Nob Hill - Stanford, Hopkins and Flood

Stanford Court Hotel
Creighton and Withers, architects  1911

In 1876, Leland Stanford, president of the Central and Southern Pacific Railroads, built a $2 million mansion on this site, the largest home in California at the time. The gray stone retaining walls surrounding  the property, and the Stanford name, are all the remain from that mansion today.

Jane Stanford owned the property until her death in 1905.  After the mansion burned to the ground in 1906 Earthquake and Fire, the property was sold to  a developer who built the current  building as luxury apartments.  In 1970s,  it was remodeled and re-opened as a hotel.  The hotel underwent an extensive renovation in 2008. 


Leland Stanford mansion, with Hopkins mansion behind, 1877

Mark Hopkins Hotel
Weeks and Day, architects  1925

Mark Hopkins Mansion, circa 1880
Hopkins was a miserly man with simple tastes, but apparently the same was not true of his wife, Mary.  In 1875, Mary began construction of a house on the hillside property behind Stanford's. Three years, $3 million dollars and several architects later, she moved in alone. Mark died before the house was complete.

Mary Hopkins soon married an artist who had helped her design the house named Edwin Searles. The couple moved to the East Coast and began building another mansion there. When Mary died in 1891, Searles donated the house to the University of California for use as an art school and gallery, the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art. 

 After the mansion burned in 1906, the Art Institute re-built a smaller building here. In 1925, it moved to its current location on Lombard Street. The Nob Hill property was sold to developer George D. Smith who built the current hotel.

In 1939, the hotel's penthouse suite was converted into the Top of the Mark bar and restaurant, offering a 360-degree view of San Francisco. It became a popular gathering place for soldiers during World War II. Wives and girlfriends would stand along the northwest windows to watch the ships sail out through the Golden Gate. It soon became known as Weeper’s Corner.

Flood Mansion
1886  Augustus Laver, architect
1910  Expansion by Willis Polk 


Silver Bonanza King James Flood was almost sixty years old when he began planning this house. He lived in it less than a year before he died. Impressed with New York brownstones being built at the time by the Vanderbilts and others prominent families, Flood had the pre-cut sandstone exterior brought by ship from Connecticut. It’s said that Flood employed one man full-time to polish the bronze fence, which now carries the graceful patina of age.

After the home was gutted by fire in 1906, Flood’s daughter Cora sold the wreck to the Pacific Union Club. The Club held an architectural competition, but the winning design by Albert Pissis called for lots of white marble and proved too expensive. The project was then turned over to Willis Polk, the only competitor willing to work with the existing structure. 

Flood mansion in ruins, 1906
Polk added a third floor and built semicircular wings on the east and west sides, using brownstone imported from the original quarry. The interior of this very exclusive club includes five dining rooms, a swimming pool, a squash court and well as hotel rooms for the all-male members.

All photos courtesy:  San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

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