosevelt President Theodore Roosevelt (during campaign) Lillian Russell - entertainer Grand Duchess Marie of Russia Bob Sagat - actor and comedian Carlos Santana - musician and recording artist Ridley Scott - film director John Sculley - Chairman of the Board, Apple Computer, Inc. C. Kingsford Smith - Australian Aviator Colonel Charles Stanton (originated saying, "Lafayette, we are here.") President William Howard Taft Mark Twain - author New York Mayor Jimmy Walker Wendell Wilkie - American Politician President Woodrow Wilson King Alexander of Yugoslavia
President Warren G. Harding picked an eerily fitting place to die: the Presidential Suite of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. In June of 1923, Harding set out on a cross-country trip to meet the American people and drum up support for his struggling re-election campaign in 1924. When the president and his wife got to San Francisco, they stayed at the Palace Hotel where Harding fell ill. He died suddenly on Aug. 2, 1923, and rumors still abound over the circumstances of his death. The official cause is listed as a "stroke of apoplexy," but legend also blames food poisoning. One rumor is that his wife killed him because of his numerous affairs and illegitimate children. Harding was well-known for his carnal appetite and once told reporters, "It's a good thing I'm not a woman. I would always be pregnant. I can't say no." (Theodore Roosevelt's famously caustic daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, once said of him: "Harding was not a bad man. He was just a slob.") The hotel is also known for a certain towel episode. In 1906, the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso was staying at the hotel when the great earthquake struck. He ran out of the hotel wearing only a towel and vowed never to return to San Francisco. He kept his word and never did. The Palace's sales coordinator, Liz Pasha, says that guests rarely inquire about Harding. "I don't think people know about it because it happened such a long time ago," she says.

Donal Timbie

Managed by: Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Luxury Collection
552 rooms, 52 suites Rooms
52 Suites
ImagePresidential Suite

The Garden Court, breakfast, Lunch, Brunch, Afternoon Tea The Pied Piper Bar & Maxfield's Kyo-Ya, Japanese Restaurant

Take part on a historic tour of the hotel: November through April Schedule: All Saturdays of the month at 10:00 AM All Tuesdays of the month at 10:00 AM All Thursdays of the month at 2:00 PM Meet on right side of main lobby; 2 New Montgomery Street. Public transportation: MUNI/BART Montgomery Station; all Market Street buses & streetcars.
Skylit Dome, Indoor pool, Whirlpool, Co-ed Sauna, Exercise room Image
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Our Select Member Hotel

The Palace
Country: USA
City: San Francisco
Opening date: 1875, rebuilt after 1906 earthquake in 1909

Note from the Host

General Manager Clem Ismail Esq.
Hotel Manager: Debra Barton


2 New Montgomery Street
CA 94105-3402 USA, San Francisco

Tel: +1 415 512-1111
Fax: +1 415 543-0671

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