Sitting on the pinnacle of San Francisco’s Nob Hill like a crown jewel is the breathtakingly beautiful Fairmont Hotel, a true San Francisco icon.
This architectural masterpiece is also the location of our upcoming FutureStack15 conference, November 11-13, and we couldn’t be more excited to hold this exciting event in such a stunning historic building. If you’re going (or just dream of visiting one day) read on for a short history of the hotel, along with highlights of its many charms.
More than a century of history
Irish immigrant James Graham Fair (“Bonanza Jim”), who made his fortune investing in Nevada silver mines, purchased the hilltop site at Mason and California Streets in the late 1800s with the intention of building a mansion there. After his death, his daughters Tessie Fair Oelrichs and Virginia Fair commissioned the architectural firm Reid & Reid to construct the Fairmont Hotel on the site, as an architectural monument to their father.
By 1906 the hotel was complete, with finishing touches being made before it opened to the public. But the ground beneath had other plans. In the early dawn hours of April 18, 1906, the Great San Francisco Earthquake spread destruction across the city—both from the earthquake itself and the consuming fires that raged in its wake—but the Fairmont remained standing.
Famed architect Julia Morgan, the first female graduate of the Paris École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts who would go on to design newspaper magnate Randolph William Hearst’s humble abode, was brought in to help repair the damage. On April 18, 1907, the Fairmont Hotel opened her doors to the public.
Throughout the twentieth century the Fairmont Hotel has played an important role in the history of San Francisco—and, in fact, the world: In 1945 the first charter of the United Nations was signed in the Garden Room, where a plaque commemorating the event can still be seen. When Benjamin Swig purchased the hotel after World War II, he hired famed designer Dorothy Draper to transform the interior into the opulent “Grand Venetian Palace” that still greets visitors today.
The Fairmont was the place to “see and be seen,” and over the decades its stunning Art-Deco supper club, the Venetian Room, was where hotel guests could rub shoulders with celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat “King” Cole, Bobby Short, Buddy Rich, and James Brown. This is also the venue where Tony Bennett first sang his memorable love letter to the City by the Bay, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”
The Fairmont goes Hollywood
The Fairmont Hotel has been memorialized in numerous films, including The Rock starring Sean Connery as well as Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (Kim Novak’s character lives at “The Brocklebank” at 1000 Mason Street, right across the street from the Fairmont). But perhaps the most memorable shot of the hotel’s famous exterior, flags from every nation proudly waving, appeared on the small screen: The prime time TV drama series Hotel, starring James Brolin and Connie Sellecca and based on the novel by Arthur Hailey, was set in the Fairmont San Francisco (although it was given the fictitious name of the St. Gregory Hotel).
It’s Tonga time!
The Fairmont is also home to a very special venue that no San Francisco visitor should miss: the world-famous Tonga Room! A masterpiece of mid-century “tiki room kitsch,” this colorful restaurant and bar—which just celebrated its 70th anniversary—features a central lagoon, indoor tropical rainstorms, and a full band that plays music on a floating island. In the evenings stop by for a signature cocktail such as a Tonga Mai Tai, Singapore Sling, or Scorpion Bowl.
Make sure to join FutureStack15 attendees in the Tonga Room on Friday, Nov. 13, from 8:00-9:00 a.m. for our special “Nerd of the Dog” Breakfast event. (Hey, we could have called it “Hair of the Nerd”!)
If you’re coming to FutureStack15 from out of town, the Fairmont Hotel is the place to stay to make sure you’re in the center of the action. Don’t miss your opportunity to experience this amazing hotel! We can’t wait to see you there.
Photos courtesy of the Fairmont San Francisco. Note: Event dates, speakers, and schedules are subject to change without notice.