AKA: Baldwin's Hotel and Theater, San Francisco, CA; Baldwin House Hotel and Baldwin's Theatre, San Francisco, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: [unspecified]

Dates: constructed 1875-1876, demolished 1898

2 stories

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932 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

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Baldwin's Theatre had a street address of 932-936 Market Street.


Comparable in scale and magnificence to the nearby Palace Hotel, E.J. "Lucky" Baldwin commissioned the San Francisco architect John A. Remer to design a huge hotel-theatre-retail project bounded by Market, Powell and Ellis Streets in San Francisco. Inside the huge hotel, Baldwin included various amenities, including retail stores selling luxury goods, a pharmacy and a theatre known in its earliest years as "Baldwin's Academy of Music." This huge hotel occupied a piece of land bounded by Powell Street on the west, Market Street on the south, and Ellis Street on the north.

Building History

Born in OH, Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin (1828-1909), became a successful businessman in Valparaiso, IN, before leaving the Midwest for richer pastures in California during the Gold Rush. He arrived in San Francisco in 1853 and immediately began multiplying his fortune selling provisions to miners and investing in real estate. Baldwin became truly rich owning shares in Nevada silver mines during the Comstock Lode. He used some of his silver profits planning a grand new hotel, designed to rival the nearby Palace Hotel, as the city's grandest.

He commissioned John A. Remer to design his palatial, new, 620-room hotel. Newspapers covered the progress of its construction closely during 1875 and 1876. The Daily Alta California said of his ambitious enterprise in 12/1876: “The Baldwin Hotel, now nearing completion, has added to the myriad of attractions contained within its limits, a feature worthy of the building and complimentary to the city of San Francisco. As the building has been built upon the most elegant and extravagant plan, it behoved the general enterprise and the owner to have everything connected, directly or indirectly, with it, done upon the same grade of excellence; and with this view, Mr. Baldwin has negotiated and treated with the best business men in leasing stores and elaborating provisos as to the style and finish of the several new establishments connected therewith." (See “Our Latest Novelty, Daily Alta California, vol. 28, no. 9751, 12/17/1876, p. 2.)

Baldwin's Academy of Music opened on 03/06/1876 with a performance by the English-born actor, Barry Sullivan ,(1821-1891). (See Baldwin Academy of Music advertisement, Daily Alta California, vol. 28, Number 9457, 1876-02-26, p. 4.) During 1876 and 1877, Thomas Maguire (born c. 1824-d. 1896) was the Manager of Baldwin's Academy of Music. Maguire had developed a significant reputation for booking leading acts in various San Francisco theatres, beginning with the Jenny Lind Theatre, opened by him in 1852. (See “Career of Maguire,” San Francisco Call, vol. 79, no. 53, 01/22/1896, p. 13.)

Building Notes

The Elite Directory for San Francisco and Oakland, (1879), described the theatrical venue: “Baldwin’s Theatre is on the north side of Market street, between Fourth and Fifth. It is one of the most elegant theaters in the country in style and finish. Its special line of business is society plays, comedy, and Melo-drama, though its stage can be adapted to more general dramatic uses. The seats are easy and accessible. There are twelve proscenium boxes, seating six persons each; and ten mezzanine box, seating four persons each. There are one hundred and seventy-six chairs in the orchestra, and three under and ten in the dress circle. The balcony or family-circle seats four hundred and thirty-eight persons. The theatre is managed by Thomas Maguire, assisted by Frederick Lyster as acting manager, and G.R. Chipman as treasurer. George Dayton is scenic artist.” (See The Elite Directory for San Francisco and Oakland, [San Francisco: Argonaut Publishing, 1879], p. 211.) In 1879, admission seating cost $1.00, reserved seats, $1.50. Proscenium boxes cost $15.00 and mezzanine boxes $10.00. All seating at Baldwin's Theatre required a significant outlay of money at the time.

The Daily Alta California described the luxurious appointments of the Baldwin Pharmacy in its article of 12/17/1876: "Having thus determined, he fixed his attention most particularly upon the corner store and entered into a treaty with Mr. H.B. Slaven, a druggist, of Philadelphia, junior partner of Slaven Bros. & Co.—one of the largest establishments of its kind in the United States—who, being a worthy rival of the renowned Col. Andrews, of ‘Diamond Palace’ fame, and also a connoisseur of art, has completed his new ‘Temple of Drugs’ on a scale of magnificence, equalling in its special points the splendor of that celebrated house. The ‘Novelty,’ as the heading of this article terms it, is the ‘Baldwin Pharmacy,’ so called in compliment to the ‘Lucky’ owner of the hotel, which will be opened on Monday afternoon to the gaze and pockets fo the medicine-buying public in general, and the ladies in particular. A specified description of the place fails to give any adequate idea of its beauty, and it remains for the community to satisfy their curiosity and examine for themselves. However, a synopsis of its attractions not being out of place in this compendium, it only remains to be stated that the fixtures are designed after the French Rennaissance [sic], elaborate in its carved decorations, columns, pediments, marble busts and consoles—the entire arrangement being a perfect bewilderment of stores, on account of the numberless mirrors placed on all sides, and in every nook and corner, to reflect everything and anything which might come within range of reflection. Two large mirrors reaching to the floor have been, with respect to the ladies, placed in the most advantageous positions, in which they can observe themselves, unobserved; and a soda fountain, built especially for the place it occupies, and positioned in the center of the largest show-window in San Francisco, makes the entire tout ensemble probably the most attractive spot to be encountered in the city. The fountain may be just considered a work of art, and the merit of its execution devolves upon the names of D.A. MacDonald & Co., E. McGrath, and Thompson, the famous soda-water man. The fixtures are built by the West Coast Furniture Company, and the mirrors by Whittier & Fuller. The list of the foregoing is merely to show that the entire work is California manufacture, and not imported, the only imported goods in the establishment being the glass, bottles, chemicals, etc., which fall in line of the proprietor and his business. The glassware is on the same extravagant style as the fixtures, and has been special imported by Mr. Slaven for the purpose; and the soda fountain crystal fixtures have been furnished by the well-known firms of Bush and Milne and Nye & Atcheson, the most prominent gas fixture firms of this city. The entire fixtures and soda fountain have been executed from drawings made by J.A. Remer, the architect of the hotel, and the supervision of the same has been entrusted into the hands of Tirrell & Slaven, well-known builders of this city. The paintings and decorations were done by E.H. Gadsby.” (See “Our Latest Novelty, Daily Alta California, vol. 28, no. 9751, 12/17/1876, p. 2.)


Baldwin's Hotel and Academy of Music was destroyed by a fire on the morning of 09/23/1898. The Sacramento Record-Union reported at the time: “The Baldwin Hotel, for almost thirty years one of the principal landmarks of San Francisco, is no more. The fire which broke out in the east end of the building shortly after 3 o’clock this morning, supposedly in the property-room of the Baldwin Theater, totally destroyed the immense structure, entailing a financial loss of nearly a million and a half dollars, besides destroying property that no amount of money or science can replace.” (See “The Baldwin Hotel Fire,” Sacramento Record-Union, vol. 96, no. 95, 11/24/1898, p. 1.) Two people were killed in the blaze, J.L. White, a San Francisco capitalist, and Lewis Myers of Skagway, AK, a merchant.

PCAD id: 20689