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

Designers: Lansburgh, G. Albert, Architect (firm); MacDonald and Applegarth, Architects (firm); Schultze and Weaver, Architects (firm); George Adrian Applegarth (architect); Gustave Albert Lansburgh (architect); Kenneth MacDonald Jr. (architect); Leonard B. Schultze (architect); S. Fullerton Weaver Sr. (architect)

Dates: constructed 1913-1915

17 stories, total floor area: 271,387 sq. ft.

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495 Geary Street
Tenderloin, San Francisco, CA 94102

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Begun in 1913, this large hotel, erected, in part, to serve tourists visiting the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, originally stood 14 stories tall and contained 300 rooms. In 1925-1926, an annex added 240 rooms, and three stories to the hotel. The enlarged Clift reopened on 02/12/1926. In 2017, the San Francisco County Assessor indicated the Clift had 405 rooms with 403 baths.

Building History

The Clift was one of the grand hotels of San Francisco, owned by the lawyer Frederick C. Clift (1867-1936). According to his obituary, Clift was born in Nevada County, CA, in 1867, and attended schools in Oakland, CA. He graduated from the Hastings Law School, and worked as a justice of the peace in Oakland before building this San Francisco hotel in 1913-1915. Frederick's father, William (d. 1900), was an investor who owned significant real estate holdings in San Francisco and Oakland, and who also maintained, for the time, a healthy portfolio of stocks and bonds. (See "William Clift's Will Is Filed," San Francisco Call, vol. 87, no. 159, 11/06/1900, p. 11.) "His owner-management of the Clift Hotel, built in 1915, continued until 1934, when he purchased hotel property in Santa Barbara and took up residence in that city." (See "In Memoriam: Frederick C. Clift," California History, vol. 15, no. 3, 09/1936, p. 289.) He died tin Santa Barbara at age 69 on 06/30/1936. Clift, who left a wife and two daughters, was a notable collector of early California historical items.

New York hotelier Ian Schrager (b. 07/19/1946) and his Morgans Hotel Group purchased the Clift Hotel in 1996, and engaged French designer Philippe Starck (born 01/18/1949) to redesign it; it reopened in 2001. He and Starck had worked on several other hotels around the world, most notably the Royalton in New York (1988), Paramount, New York, (1990), Delano in Miami (1995), and Hudson in New York (2000).

Building Notes

During the 1990s remodeling overseen by Schrager and Starck, a group of San Franciscans organized to preserve the Redwood Room, a bar inside the Clift Hotel. To a great extent, their agitation helped put pressure on the pair to maintain most original elements of the space. According to Barbara Thornburgh, writing in the Los Angeles Times: "Local residents were particularly concerned about what would become of their Redwood Room bar, which was designed by G. Albert Lansburgh in 1933 and paneled in curly redwood rumored to have been from a single tree. A committee of San Franciscans to Save the Redwood Room was formed, and local papers ran articles, cartoons and letters to the editor on the cause celebre. Starck and Schrager ultimately kept the redwood paneling, along with the Art Deco chandeliers, sconces and gilt ceiling, but jettisoned everything else--including the four reproduction Gustav Klimts that had been added in a 1978 remodel. "I detest anything fake," says Starck, who ironically replaced the imposters with five redwood-framed, wall-mounted plasma TV screens that project the same Klimt images digitally, as well as original video art. "We restored the Redwood Room in our own way, not because of the committee, but because it was the right thing to do," says Schrager. "Although everyone said they loved the Redwood Room, no one went there anymore. We wanted to bring back some of the glamour that had been lost with so many renovations and, at the same time, bring it into the 21st century." (See Barbara Thornburgh, Los Angeles, "Suites of San Francisco," published 12/16/2001, accessed 11/27/2017.) Following its renovation, the Clift Hotel contained 372 rooms.


An article in the Seattle Times of 02/14/1926 said of the Clift Annex: "In a few years the business had grown far beyond the 300-room capacity and an addition to the original structure, including three more stories, was planned. The new work was so cleverly planned and executed that the building bears none of the usual marks of reconstruction." (See "San Francisco Hotel Remodeled," Seattle Daily Times, 02/14/1926, p. 17.) This three-story addition was designed by the architectural firm of Schultze and Weaver, founded in 1921 in New York, NY, but which also established a Los Angeles branch that operated from 1922 until 1928. Schultze and Weaver became one of the most significant designers of luxury, high-rise hotels in the US during the 1920s, a boom period for this building type. The California office enabled the firm to design and supervise construction of the notable Biltmore Hotel on Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles in 1923-1924. Schultze and Weaver's addition to the Clift dated from 1924-1925 and was handled through this West Coast office. (See United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Hunter-Dulin Building, San Francisco," accessed 11/27/2017.)

PCAD id: 19520