Harris house (photos: Daniella Thompson, 2004 )
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Journal of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association
At the turn of the century, the guardians of the Charles Crocker family announced plans to build the finest hotel on the Pacific Coast. Their vision was to make San Francisco the Paris of the West. After studying all of Europes grand hotelsfrom those in Berlin, Vienna, and Monaco to Claridges in London to The Ritz in Parisconstruction on the original St. Francis Hotel began. Two years and $2.5 million later, on March 21, 1904, the doors of The St. Francis opened.
1904: The room off the main lobby is a ladies and gentlemens café. The architecture was inspired by the Cluny Museum in Paris.
1907: The space was restored after the earthquake and fire, and named The Café.
1913 or thereabouts: The space was turned into a reading room holding 4,000 books. Tables and Tiffany lamps gave hotel guests a place to write letters.
1939: The Patent Leather Bar was born. Black patent leather covered the walls, the banquettes and the 60-foot bar that snaked through the room. Ansel Adams photographs of the bar still hang in the St. Francis lobby. The ornate ceiling was covered, as were the windows; they wouldnt be opened for 40 years.
1939 or 40: Several vases of orchids were spread around the Patent Leather Bar, which had been dubbed the coffin corner by the media.
1954: The room became a cocktail lounge called The Terrace Room, with a bar, limited food service and kimono-clad waitresses. It wouldnt change for 26 years.
1980: The Compass Rose was designed with a sense of oriental wickedness, according to media at the time. The name came from the multipointed design on the back of a compass. Embracing cobras made up the bases for cocktail tables. Buddhist prayer screens from Burma provided focal points. Marble covered the stairs, and griffins decorated the bar. The ceiling was lifted to reveal the original design.
Sources: Westin St. Francis Hotel historian Howard Mutz and Chronicle files
The recent renovation of the gorgeous Compass Rose Room at the St. Francis Hotel, to make way for the unstoppable duck-confit mob, occurred with not even a fraction of the controversy over the threatened decapitation of the Doggie Diner head on Sloat Boulevard. [...]
I only hope that those wondrous frosted etched-glass partitions, the carved bar and plush rose banquettes were stored somewhere handy, so that when the buzz-crazed foodies desert the new St. Francis restaurant, as they will for the next fashionable joint, the old Compass Room can be restored to its former beauty.
This protest is made at this time, because of the removal of a large oak tree on Le Conte Avenue, near Le Roy Avenue, which tree is now in the process of removal, and which tree was in no dangerous condition, as claimed, and could have been brought back to the normal condition by the application of a small water-drip, as was suggested to the authorities by Mrs Perkins, et al, and as was done in the case of Le Conte and other oaks on the University Grounds with entire success.
On December 1, 1868, a number of professors were elected, among them the illustrious John Le Conte. The others were Professors Kellogg, Fisher, Joseph Le Conteafterward world-famousand others. Professor John Le Conte arrived in California in March, 1869, and soon thereafter he arranged the courses of instruction, set the requirements for admission, and issued a prospectus for the coming year. On June 14, 1869, in the absence of the president, Professor John Le Conte was appointed to discharge the duties of the office of president. Later his brother, Joseph Le Conte, became one of the strongest and most beloved professors of the university, to which he was devoted unto the day of his death. Much of the fame of the university is due to his illustrious career.
The garages purpose is to provide parking for the landmark Old Post Office, directly east of the Century, when Webster University moves in. Meanwhile, a larger lot to the north of the Old Post Office currently stands vacant. Yet, the garage will not be built on this obvious and far more inviting site. The vacant lot will instead become an urban plaza, in the name of providing new residents of downtown with a park and green space.