Rising like a phoenix from ashes, a hotel that captures a city's soul
A story lurks everywhere ? behind the century-old Pied Piper painting, the 1909 gold rim china, the arches of the Garden Court that hide within their walls stories of romances and childhood celebrations and even the 'Green Goddess' that dresses the salad. The Palace Hotel in downtown San Francisco is where history lives and breathes.
San Francisco: A story lurks everywhere ? behind the century-old Pied Piper painting, the 1909 gold rim china, the arches of the Garden Court that hide within their walls stories of romances and childhood celebrations and even the 'Green Goddess' that dresses the salad. The Palace Hotel in downtown
San Francisco is where history lives and breathes. There are few hotels in the world so strongly reminiscent of a place and which capture the soul of the city so perfectly that they could only exist where they do. And The Palace Hotel, which opened its doors on October 2, 1875, is just that place.
It opened as the largest hotel in the world with 750 guest rooms, many with private baths. It is historically notable in a number of other ways, including as a place where a sitting US president died, said Palace Hotel marketing and public relations representative Renee Roberts.
On August 2, 1923, US president Warren G Harding died from a cerebral haemorrhage in Room 8064. Back in the day, the opulent hotel was thronged by the rich and famous with political leaders, artists and stars rubbing shoulders over glasses of wine and tables groaning under the weight of gourmet
dishes. "The Palace has been home to dignitaries, celebrities and presidents and has also been the site of numerous historic events, including a 1919 banquet hosted by President Woodrow Wilson for The League of Nations, the 1945 gala that celebrated the birth of the United Nations," said Roberts.
The hotel was born of the dreams of entrepreneur William Chapman Ralston, who heavily depended on his shaky banking empire to help finance the project, and US Senator William Sharon. The Palace was destroyed by the fires of the 1906 earthquake. One of the worst and deadliest in the history of the
US, the 7.9 magnitude quake dismantled thousands of homes. Up to 3,000 people died and over 80 per cent of the city was destroyed. But a new Palace soon rose like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes. "The new Palace opened its doors on December 15, 1909, revealing a hotel that was more
beautiful than ever before," said Roberts. One stand-out feature is an antique Mail Box used to receive guest mails, which is still functioning. "The mail box has been in the hotel since the 1909 reopening and is still used to receive guest mail that is picked up by the local postal service," Roberts noted.
Among the magical creations are The Garden Court, the Palace Gold Service and the Pied Piper of Hamelin painting. In 1909, the breathtaking Garden Court was unveiled. Crowned by a USD 7 million stained glass ceiling and flanked by a double row of massive Italian marble Ionic columns, the Court
holds many memories for those who pass through its majestic arches. "The Garden Court is known as one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the world and is also one of the largest public rooms in the world. The room occupies more than 8,000 square feet," said Roberts.
"In 1989, the Palace closed its doors for a major restoration. Citizens of San Francisco were so concerned about plans for The Garden Court that a petition was created and signed by thousands of local San Franciscans. Ownership assured them their intent was to restore the room to its original 1909
grandeur," she said. When the hotel reopened in 1991, the line of people wrapped around the entire city block. "Everyone was waiting to see The Garden Court unveiled," Roberts said. Created especially for the Palace reopening in 1909, the Palace Gold Service is believed to be one of the oldest and most
complete collections in the world. The beautiful gold rim china and stemware, Roberts said, have been used at a banquet for General US Grant, a State Dinner for President William McKinley, and an official dinner for Britan's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
An important part of both Palace and San Francisco history, The Pied Piper was commissioned from American painter and illustrator Maxfield Parrish for the hotel's reopening. Parrish was paid USD 6,000 to create his masterpiece.
Inspired by the legendary tale, the painting depicts the Pied Piper leading citizens out of the town of Hamelin, Germany. The artwork features 27 expressive faces, including those of his wife, mistress, two sons and Parrish himself as the Pied Piper.
"The Pied Piper also features two murals created by artist Antonio Sotomayor. At the time, Sotomayor was a dishwasher at the Palace. The owner's wife, Mrs. Sharon, was taken with his illustrations and asked him to paint the murals that depict famous San Francisco people including Mark Twain, Lotta
Crabtree and Emperor Norton," Roberts said. The hotel also has a rich culinary history. The famous Green Goddess Dressing, which combines parsley, tarragon, spinach and chervil with a host of other ingredients such as Worcestershire sauce and capers, was created here in 1923 by Chef Phillip Roemer.
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Tetrazzini -- named after Italian opera star Lulsa Tetrazzini who was a guest at the hotel and made with iced poultry or seafood and mushroom in a butter/cream and parmesan sauce -- is also believed to have originated here. And the guests keeping coming, decade after decade.
"The hotel is a lovely patch of history. With Victorian chandeliers and arches, it is a perfect blend of history with modernity,? said Smita Mishra, a recent guest from India at the hotel.