The Palace was born of the dreams of William Chapman Ralston and William Sharon. On October 2, 1875 the first Palace opened as the largest hotel in the world. A true innovator of its time, the Palace boasted 750 guest rooms, many with private baths. Modern technology was present with telegraph communication on each of the seven floors, in room call buttons and five rising rooms – or elevators as we know them today. The Palace led the way with services, and amenities suited for a lavish lifestyle. The hotel promptly became the place to stay and welcomed a parade of famous guests.
For over a century the Palace has been “arbiter” to business titans and the social elite, captivating celebrities, dignitaries, and corporate leaders with her charms. The Palace remained a world renowned hotel until it was destroyed by the fires of the 1906 earthquake. Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, plans began for a new Palace, destined for greatness once again.
The New Palace
On December 15, 1909 the new Palace opened its doors revealing a hotel that was grander than ever before. The Palace was a magnificent structure of steel, concrete, and brick, covering nearly two acres in the center of San Francisco.
Since its 1909 opening the Palace has remained a monument of San Francisco sharing many gifts with loyal citizens of San Francisco and visitors from around the world. Among the magical creations of 1909 are The Garden Court, The Palace Gold Service and The Pied Piper of Hamelin painting.
The Garden Court
In 1909 the breathtaking Garden Court was unveiled. Crowned by a 7 million dollar stained-glass dome and flanked by a double row of massive Italian marble Ionic columns, The Garden Court is legendary. Measuring 110 feet long by 85 feet wide the room is further enhanced by original chandeliers made of the finest Austrian crystal. Since its debut in 1909, The Garden Court has been recognized as one of the world’s most beautiful public spaces. The Garden Court holds many memories for those who have passed through its gilded archways. Shared stories of engagements, dinner dances, fabulous parties and fond childhood celebrations make The Garden Court a truly unforgettable place. Such turn-of-the-century grandeur is the signature of the Palace Hotel. In 1969, The Garden Court was designated San Francisco Landmark Number 18 by the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board. Today, The Garden Court is a San Francisco monument and the crown jewel of the Palace Hotel.
The Palace Gold Service
Created especially for the Palace reopening in 1909, the historic Palace Gold Service remains one of the oldest and most complete collections in the world. The gold rim china and stemware has been used on such occasions as a banquet for General U.S. Grant, a State Dinner for President William McKinley, and an official dinner for Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin
An important part of both Palace and San Francisco history, The Pied Piper was commissioned from Maxfield Parrish for the hotel’s reopening in 1909. Parrish was paid $6,000 to create his masterpiece. Inspired by the well-known tale, the painting depicts the Pied Piper leading citizens out of the town of Hamelin, Germany. The art features 27 expressive faces including those of his wife, mistress, two sons and Parrish himself as the Pied Piper. Measuring 6 feet by 16 feet, The Pied Piper is among the most important large-scale works that Maxfield Parrish created during his career. The painting has remained in the Palace Hotel bar for over a century with only three exceptions. During prohibition the painting was moved to the Rose Room. In 1989 it was transferred to the de Young Museum and displayed while the hotel underwent a major renovation. The third time was in 2013 for a much needed restoration. The painting returned home on August 22, 2013 and remains one of the many beloved treasures at the Palace Hotel.
The Historic Restoration
In January 1989, the Palace closed her doors for a major restoration. Twenty-seven months later, San Francisco witnessed the rebirth of the Palace Hotel. All areas of historic importance, including The Garden Court, were restored to their original grandeur and modern amenities were added to once again create a world-class hotel in San Francisco.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the American Institute of Architects, the California Preservation and the California Heritage Council, among others, have all honored the Palace’s restoration with design and preservation awards.
The Palace Culinary History
Palace chefs have always been known for their creativity and innovation. The famous Green Goddess Dressing was created at the Palace Hotel in 1923 by Executive Chef Phillip Roemer. The dressing was first served at a Palace dinner honoring actor George Arliss who was the lead in William Archer’s hit play “The Green Goddess”. The classic dressing continues to be used by celebrity chefs and featured in top culinary publications throughout the world. The Pied Piper Bar & Grill offers several cocktails honoring our history and famous guests. Voted one of the World’s Greatest Bars, The Pied Piper Bar & Grill has been a favored spot of locals and visitors for more than a century. Today, our chefs continue to make culinary history with menus comprised of 80% local, sustainable and farm fresh ingredients creating a dining experience that is indigenous to the Palace and San Francisco.
The Palace Hotel Today
The four diamond Palace Hotel is a member of The Luxury Collection, a glittering ensemble of more than 100 of the world’s finest hotels and resorts in more than 30 countries in bustling cities and spectacular destinations around the world. An icon in San Francisco, the Palace merges historic elegance with modern technology and innovation.
Our 2015 renovation revealed welcoming guest rooms with a fresh design approach that capture timeless warmth and elegance beautifully married with chic, contemporary elements. Modern amenities, custom created for well traveled global explorers and expansive space that boasts beauty and functionality are complimented by genuine service. The Palace stands as a beloved original inspiring those around her, and making the hotel a truly unforgettable destination.
Built on millions of memories, the magic of the Palace is felt the moment you walk through the front door. These fond remembrances are passed down through generations and become the traditions of tomorrow. We continue to honor our past with classic experiences such as Signature Tea and City Brunch. We celebrate new experiences with creative special events, exciting entertainment, technology savvy offerings and cutting edge cocktail and culinary adventure.
We welcome you to the Palace Hotel and look forward to creating your unforgettable memories for years to come.