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Old Piedmont Hotel picture_edited.jpg

1871, THE HOTEL:

The Overland Monthly 1901:

A hotel was built on the site of the present Club-House, and the sulfur springs were somewhat improved, blue gum trees were planed, and rustic seats were prepared. In those early days it became a very popular resort. At first the grounds were open to the public, but some years ago the tract passed into the hands of the Realty Syndicate, which company has made all the varied improvements mentioned at the commencement of this article.

1887 map of the piedmont hotel and sprin

Piedmont Post, July 15, 2020:

(Need to research more facts of the hotel)

The hotel had a wide veranda, 20 first-class bedrooms and 2 suites, 5 dining rooms, telegraph service, and a Grand Saloon (for men only) with an elegant mahogany bar, billiard table, spittoons and a pot-bellied stove. The ladies’ entrance allowed women to enter the hotel, avoid the saloon and proceed directly to the main dining room with its crystal chandelier, linen tablecloths and fine china. The hotel quickly became a popular destination and drew visitors who passed a pleasant Sunday at Piedmont Springs, strolling the meandering paths to the mineral springs and enjoying an excellent lunch or dinner. The dining rooms served fresh meat from nearby ranches, milk and butter from Blair’s Dairy, and fresh fruit and vegetables from its gardens. The hotel also offered fine wine and liquor for those who did not care for mineral water.

S. F. Newsletter (1881-82), p19:

Piedmont Springs, Alameda County, undoubtedly constitute one of the most delightful suburban resorts to be found around San Francisco. They are located within about three miles of the city of Oakland, in the center of beautiful rural surroundings, and in a most salubrious and pleasant climate. The water of the Springs themselves possesses a great many medicinal properties, but it is as a pleasure resort and a country residence, rather than as a sanitarium, that these Springs will be found most useful. The hotel is kept by Mr. Frank Smith, who seems to be a most accomplished and experienced caterer. It is kept in apple-pie order ; the beds are comfortable and clean, and the rooms are neat and tidy and elegantly furnished. The table is first-class, and the best that the market affords is cooked and served in a manner that is calculated to tempt the appetite of an epicure. The wine cellar is stocked with the very best of beverages, which are sold at moderate prices, and all the appurtenances and appointments of the place are elegant and refined. For the cooped up denizens of the city, who are obliged to be at their places of business every day, there could be no more convenient country residence than the Piedmont Springs Hotel. The trip there only consumes about an hour and a quarter, by boat and car, and is itself a delightful excursion through bewitching scenery. The tram-cars leave Washington street, Oakland, for the Springs every half-hour on Saturdays and Sundays, and every hour on other days of the week. The hotel rates are as low as those of any first-class hotel could possibly be, and everything that can possibly be done for the comfort and convenience of the guests is done. Those who are looking for a convenient country residence for the Summer months should give this place a trial.

Oakland Tribune - Sat - Oct. 16, 1897:

I should here mention that Blair's Park property should cover 450 acres, and was originally intended to be included in Piedmont Park, as it is shown on the first map, but Blair backed out of the arrangement. It was unfortunate for him that he did, for he would have had his property improved and received a good price for it. Piedmont Park property has sold as high as $3,000 per acre in plots and about double that price in lots. The two tracts combined aggregate 800 acres.

In addition to what I have mentioned we are to have a park within a park, and this will be within a few hundred feet of the Sather tract. The Piedmont Springs Hotel tract, or that portion originally known as Bushy Dell, where the sulfur springs are located, is being highly improved already water falls, cascades and rustic bridges are being made in the dell, and mare rare plants and choice trees have been planted. In this tract there are thirty-five acres, all of which is to be handsomely laid out in the winding paths, grass plants and beautiful flowering plants. Of course there is something back of this. It means in the near future a handsome and commodious hotel will delight every Oaklander to take our visitors; where one can overlook all of this beautiful park, view the bay for thirty miles north and south and see the ships sail out of the Golden Gate. Where can you find anything to compare to it?


Oct. 15, 1897


The San Francisco Call - Sun - Mar. 22, 1891

"The house is well-kept, strictly first-class, and there is an entire absence of that disorderly and most undesirable element that is sometimes found about places of public resort."

The ultimate Victorians of the continental side of San Francisco Bay by Richey, Elinor

Publication date 1970:

The new foothills suburb of Piedmont was skillfully promoted by the Piedmont Land Company for its exclusiveness, but also as a "hillside health district," on the strength of a sulphur spring that bubbled near a resort hotel in a picturesque ravine called the "Bushy Dell" that was popular with courting couples. Minimized was Piedmont's abundance of coyotes, which prowled the early estate's lawns and gardens, and the acute shortage and costliness of water, which prompted even the rich to ration their children to two baths a week, often two to a tub.

piedmont springs hotel big-2.jpg

The Oakland Tribune - Wed - Apr. 29, 1891

bar room shot - Alameda_Daily_Argus_Thu_

Beer Gardens, Bills and an almost lethal brawl:

The San Francisco Examiner  - Fri - Nov. 18, 1892:

(Feb. 3, 1892) F. M. Smith, the borax king, bought the hotel and twenty-six acres of land surrounding it and later transferred the property to Mutual Investment Union, of which he is president for $75,000, J. D. was lessee of the hotel at that time, but soon afterward Smith made a new lease to F. D Black and J. B. Marvin of San Francisco. The partners had a difficulty and the question of who owned the lease caused a six months' battle in court. The suit was decided by giving Black the hotel for a year and then transferring it to Marvin. When Marvin came into possession about a year ago he had to fight all Piedmont before the Board of Supervisors to get his license to conduct a saloon on the premises, and even after the license was granted many threats were made against the place.

The Oakland Tribune - Wed - Apr. 29, 1891:

Marvin opened a broadside on his once friend, Black, and asked for a restraining order preventing Black from selling liquor at the Piedmont Hotel on the ground that he secured his license through fraud, and on further ground that the business at the hotel will be injured by the sale of liquor... Hugh Craig (and other residents)....deposed that they are residents if Piedmont and are among the nearest to the Piedmont Hotel. In their opinion the sale of liquor at a public bar at the hotel is conducive to intoxication and disorder not easily controlled, being removed from police protection, and therefore adverse in its effect in maintaining the character of the hotel as a desirable first-class resort for families and others seeking quiet entertainment.​

San Francisco Chronicle on Jan. 17, 1892 said a beer garden and concert hall was going to be built at the Piedmont Hotel grounds, to the right of the cable terminal.

San Francisco Chronicle - Fri - Mar. 25, 1892:

(The Mutual Investment Union) desired to build a dozen cottages on the land for rent.  Mr. Marvin objected to this, but said he would consent to the building of a large hotel on the hill... As Marvin was behind in the rent the corporation served him with three days' notice to quit the place... Now a suit is contemplated to oust Marvin.

Alameda Daily Argus on Jun. 9, 1892 reported that Marvin was shot by his barkeeper of the hotel.


Nov 16, 1892, 9:30am,

The 20 year old hotel burns down

At the time Piedmont did not have a fire department and it would take hours to get a truck with water on the scene.

Oakland Tribune - Thu - Nov. 17, 1892:

The insurance on the Piedmont Springs Hotel expired November 1st. James B. Marvin regrets this now. For 20 years the old house had stood, and during two decades the Bohemian life of Oakland had enjoyed its hospitality. 

...Mrs. Marvin occupied room 7 and at 9:15 o'clock this morning she was startled at a peculiar crackling in the chimney. She at once gave the alarm as the fire gained headway and the smoke oozed through the shingles of the roof the neighbors saw the smoke and hastened to the scene...

The absence of any water supply left the occupants of the doomed building no other recourse than to sit down in the shade and watch the building burn.

The San Francisco Examiner - Mon - Nov. 21, 1892:

J. B. Marvin, lessee of the Piedmont Springs Hotel property, has erected a large tent on the grounds adjoining the wreck of the burned hotel, and in it has constructed a rude bar, over which some of the liquors and cigars saved from the flames will be doled out to anybody that may want them.

On the day succeeding the fire agents of the Pacific Mutual Investment Union, which owns the hotel grounds, visited the premises, and a few hours after their departure carpenters put in an appearance and began inclosing the grounds with a fence. All Marvin's goods and chattels which were not destroyed in the fire had been taken off the property by the latter's employees, so the building of the fence lets the owners in absolute possession. 

Oakland Tribune - Tue - Aug. 15, 1893:

J.B. Martin retires from Piedmont Springs.

1 - Oakland_Tribune_Thu__Nov_17__1892_.j
1 - Oakland_Tribune_Thu__Nov_17__1892_.j

The WASP (July-Dec. 1892), Page 463:


There is one man who will not consider the burning down of the Piedmont Hotel an unmixed misfortune. That man is Hugh Craig of the New Zealand Insurance Company. This gentleman resides near the site of the late hotel, and it has seriously interfered with his sense of propriety. Mr. Craig, or " Holy Hugh," as he is more generally called (behind his back), is religious, or thinks he is. He is Scotch, and had a fit of holy horror when the place was let to Black—a sport who desecrated the "Sobboth" at every opportunity, by vending intoxicating liquors to thirsty people, as depraved as himself. So outraged were Mr. Craig's fine sensibilities, that he made a big fight in the Oakland Council and courts to have Black's license revoked and the placed closed, but alas! it would not go. Black sold out, and another sinner by the name of Marvin came, who was equally dead to all sense of the proprieties, and persisted in breaking, with apparent sang-froid, the third commandment. But Hugh, beaten in the courts, with true Christianity, had resort to prayer. He prayed long and hard for a judgment to fall upon the place of sin. His prayers have been answered. Marvin got shot by a drunken bartender, and nearly killed, and now the house is burned down. When a true Christian like Holy Hugh prays, look out for squalls.

Need for a Piedmont Resort


The San Francisco Examiner - Thu - Jan. 3, 1895:

People People Are Indignant Over a Proposed Innovation and Intend to Protest

The aristocratic precinct of Piedmont has been invaded and the residents are mourning over the prospect of soon having a "resort" in the midst. A structure to be used as a hotel, lodging-house and "pavilion" is building on the property of Mrs. E. K. Loring on Vernal (now Highland) Avenue, and each day the villa owners in the vicinity become more unhappy as they see it nearing completion.

The Piedmontese are people of culture, wealth and society, who moved out to the foothills in order to enjoy life in secluded English fashion. From the first their intension was to keep Piedmont strictly a residence free place, and the property owners are not only agitated but surprised that the provisions of the Piedmont Land Company admit of such innovation as a cheap hotel, with ordinary beer, shuffleboard and Sunday excursion attachments. 

The original owners of Piedmont were Messers. De Fremery, Gamble, Barker and Booth. These men formed a syndicate, Incorporated as the Piedmont Land Company and put the property on the market.

...The Piedmont Land Company took a pronounced stand, one of the incorporated principals being that no deed to land should be given without the proviso that no liquor should be sold on the ground.

...Mrs. Loring's property is directly opposite the old hotel site.

The hotel was never built by Mrs. Loring, it could be because her daughter ran off with the "woodchopper" according to The San Francisco Examiner on Apr 20,  1897.

Oakland Tribune - Thu - Mar. 24, 1898:

The Piedmont Development Company, an adjunctly of the Realty Syndicate (Frank C Havens), intends to build a club house on the site of the old Piedmont Springs Hotel, which was burned down. It will be a rusting building finished in a picturesque fashion. Refreshments will be served, and a small admission fee will be charged for entrance to the grounds.

Oakland Tribune - Wed - Jul. 16, 1902

New tourist hotel Examiner Nov 2 1902_edited.jpg
New tourist hotel Examiner Nov 2 1902_edited.jpg
New tourist hotel Examiner Nov 2 1902_edited.jpg

Oakland Examiner - Nov 20, 1902

While hotels in Piedmont were never built, in 1905 Frank Havens and his Claremont Hotel Company started construction. After some delays, and the purchase of more land, the Claremont Hotel opened in 1915. The hotel was the largest anywhere on the West Coast and sits on the borderline between Oakland and Berkeley. The hotel was designed by architect C.W. Dickey for "Borax" Smith and Frank Havens' Realty Syndicate. Although it has been painted bright white for many years, it originally had a darker color scheme when it was built .

There is an alternate account of the Claremont Hotel, in which Frank Havens sold the land to Erick Lindblom, and that it was Lindblom, not Havens, that went on to construct the hotel in 1914. (local wiki)

building the claremont.jpeg
Piedmont - Hotel - vision by artist_edited.jpg

Another attempt at a hotel in Piedmont:

The San Francisco Examiner - Mon - Jun. 10, 1929

Project Includes Rezoning of Highland Ave. and Sale of the Frank Haven School Site

A petition will be circulated today in Piedmont which seeks to rezone the present site of the Frank Haven School in order to construct a million dollar hotel,

The petition is being circulated through the Highland Avenue Association, of which Mrs. Anna Hendry is president. The association will submit to the voters at a coming election, the proposed new ordinance.

Under the plan, the block now occupied by the school and which is bounded by Vista, Bonita, Oakland and Highland avenues, would be used for an exclusive hotel.

The hotel will not exceed three stories in height and will be set in the midst of a landscaped garden. The site offers one of the finest views of the San Francisco Bay region.

Under the same ordinance, it is proposed to re-zone Highland Avenue from Oakland to Blair to allow for the construction of apartments. The entire project would be under the control of a board of three Alameda County architects, who would supervise the construction and color scheme of the buildings, so that all of them would be in harmony. The setback of each apartment will be widely separated from those adjacent.

It is proposed under the ordinance that the Piedmont school board sell the school property, and with the funds realized, build a new grammar school near the Piedmont High School. A recent bond issue to build a grammar school was defeated and during the coming year it will cost $40,000 to build shacks to house the increasing school population and to maintain the present
obsolete school.


At the end of the hotel building, fronting on Vista avenue. opposite the city hall, a wing would be devoted to stores and shops.

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