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Envisioned by William Chapman Ralston and William Sharon, the Palace Hotel was designed as the American counterpart to the grand hotels of Europe. Financed by Ralston’s Bank of California, the $5 million investment started construction of what was reputedly the largest, most luxurious, and costliest hotel in the world. On October 2, 1875, the Palace Hotel officially opened to capture the hearts of the American public.

Originally built by architect John P. Gaynor, the majestic building hailed 7,000 windows, 11-foot high ceilings and an unprecedented opulence. Today’s Garden Court is a gateway to the splendors and remarkable innovations within. The hydraulic elevators—an engineering marvel for the time—were dubbed “rising rooms.” In each of the lavish guest rooms, an electronic call button allowed guests to “ring” for anything they desired.

The Palace Hotel quickly gained prominence among the traveling elite. On April 18, 1906, a devastating earthquake hit. While the hotel survived the quake structurally, it was decimated in the ensuing fire that swept most of downtown. It took three years of rebuilding under the supervision of New York firm Trowbridge & Livingston before the Palace Hotel would reopen in 1909. It was for this second opening that artist Maxfield Parrish was commissioned to paint the 16-foot mural “The Pied Piper of Hamlin” that is displayed to this day in the Pied Piper bar.

Resuming its place among elite society, the new Palace Hotel attracted dignitaries, business moguls, and celebrities alike. Presidents Harrison, McKinley, Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Harding, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Clinton all spent time here. John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and Oscar Wilde were guests. Leaving its mark on the 20th century, the hotel hosted President Woodrow Wilson in support of the Versailles Treaty and, in 1945, catered the banquet honoring the opening session of the United Nations.

After 80 years of exceptional hospitality, the hotel was closed for an extraordinary refurbishment. The Palace Hotel re-opened to restored grandeur in 1991.

Throughout her lifetime as a landmark of the city, the Palace Hotel has witnessed history and evolved with the times. With the introduction of the new Palace in 1909, the award-winning 1989 restoration, and the reveal of our 2015 renovation, the Palace remains a first in time and place.