History


At the turn of the century, the guardians of the Charles Crocker family announced plans to build The Westin St. Francis. Their vision was to make San Francisco the “Paris of the West,” and their stunning Union Square hotel would be their flagship. In the years since, The Westin has been the center of the city’s social, literary and artistic life.

In 1902, after studying all of Europe’s grand hotels – from those in Berlin, Vienna and Monaco to Claridge’s in London and The Ritz in Paris – construction on the original St. Francis began.

On March 21, 1904 – two years and $2.5 million later – the doors of The St. Francis opened. By seven o’clock that evening, a line of carriages and automobiles stretching three blocks waited to approach her brightly lit towers. The hotel became so popular that within six months the owners announced plans to add a third wing, two floors of apartments and a ballroom.

At 5:04 on the morning of April 18, 1906, the people of San Francisco were awakened by an earthquake. Gas lamps tipped, stoves toppled, electric wires broke, gas mains cracked, and water lines burst. Many buildings in the city of San Francisco were destroyed by the fires that erupted because of the earthquake. Following the earthquake, a tent city was set up in Golden Gate Park for people who had lost their homes and in the days that followed citizens banded together to clean up and rebuild their city.  During this time, the wine steward’s small fox terrier was found in the basement, hiding among the exploded bottles of wine of the fire-damaged St. Francis Hotel. The dog became a celebrity, his picture even appeared in the newspaper, and he was named Francis and became the symbol of the miraculous survival of the hotel.

After the Great Earthquake of 1906, the square was dubbed “Little St. Francis” because of the temporary shelter erected for residents of The St. Francis. Documented records of the opening were lost in the fire that destroyed the interior of the hotel’s original 250 rooms following the earthquake.

Within 40 days of the inferno, a temporary hotel of 110 rooms was erected in a court around the Dewey Monument in Union Square, and The St. Francis continued as a focal point of downtown San Francisco. The hotel refurbished its interior and re-opened with 450 guest rooms late in 1907. A third wing opened in 1908, and further additions followed on Post Street – making The St. Francis the largest hotel on the Pacific Coast. Construction of the 32-story Pacific Tower began early in 1969, adding a vast new complex of guest rooms, suites, venues and banquet facilities that opened in 1971.

Little St. Francis

The “Little St. Francis” opened its doors forty days after the 1906 earthquake and fire with 106 guests on its register.

First Cater-Out

The first St. Francis cater-out was served by Master Chef Victor Hirtzler and Maître d’hotel James Woods in Union Square following the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906.

Orchid Room & Patent Leather Bar

In 1939 an area off the lobby was transformed into the Cocktail Lounge, with a lucite ceiling, mirrored walls, and a sixty-foot serpentine bar, later re-named Orchid Room and Patent Leather Bar becoming San Francisco’s most popular meeting places.

Mural Room, 1935

The Mural Room was located in the same area that is now the front desk. This room was enjoyed for its big band entertainers, dancing and dining up to 1970. Headliners such as Merv Griffin, Hilo Hattie and Count Basie performed in this popular restaurant and nightclub.

Landmark Lobby, 1930's

Perhaps the many literary figures who flocked to The St. Francis inspired this reading room just off the lobby in the early thirties.

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