AKA: Sheraton Palace Hotel, San Francisco, CA

Structure Type: built works - dwellings -public accommodations - hotels

Designers: Page and Turnbull, Incorporated (firm); Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, (SOM), San Francisco, CA (firm); Trowbridge and Livingston, Architects (firm); Charles Crowninshield Frye (architect); George William Kelham (architect); Frederic Knapp (architect); Goodhue Livingston Sr. (architect); John Ogden Merrill (architect); Nathaniel Alexander Owings (architect); Charles Hall Page (architect); Louis Skidmore Sr. (architect); Samuel Breck Parkman Trowbridge (architect); John Gordon Turnbull (architect); Leonard B. Willeke (architect)

Dates: constructed 1906-1909

9 stories, total floor area: 592,000 sq. ft.

633 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-4006

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The address was listed as 633-635 Market Street.

Overview

The Palace Hotel #2 replaced the first Palace Hotel built for the Comstock Lode millionaire William Chapman Ralston (1826-1875). Ralston erected San Francisco's most opulent hotel, and the cost overruns of the $5 million hotel, along with other problems, caused his financial downfall and apparent suicide in San Francsico Bay. His business partner, William Sharon (1821-1885), scooped up Ralston's assets cheaply after his death, including the Palace Hotel. Frederick W. Sharon (1862-1915), William's son, inherited control of the hotel upon his father's death, running the hotel with the husband of his sister, Clara Adelaide Sharon (1854-1882), lawyer Francis Griffith Newlands (1846-1917). The first Palace Hotel burned in the fires that swept San Francisco following the Great Earthquake of 04/18-19/1906. On 08/23/1906, the Sharon Estate Company (consisting of two of the three children of William Sharon, led by Frederick and Newlands), and others filed articles of incorporation for the Palace Hotel Company, "...having primarily their object the rebuilding and operating of the Palace hotel. The incorporators of the company are Frederick W. Sharon, Francis G. Newlands, William H. Crocker, John C. Kilpatrick, William F. Herrin and Wellington Gregg, Jr." (See "Palace Hotel Company Is Incorporated,"Sacramento Union, vol. 112, no. 1, 08/24/1906, p. 1.) John C. Kilpatrick would manage the new Palace Hotel on a daily basis.

Building History

Architect George W. Kelham (1871-1936) supervised the construction of the $10 million Palace Hotel while employed by the New York firm of Trowbridge and Livingston; Kelham opened his own practice in San Francisco soon thereafter, becoming one of the city's most distinguished designers of the 1910s-1920s. The Sharon Estate Company probably learned of the relatively new firm of Trowbridge and Livingston following the opening on 09/04/1904 of New York's remarkable Saint Regis Hotel commissioned by John Jacob Astor IV (1864-1912)., (Astor, one of the world's wealthiest men, would die on the Titanic at the age of 46.) The opening of the costly $5.5 million Saint Regis was filled with controversy, but its elegance and extravagance won it wide acclaim soon after it opened. For wealthy clients, the Saint Regis's success put Trowbridge and Livingston on the map, allowing the two architects, themselves part of New York's upper class, to compete with more established firms for commissions.

The Architect and Engineer described ways in which the new Palace Hotel would be similar to and different from the old hotel lost in the fire:
"Several important changes in the plans for the Palace Hotel have just been decided upon. The main entrance is to be thirty feet in width and it will be on Market street, where the old main entrance was located. Instead of the office being placed back toward the south end of the building, as formerly, it will be located close up against the New Montgomery street entrance. The latter will have a carriage drive in form of a half-circle, as was the case before the fire. The office will take up part of the space formerly devoted to the barber shop, the rooms of the Transportation Club and the east end of the court. The structure is to be nine stories in height and the new palm garden or court will be larger than the old one. Its glass roof will be placed at the second story, instead of at the top of the building, as was the case before the fire. This will have the effect of making all the rooms about the second story outside rooms, with plenty of light and air. Another innovation is the decision to have two large ball-rooms instead of one. The grill room and ladies' cafe are to be on a much larger scale than formerly. Stores or offices will take up most of the ground floor along Market and New Montgomery streets, as was formerly the case." "Changes in Palace Hotel Plans," Architect and Engineer, vol. VIII, no. 2, 03/1907, p. 91.

Since opening on 12/19/1909, the Palace Hotel #2 has been known for its central Garden Court Restaurant, an opulent glass-covered space, and Maxfield's Restaurant, whose Pied Piper Bar has a mural by the artist Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966); the Garden Court has the distinction of being the only interior space named as an official San Francisco City Landmark; the court--with its 25,000 leaded glass lights--was originally built as the carriage entrance for the previous Palace Hotel. Trowbridge and Livingston incorporated into the second hotel as its central focal point.

The San Francisco Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board made the Palace Hotel (and its Garden Court Restaurant) San Francisco Historic Landmark #18 in 1969. Later owners of the Palace Hotel included ITT-Sheraton, which bought the hotel in 1954, and the Kyo-ya Company Limited, a Honolulu-based subsidiary of the Japanese Kokusai Kogyo Company, Limited, purchased it from ITT-Sheraton in 1973. ITT-Sheraton Hotels continued to manage the property (as well as New York's Saint Regis, acquired in 02/1966) until the Sheraton chain was purchased in 1998 by Starwood Hotels and Resorts, a White Plains, NY-based hotel conglomerate. Starwood took over management of the Sheraton-Palace, and ran it until Marriott International bought Starwood on 11/16/2015 for a staggering $13.6 billion.

Building Notes

President Warren G. Harding (1865-1923) died of a stroke at the Palace Hotel at 7:35 PM, 08/02/1923 in Room 8064 of the Palace Hotel #2. He had finished a speech at the University of Washington Stadium a few days previously, his last public oration.

Alteration

The Palace Hotel underwent a thorough renovation in 1989 costing approximately $170 million; the Garden Court renovated by Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM), San Francisco; Page and Turnbull, Incorporated, also participated in this recent renovation of the Sheraton Palace Hotel; fortunately for its owners, the Kyo-ya Company of Japan, all of the Palace's 100 chandeliers and stained glass dome of the Garden Court Restaurant had been removed for the restoration before the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 10/17/1989. Kyo-ya signed an agreement with ITT-Sheraton to manage the Palace after it acquired it. The renovated Palace #2 reopened to great local fanfare on 04/03/1991.

A recent proposal by SOM San Francisco would add a 60-story residential tower above the hotel, a relatively common practice in West Coast cities after 2000. In 2010, the Palace contained 553 rooms and 34 suites.

San Francisco Historic Landmark (1969): 18

PCAD id: 992