The Story of the Drake: the Boutique Hotel in Union Square
Few hotels in the country are as synonymous with the city they call home as the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. Known by locals as "The Drake," the hotel defines San Francisco - exciting, romantic, and a little offbeat. Take in the ornate lobby and the romantic clang of the cable cars - it's all part of the ultimate San Francisco experience.
When our San Francisco historic hotel opened its doors in 1928, the city had never seen anything like it. Although the city boasted a number of luxury hotels, the Sir Francis Drake Hotel was something else entirely: a sleek state-of-the-art marvel reflecting the dynamic spirit of a new metropolis emerging from the devastating 1906 earthquake.
Built for the princely sum of $5 million by Midwestern hotel developers, the Sir Francis Drake Hotel offered impressive innovations like an indoor golf course, ice water on tap, and radios in every guest room. The window panes were made of Vitaglass, so-called because it let even the healthful ultra-violet rays into each room, making it possible, according to early advertisements, to suntan without going outside. Another feature was the Servidor, a handy panel in the guest room doors, which allowed staff to discreetly deliver dry cleaning or other items without disturbing guests. (This may have come in handy during Prohibition.)
The Sir Francis Drake Hotel quickly obtained a glamorous aura in the late 1920s and became a favorite home away from home for stars of vaudeville and the silver screen. World War II was another busy era for the Drake. During the war, blocks of rooms were taken over by the U.S. military and the hotel was the scene of many farewells and reunions as troops made their way to and from the Pacific.
Throughout the war and post-war era, our historic San Francisco hotel meant exciting nightlife for locals and guests alike, who flocked to spots like the Persian Room and Starlight Roof. Dark and romantic, the Persian Room was known as "the snakepit" because, according to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, "you never heard such hissing or saw such writhing." The Starlight Roof became one of the city's legendary rooftop venues for dining and dancing and that tradition continues today in The Starlight Room.