Monday, January 13, 2014

The Baldwin Hotel -- January 13, 2014

In 1878, Elias J "Lucky" Baldwin built Baldwin's Hotel and Theatre at the corner of Powell and Market in San Francisco.  It is ironic that the article says "But the precautions against fire are so complete that it seems that the necessity for the alarms scarcely exists."  The hotel burned to the ground in 1898. 

From The Industries of San Francisco: Her Rank, Resources, Advantages, Trade, Commerce & Manufactures ; Conditions of the Past, Present and Future, Representative Industrial Institutions, Historical, Descriptive, and Statistical by Frederick H Hackett, 1884. 


Northeast corner Powell and Market Streets.

Conspicuous among the buildings which ornament the city is that of the Baldwin Hotel. There is no handsomer, more convenient, or better conducted hotel in America. It is centrally located on Market Street, the great artery of the city, at the corner of Powell, with entrances on both streets. The Baldwin derives its name from the founder, E. J. Baldwin, the California millionaire. It was formally opened to the public in February, 1877. It has a capacity for the accommodation of about 500 guests. The cost of the building was $2,000,000, and the cost of the furniture $300,000. The pay-roll of the 100 regular employes averages $4,000 a month. The site of the Baldwin is the triangular block bounded by Market, Powell, and, Ellis Streets. In its present proprietor and manager, H. H. Pearson, the patrons of the Baldwin are fortunate in the possession of one whose long training and natural aptitude have made him what he has long been recognized as being—the most successful, because the most satisfactory, hotel-keeper on this coast of hotel patronizing people. The Baldwin is within a few minutes' easy walk of every theater, besides having a handsome little theater within its own great court. It is on the line of half a dozen street-car routes to all the bay ferries; the most perfect cable car lines in the city starting from the ferries, passing the Baldwin entrance; Powell Street, on which is one of the Baldwin entrances, leads by a short, easy, pleasant walk to the dome of aristocratic Nob Hill, with its great mansions and wonderful views; it is in the center of the great retail store division of the city, and in every way imaginable its location is all that its patrons could wish. But, after all, the guests of any hotel are most directly concerned as to its interior arrangement and its management. In regard to the latter feature, the name of its manager carries all that need be said. A life-long training in first-class hotels has fitted him to control such an institution as the Baldwin in just the manner he does, which is to the complete satisfaction of every guest who has ever had a day's or a year's relation with him. His knowledge of the markets of San Francisco, or, in fact, of the larder resources of California, shows itself in the unequaled excellence of the Baldwin table. In this department he is ably assisted by the famous chef, J. P. Forer, whose domain in the great kitchen is a wonder-land of all that goes to make up the detail of the French art of catering for good dinners. The handsome exterior of the Baldwin only suggests the rich and tasteful elegance of its interior. The hotel was originally constructed with the sole idea of combining comfort, elegance and convenience ; and a stroll through any one of its floors shows how thoroughly that idea was carried out. In connection with every suite of rooms are bath-rooms and closets; and every room in the house is in direct connection with a system of electric signal service, either for the call of house servants or outside messengers. The house throughout is elegantly furnished, and the comfort of the guests is further provided for by a large, carefully trained, and well organized corps of servants, waiters and stewards. The main office of the hotel, from which ascends the grand stairway and principal elevator, is a spacious apartment, finished in marble, polished wood, plate glass, and gleaming silver. It is the order of the house that the office shall be kept clear of idlers. But, as handsome as the office is, it could have no charms sufficient to keep gentlemen of leisure any length of time, for adjoining it is a seductive reading-room, stocked with a full supply of current literature ; and next to that is one of the largest and most fashionable billiard parlors in the city. Beyond the billiard parlor is a richly appointed bar, and on the opposite side of the office is the hotel barber shop. The office is in charge of Chief Clerk Brush Hardenbergh, well-known to all coast travellers. The Cashier is M. A. French, known to hotel guests since the days of the old Rassette House. The night clerk is H. G. Pearson, son of the proprietor, who is displaying his father's genius for the hotel business. There is one feature of a hotel of which guests have the liveliest recollection, which in the Baldwin is one of the most prominent—the dining-room. Every guest the Baldwin ever had is a lifelong advertiser of the superb excellence of its dining-room—considered entirely aside of the meals served there. It is safe to say that there is in the United States no more handsome room for the enjoyable purposes to which it is set apart. Wisely located on the second floor, and opening on Ellis and Powell Streets, it is away from the noise of the restless rush of traffic on Market Street, and delightfully quiet, as all dining-rooms should be. Its handsome interior must be seen to be appreciated. Its perfect arrangements as to light, both natural and artificial, make it bright and cheerful, whether at a midday lunch or a midnight banquet. The house is fitted with self-acting fire indicators and alarms. A heat of 110 degrees, Fahrenheit, instantly acts upon the automatic alarm, which sounds, not only in the office, but also in the rooms of guests. But the precautions against fire are so complete that it seems that the necessity for the alarms scarcely exists. Three watchmen are especially engaged all night as a fire patrol; and their watchfulness is assured by the assistance of a patent watchman's clock, which indicates the fact of half-hourly rounds by the patrol. This brief sketch of some of the points of excellence of the Baldwin is sufficient to demonstrate to the stranger what is attested by every guest—that it is at once the handsomest, most convenient and best-conducted hotel on the coast.

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