The first time I visited The Palace Hotel (2 New Montgomery St.) was 70 years ago in July 1944. I was stationed at the Navy base on Treasure Island, located under the Oakland Bay Bridge, halfway between Oakland and San Francisco.
History of the Palace: The original luxury hotel, built in 1875, was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. A guest then was the tenor, Enrico Caruso. Fortunately, he was unhurt and continued his great career. The new building opened in 1909, and has since been a favorite destination for business tycoons, politicians, royalty and entertainment stars. The hotel is now a Starwood property.
My first visit to the Palace: After admiring the beautiful lobby, artwork and hallways, I had lunch in the beautiful Palm Court with shipmates. I can’t remember the bill for steak, drinks and dessert, but for a seaman second class earning $55 a month in 1944, it must have been a pricey $5. According to the today’s luncheon menu, a single serving of endive and watercress salad costs three times as much.
My second visit to the Palace: After a year living in a tent with makeshift outhouse in wartorn Manila, the Philippines, in October 1945, I was on my way home. Before boarding the train, I booked a room at the Palace so I could spend a night in a peaceful bed and bathe in a real bathtub. I also wanted to dine on anything other than Spam in a real restaurant. The room rate was $10, and my dinner was $8.
My next visit to the Palace: Through the decades, I’ve been to the Palace many times for trade shows, business meetings and pleasure trips. Staying at the luxurious hotel has always been a pleasure because of its downtown location, beautiful decor, immaculate service, great dining and comfortable rooms.
I intend to mark the 70th anniversary of my first visit with another enjoyable experience at the Palace in July 2014. I’ve noted the current hotel room rate of about $200 a night, as well as menu prices at the Palm Court. Of course, they’re much higher than they were in the 1940s. However, considering my great memories, it’ll be well worth the pleasure of returning again to the beautiful San Francisco Palace.
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