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Fairmont Hotel San Francisco
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrArguably the most beautiful building in San Francisco, and certainly the most notable hotel in the city, the Fairmont Hotel has stood the test of time and gone through some of the greatest events in the city's history.
Modeled after a Venetian palace, and later touched up with a bit of Californian flair, the hotel has served kings and queens, heads of state, and has been the San Francisco residence of every U.S. President since Taft. It was renovated at the start of the 21st century with updates topping $85 million USD. The renovations and restorations added a world-class spa and updated the 591 guest rooms, suites, and the 6,000 square foot penthouse. Marble tubs now share the space with flat-screen televisions and WiFi Internet, and the 3 world-class restaurants feature all of their original charm and beauty while boasting top-of-the line kitchens and services.
The Fairmont San Francisco at the top of Nob Hill is also the only spot in San Francisco where each of the city's historic cable car lines meet.
HistoryConstruction of the Fairmont started at the top of Nob Hill in 1902 as a monument to Bonanza Jim Graham Fair, a silver baron and one of San Francisco's wealthiest citizens at the time of his death in 1894. His daughters could not keep up with the massive project and sold the hotel in 1906 just 2 weeks before the infamous Great Earthquake of 1906.
While the nearly-completed Fairmont survived the quake, unlike most of the city, 24 hours later, the fires that surged through the city finally climbed Nob Hill and the Fairmont was engulfed in flames. When all was said and done, the Fairmont survived. It was structurally sound, but needed restoration, repair, and renovation. The final work was overseen by Julia Morgan, the first woman to ever graduate from Paris' famed Ecole des Beaux Arts . Within a year she had transformed the fire-eaten hotel into the opulent jewel of the city. By 1908, Tessie (Fair) Oelrichs bought the hotel back and was the owner/hostess of the most grand establishment in the west.
The Fairmont hosted many of the nation's whos-who including Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Taft, and many of America's Hollywood 'royalty'. The hotel was sold again and through the years of the Great Depression it fell into disrepair. After World War II, the hotel was sold yet again and this time Dorothy Draper, one of the most skilled decorators of the age, was hired to bring the hotel back to its former prominence. She decided to mix the theme of Venetian palace with the Californian gold rush. To contrast the vast halls, marble columns and staircases, and elegant chandeliers, she added red carpets, hues taken from wildflowers, and a “flamboyant atmosphere”. The hotel was instantly a success as Presidents, kings and queens, movie and music stars, all who were lucky enough to get a room, once again flocked to the hotel.
The Fairmont soon became the meeting place for the newly founded United Nations. A plaque remembering the drafting of the UN's original charter is still located outside the Garden Room along with the flags of the original signatory's countries.
The Venetian Room reopened in 1947 and was one of the most renown supper clubs in nation. It featured top quality food along with big name entertainers. The most notable moment of the Venetian Room: it is the place where Tony Bennett first sang ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’. Other restaurants such as the Tonga room, which has an island atmosphere, and the Cirque Room, known as the first bar in San Francisco after prohibition, were added to the hotel as well.
The hotel's penthouse was the built in 1926 as a private residence. It was built with a Persian theme boasting arched doorways and windows with a 2-story library including a game room, a rotunda with constellations in gold leaf over a painted night sky, and a map room. The penthouse later became a luxury accommodation for Presidents, heads of state, and celebrities. It can still be rented today.
The 23-story Tower topped by the Crown Room with its 360-degree view of the city was added in 1961 and still boasts the best views of San Francisco available.
The hotel also features a brilliant rooftop garden with fountains, trees and flowers, and a walking path.
Rooms and AmenitiesThe Fairmont is a great place to wander around and simply take in the age-old beauty and old-world craftsmanship of an ornate hotel palace. However, if you should choose to stay as a guest in the hotel you will have a choice of 10 different room styles, or — if you can swing it — the Penthouse.
The rooms range from Deluxe rooms in the Tower which feature marble baths with separate shower, tub, and great skyline views to Tower Suites that can accommodate up to 12 people and sport Bose living room systems and telescopes to enhance the already outstanding views. Golden Gate Suites one-up the Tower Suite with breathtaking panoramas of the city and bay including the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the Transamerica Tower. In the main building, the rooms range from the Fairmont rooms with and without exterior views to Balcony Suites with ornate filigree terraces, separate business, and sitting areas and grand decor.
As a guest, you will enjoy all the standard luxury hotel amenities including plush, terry cloth robes, luxury shower items; pillow top beds with extra long mattresses and high class linens, and business services such as data ports and Internet access. You will also have access to guest services such as babysitting, 24-hour laundry, and a top-flight concierge.
RestaurantsThe Fairmont currently has 3 main restaurants.
The Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar continues to provide delicious Asian dishes and exotic, tropical drinks in the atmosphere of a tropical rainforest.
The Laurel Court and Bar is fine dining at its best with locally grown, fresh ingredients, fresh seafood from the San Francisco Bay and a worldwide wine list coupled with outstanding boutique wines from the local area.
Cafe Centro is the perfect place to start or end your day with illy Italian gourmet coffee paired with rich Ghirardelli chocolate and delectable sweets and savories.
The honey used in all of the soups, dressings, pastries, added to tea services, and the Fairmont special Honey Saison Beer served up in the Laurel room comes directly from the hotel's on-site culinary garden.
Do remember that this is a historic, luxury hotel and not a new, upscale, trendy establishment. While the hotel is refined and ornate with fantastic rooms, its greatest features are the excellent service and outstanding staff. Next to the great people, is the ideal location with stunning views and the awesome restaurants and spas.
From the San Francisco AirportRental cars and taxis are available at the airport. A taxi will run you about $ 50 USD - $ 60 USD . You can also arrange a shuttle from the area one level above the baggage claim. Airport Express runs 4-10 PM and is about $ 15 USD one way. The hotel does not offer airport pickup.
DrivingFrom the airport, take the 101N and exit Mission toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Turn right on Mission/101N. Keep straight to go onto Van Ness Avenue and turn right on Bay Street, left on Larkin, left on Point North, and you will be there when you get to Point North and Polk streets. Note: there is no self-parking so you have to use the valet at about $ 55 USD /day unless you park near Ghirardelli Square at the car park that runs about $ 32 USD /day without in/out privileges.
The hotel has a car service that can take you around within 2 miles of the hotel, but it is first come, first served.
As noted earlier, all lines of the cable cars stop in front of the hotel.
Most of San Francisco is walkable and many of the locals walk a lot due to the limited parking. DO NOTE that the city has very steep hills and if you are not used to walking them a single block can seem like 20.
Other Things to See and Do in San FranciscoIn addition to the enjoying the extreme luxuries and opulent décor of the Fairmont, while in San Francisco, there are countless other places to see and things to do while you are there. A few examples include: Visit the monolithic Transamerica Pyramid, drive, bike or walk the Golden Gate Bridge; visit the infamous prison, Alcatraz; explore the distinct and historic San Francisco neighborhoods (Presidio, Sea Cliff, Nob Hill, Chinatown, etc), stroll or eat your way through Fisherman's Wharf; or take a short drive out of town and experience the wonders of Yosemite National Park. While this is just a short list of a few of the more popular attractions, it should be enough to get you started!
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Author: Robert. Last updated: May 08, 2015