The St. Francis on Union Square

The opening of the St. Francis Hotel in March 1904 caused carriage jams around Union Square as the city's elite waited in line to get in. The 250 room hotel had taken two years and $2.5 million to build.  The hotel was so popular that the owners quickly began planning to expand. 

On April 18, 1906, the Great Earthquake and Fire struck the city.  By the end of the day,  Union Square lay in ashes.  The St. Francis was gutted but all guests escaped. 

The hotel re-opened late in 1907 and the third tower was completed  in 1908 expanding the hotel to 450 rooms. 

By 1912 the hotel had expanded northward to Post Street.  From notes written on the back of the  picture below :   “The center of the city’s life and color under the management of James Woods.  1000 rooms.  Representing the furthest advancement in the science of service.”

The 32-story Pacific Tower (under construction below) opened in 1971, rising behind the historic hotel, adding more guest rooms and modern conference facilities.   

Historic photos courtesy San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library. 


It's hard not to be energized by Union Square at Christmas time.  The stores are all decked out for the holidays, there's an ice skating rink and a giant glittering tree. 

Yet despite it's cheery location, the St. Francis manages to be dark and gloomy.

The lobby of the Grand Dame of Union Square is dark and the large sugar castle rotating under the clock does little to lighten the mood.  The Castle was built in 2005 and it looks dusty and dreary -- more Halloween than Christmas.

Come on St. Francis.  You can do better.  Start working now on something amazing for next Christmas.  You have a great location.  Don't waste it.

Take note:  The Palace's display of gingerbread houses made by local celebrities, looked sweeter and more handmade and also raised funds for local organizations.  


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