Printer Friendly

A comeback for San Francisco's small, historic hotels.

A comeback for San Francisco's small, historic hotels

So you need a room in San Francisco? Something small, comfortable, and not too expensive? Something with a little charm, no doubt, and, of course, you'll expect that personal touch. Of course.

Pick up a copy of the current lodging guide published by the city's convention and visitor bureau, and it would seem easy: 143 hotels and motels, 18 bed-and-breakfast inns, and 6 hostels are listed, with room rates ranging from $6.50 per night to (ahem) $600.

But in a city noted for its accommodations, hotel lists don't tell the whole story. And in San Francisco the big news is the revival of the small hotel.

In the downtown area especially, this renaissance is due as much to history and luck as it is to foresight.

After the April 1906 earthquake and fire decimated downtown, a number of hotels --especially west of Union Square-- were rushed to completion for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Over the years, as the bordering Tenderloin district grew less safe, they gradually turned residential and shabby.

But as Union Square shopping has become chic, the fortunes of this area have improved; so have the appearances of an increasing number of these old buildings. It is no accident that five of the hotels we list have Post or Sutter addresses: both streets now sport fashionable shops, galleries, and restaurants. Some hotels are still family owned and operated.

These 14 small, historic hotels aren't for everyone. Business travelers won't necessarily find the range of special services (secretarial assistance, full room service, same-day laundry) that larger places offer. Some bed-and-breakfast inns, like the new Petit Auberge on Bush Street, with their quaint decor and more intimate surroundings, may appeal more to romantics.

Not included are a number of mediumsize hotels, including the Mark Twain, Vintage Court, and Campton Place, that can be as personalized as the smaller ones.

To keep our listing varied and useful, we set strict criteria. Hotels had to be in historic buildings (at least 50 years old) that were either restored to their original look or remodeled to maintain the character of the building. They had to have at least 35 rooms (larger than most bed-and-breakfast inns) but no more than 100. There had to be someone on duty at the front desk at all times. We inspected public areas and rooms at all hotels on at least two different days.

Most places don't have in-hotel parking. A few offer valet parking; otherwise, you park in nearby downtown garages for around $10 per day. Outlying areas can be worse: at several hotels, you must jockey for space on parking-restricted streets.

All prices quoted are double occupancy. Many hotels offer package discounts from time to time; most have business rates. Telephone numbers are all area code 415; toll-free (800) numbers are given for California and the rest of the U.S.

WEST OF UNION SQUARE

The Andrews Hotel, 624 Post St., 94109; 563-6877, or (800) 622-0557 (Calif.), (800) 227-4742 (other states). "Cozy' would be one way to describe rooms here; "tight' would be another. The preservation of much of the original floor plan and scale of this 48-room early-1900 hotel has left rooms small but charming. And while the plain furniture doesn't add to the atmosphere, rooms are clean, comfortable, and not overpriced at $76 double and $96 for a suite, including continental breakfast.

The also-small (49-seat) Post Street Bar and Cafe (928-2080) off the lobby specializes in American regional cuisine, but we like it best for its fresh fish specials.

Hotel Beresford Arms, 701 Post St., 94109; 673-2600. Taking the children along? One of the five suites here may do just nicely: roomy, it sleeps four to six (mom and dad get their own bedroom) and has a full kitchenette--for $90 plus $5 for each child. Rooms with two double beds and a tiny kitchenette start at $70.

Yes, there's a faded feel to the rather plain furnishings, and several beds we sat on were tired, but this 90-room hotel is still a good cut above a cheaper motel out on Lombard. Even if you're not a guest, take a peek at the ornate detailing in the lobby.

Cornell Hotel, 715 Bush St., 94108; 421-3154. It's plain, it's old, it's definitely not for everybody, but both times we checked the rooms were neat, clean, and a bargain at $50 (you can stay for seven nights for $295 to $315, including five breakfasts and dinners).

The restaurant Jeanne d'Arc downstairs, with festive country French decor, offers filling, four-course dinners for $13 to $16.

Kensington Park, 450 Post St., 94102; 788-6400 or (800) 553-1900. Just a few doors off Union Square, this Gothic-style 1924 hotel was leased to a private company that completely renovated the rooms in 1984. It was originally an Elks Lodge; the Elks still have private facilities on several floors. All rooms ($105, including continental breakfast) have new, heavy custom mahogany furniture and brass fixtures; those on the upper floors have views.

For information on what will be playing at The Theater-on-the-Square on the second floor, call 433-9500.

The Orchard Hotel, 562 Sutter St., 94102; 433-4434, or (800) 433-4434 (Calif.), (800) 433-4343. Shoppers will love the location: so close to Laura Ashley, Maxwell Galleries, Williams-Sonoma, and other shops that you'll never have to holster your credit card. The 1907 hotel was completely restored in 1984 with mahogany furniture, new baths, and well-stocked mini-bars. Doubles start at $85; ask about weekend packages.

A small bar behind the lobby is a nice place for an after-shopping drink; Annabel's Restaurant has a continental menu with fairly expensive prices.

Hotel Savoy, 580 Geary St., 94102; 441-2700, or (800) 652-1858 (Calif.), (800) 227-3844. Close to theaters, this 83-room 1915 hotel was renovated five years ago. Note the gorgeous wood paneling in the lobby. The standard doubles ($72) still have steam heat, high ceilings, and simple but comfortable furnishings; for great street views, ask for a corner queen. Our undercover checkers commented on how friendly the staff was.

York Hotel, 940 Sutter St., 94109; 885-6800, (800) 327-3608. With use of its exercise gym, limousine service, and a continental breakfast (in your room if desired) included in the $79 rate, it's no wonder this 94-room hotel is often full; ask about weekend packages. Built in 1922 (the hotel was used in Hitchcock's Vertigo) and totally renovated in 1984, the spacious lobby and rooms have a contemporary feel.

Reserve seats ahead for the cabaret shows in The Plush Room off the lobby.

VAN NESS CORRIDOR

Abigail Hotel, 246 McAllister St., 94102; 861-9728, or (800) 553-5575 (Calif.), (800) 243-6510. Close to Civic Center, this 62-room hotel--updated last March--is still used by performers for the opera and symphony; on one of our afternoon visits, a brass trio was practicing in a room down the hall.

There's a comfortable British feeling about the place. Standard doubles ($65) are smallish and furniture is a bit of an eclectic mix, but rooms are clean and comfortable. For some special performances, such as opening night at the opera, a horse and carriage will take you to the theater in style; you can also arrange your own private carriage charter in advance. Three meals are served Tuesdays through Saturdays in J.A. Melon's off the lobby.

Inn at the Opera, 333 Fulton St., 94102; 863-8400, or (800) 423-9610 (Calif.), (800) 325-2708. Muted pastels, classic furniture, impeccable decor--polished elegance is the statement in every corner of this 48-room hotel. Opened last May after a total renovation, the 1927 building is a short walk from the opera, symphony, and Civic Center. Standard doubles start at $95, and prices range up to $165 for a two-bedroom suite; ask about special package rates.

The intimate Act IV Lounge serves breakfast, delicate lunches, light fare in the evenings, and a Sunday brunch at $15.

The Lombard Hotel, 1015 Geary St., 94109; 673-5232, or (800) 327-3608 (Calif.), (800) 227-3608. A half-block off the main drag of Van Ness Avenue and five blocks closer to Civic Center than to downtown, The Lombard may be best suited for the true tourist who wants to drive to see everything.

At $62, the rooms are simply furnished but comfortable (a $68 package includes parking and continental breakfast); a small restaurant (The Gray Derby) off the lobby serves three meals.

The Majestic, 1500 Sutter St., 94109; 441-1100, or (800) 252-1155 (Calif.), (800) 824-0094. At our deadline, two of the four floors of this 1902 quasi-Victorian were about ready to open after nearly total renovation of the building.

Rooms we saw were richly furnished with 19th-century antiques and custom furniture, including hand-painted canopied beds. Doubles start at $85; by now the rest of the 60 rooms should be open; a restaurant should be ready late in April.

The Queen Anne, 1590 Sutter St., 94109; 441-2828. Once Miss Marylake's School for Girls, this 1890 Queen Anne Victorian was meticulously restored five years ago and filled with English and American antiques. Nine of the 49 rooms have fireplaces. Rates, starting at $90, include breakfast in your room and afternoon tea in the parlor. Dark wood paneling, Oriental carpets, and a grand staircase topped with a stained-glass skylight enhance the comfortable feeling of an old-world club.

IN THE NEIGHBORHOODS

El Drisco Hotel, 2901 Pacific Ave., 94115; 346-2880. If only the rooms were refurbished in this wonderful 1903 Edwardian! Since buying it in 1984, Ronald Lockyer has restored the narrow lobby and lower dining room (breakfast and dinner daily except Tuesdays) to a comfortable period elegance that matches the overstuffed stately Pacific Heights neighborhood. There is even a cozy sherry bar where you can warm body and spirit after a walk through evening fog.

Lockyer is now beginning to tackle the 40 rooms, where shag carpeting, exhausted furniture, and ancient baths still dominate. Rates start at $63; for $80 to $99, you can get a rear room with grand city views.

Stanyan Park Hotel, 750 Stanyan St., 94117; 751-1000. Across the street from Golden Gate Park and around the corner from Haight Street, this 1904 Victorian with 36 rooms is more a suburban retreat than a city hotel, and that is much of its charm. The basic double is $58, but the larger rooms ($68 and $88) with street views and reproduction antiques are nicer.

Bargains for visiting families or small groups are the suites ($105 to $145): six spacious apartments with living and dining rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens.

Photo: Moose head, reception desk, foyer, and restaurant all add to the cozy atmosphere of the Abigail's postage stamp-size lobby. Outside, guests board chartered carriage for Civic Center tour

Photo: Discreet display and classic design of small hotel signs seldom detract from curbside look of historic buildings

Photo: 1904 Victorian. Next to Golden Gate Park, building was spared ravages of '06 quake and fire

Photo: 1910 post-quake. Brick exterior typical of post-quake rebuilding hides Victorian-style lobby

Photo: 1924 Gothic. Ornate flatarch entry to beautifully detailed lobby was originally doorway to Elks Club

Photo: Hot game keeps children busy in roomy suite at Stanyan Park; suites are less expensive than two double rooms at many hotels

Photo: Harp and flowers are part of popular Sunday brunch in the recently restored dining room at El Drisco

Photo: Huff, puff, grunt, groan: mirrored fitness room at the York will tire you out if San Francisco's hills haven't

Photo: Light glints from two-tiered crystal chandelier in Kensington Park lobby, typical of detailing found in old hotels
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Sunset
Article Type:Directory
Date:Apr 1, 1986
Words:1916
Previous Article:Pro or con? Utah's big new sculpture.
Next Article:By dome cars or diesel...Alaska rail adventures.
Topics:


Related Articles
SAN FRANCISCO'S HYDE PARK SUITES, YORK HOTEL AND RAPHAEL HOTEL JOIN GRAND TRADITION HOTELS
KIMCO HOTEL & RESTAURANT MANAGEMENT CO. ASSUMES MANAGEMENT OF LANDMARK SIR FRANCIS DRAKE HOTEL
NEW PARTNERSHIP PLANS FAIRMONT RENOVATION AND EXPANSION; SWIG FAMILY AND SAUDI PRINCE ALWALEED TEAM FOR NEXT GENERATION OF GRAND INNKEEPING
THE WESTIN ST. FRANCIS TO OFFER $129 RATES OVER LABOR DAY INCLUDING FREE MEALS FOR KIDS
THE FAIRMONT HOTEL ENCHANTS VALENTINE COUPLES
THE ST. ANTHONY HOTEL IN SAN ANTONIO AFFILIATES WITH CROWNE PLAZA HOTELS AND RESORTS
FORMER CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER SUES FAIRMONT HOTEL AND ITS CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER; COMPLAINT ALLEGES CORPORATE EXCESSES AND FRAUD
FAIRMONT ANNOUNCES LANDMARK DEAL IN BOSTON FAIRMONT ADDS THE COPLEY PLAZA TO ITS ROSTER OF GRAND HOTELS
Fairmont Hotels Announces 25th Consecutive Quarter of Record Results in the Midst of Major Expansion
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts To Manage Luxury Private Residence Club In San Francisco.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters