InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel

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Discover the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel in its impressive setting atop Nob Hill.

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InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2011, dates back to 1926.

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History at The InterContinental Mark Hopkins

Discover the fascinating history and heritage of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel.

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A member of Historic Hotels of America since 2011, the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel is located on the site of the former 40-room mansion owned by railroad magnate Mark Hopkins. One of San Francisco’s "Big Four," Hopkins was among those who founded what became the great Southern Pacific Railroad. Hopkins built his grand estate at the insistence of his socialite wife, Mary, but died before the house was finished. Destroyed by the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, this gorgeous landmark mansion was eventually replaced by a more modest structure at the behest of the San Francisco Art Association (now known as the San Francisco Art Institute). It had subsequently received the location from Mary Hopkins’ second husband, Edward Searles, upon his own death in 1893. But in 1925, mining engineer and hotel investor George D. Smith bought the land with the desire to build a luxury hotel. With help of the architectural firm Weeks & Day, Smith ultimately developed a magnificent 19-story structure that displayed some of the finest architecture throughout San Francisco. In fact, aspects of the building resembled the historic French chateaus of the Loire Valley. While many outstanding architectural finishes existed within the structure, perhaps the most impressive appeared within a banquet area called “The Room of the Dons.” Artists Maynard Dixon and Frank Von Sloun had diligently painted nine massive panels on its walls, which made the room radiate wonderfully in bright hues. One of the images—a mural of the fictious Calafia—was even set against a gold leaf sky!

Upon completion of the project a year later, San Franciscans declared the new “Mark Hopkins Hotel” to be, "architecturally perfect, flawless in its erection, comprehensive in its accommodations…strikingly representative of the best there is in modern hostelry." The Mark Hopkins Hotel quickly became an immediate part of San Francisco’s rich and colorful history. Over time, many luminaries began to stay at the building in great numbers, including Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Betty Grable, and Elvis Presley. The great Hollywood actor John Barrymore even lived inside the Mark Hopkins Hotel shortly after it opened. Renowned politicians and dignitaries also graced the Mark Hopkins with their presence, such as Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, French war hero Charles de Gaulle, Prince Philip of the United Kingdom, and two U.S. Presidents—Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. One of the hotel’s more alluring qualities was its stunning nightclub, Peacock Court. Some of America’s most renowned entertainers performed at the Peacock Court, like Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey. Another was the fantastic restaurant that sat atop the building, which Smith himself had called “The Top of the Mark.” Featuring an exterior façade of glass, many patrons were awe-struck by its panoramic views of San Francisco's ever-changing landscape. The Top of the Mark was especially an attractive destination for American servicemen slated to fight overseas during World War II. The soldiers usually brought their sweethearts with them, too, in order to have a final cocktail together before shipping out.

After operating the Mark Hopkins Hotel for the better part of four decades, George D. Smith decided to sell the business to Kratter Corp. in 1961. A fluid period of stewardship over the hotel then followed over the next several years, in which several different entities signed leases to operate it. In fact, Hollywood’s famous “Singing Cowboy” Gene Autry even briefly acquired the rights to the Mark Hopkins Hotel for a few months. Then, in 1973, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts purchased the building and included it within its amazing collection of upscale holiday destinations. Renamed as the “InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel,” the hotel quickly emerged as one of the company’s most celebrated retreats. InterContinental Hotels & Resorts invested heavily to ensure that the building’s prestige endured for future generations to appreciate, too. It specifically oversaw massive renovations projects throughout the 1980s and 1990s that sought to both keep the amenities modern and preserve all the ornate architectural details. Indeed, all the hotel’s iconic facilities received constant care, including the Room of the Dons, the Peacock Court, and The Top of the Mark. Today, the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel remains one of San Francisco’s most prestigious hotels. Its unmatched history and fascinating history continues to enchant thousands of cultural heritage travelers each year. When walking through its corridors, guests can still feel the legacy that George D. Smith first established nearly a century ago. Come experience this amazing historic hotel firsthand as soon as possible!

  • About the Location +

    The InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel resides high in Nob Hill, one of San Francisco’s original neighborhoods. Filled with all sorts of high-end storefronts, restaurants, and historic sites, the area has acted as a symbol for San Francisco’s economic prosperity in the 21st century. Prior to the 1850s, San Franciscans had known of Nob Hill as “California Hill” for the street that climbed up its eastern slope. The name was later changed to “Nob Hill,” when the Central Pacific Railroad’s main executives—The Big Four—started building their mansions atop the crest. Otherwise called the “Nobs,” the Big Four consisted of Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford, Collis Porter Huntington, and Charles Crocker. Its proximity to downtown San Francisco combined with its views overlooking the bay made Nob Hill an exclusive enclave for the city’s affluent and well-connected. Soon enough, prominent Americans like James Flood—owner of the famous Comstock Lode—were among those who had a palatial home in Nob Hill. Ordinary residents took to calling those new migrants as “nabobs,” a term that was typically applied to wealthy men at the height of the Gilded Age. Over time, the term was eventually shortened to “nob,” which some speculate may have preserved the word’s affiliation to the neighborhood throughout the 20th century.

    Rapid urbanization quickly followed the arrival of the Nobs to the area, too, as dozens of marvelous skyscrapers started to emerge en masse. Yet, this commercial proliferation was nearly destroyed when the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 struck the city with tremendous force. What buildings that managed to survive the massive tremor were later damaged by the fire that followed. The only structures that escaped relatively unaffected from the calamity were the mansions of the Central Pacific Railroad’s Nobs. But like the rest of San Francisco, Nob Hill quickly rebuilt itself back to resemble its former glory. Leading the economic revitalization was The Fairmont Hotel, which had tragically opened just before the earthquake first struck. New skyscrapers soon replaced the older ones, giving the area its current modern appearance. Most of the private residences that had not survived the disaster were replaced with luxurious boutique hotels, including the InterContinental Mark Hopkins—which is another member of Historic Hotels of America. Those businesses served as the foundation for the neighborhood’s vibrant tourist industry that took off in the latter half of the 20th century. Lavishly upscale apartment buildings also appeared, too, further reinforcing the area’s identity as a popular haunt for the city’s most affluent citizens. Nob Hill now proudly retains its status as one of San Francisco’s most outstanding locations.


  • About the Architecture +

    The gorgeous InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel stands as one of the best examples of Renaissance Revival architecture in California today. Renaissance Revival itself architecture—sometimes referred to as "Neo-Renaissance”—is a group of architecture revival styles that date back to the 19th century. Neither Grecian nor Gothic in their appearance, Renaissance Revival-style architecture drew inspiration from a wide range of structural motifs found throughout Early Modern Western Europe. Architects in France and Italy were the first to embrace the artistic movement, who saw the architectural forms of the European Renaissance as an opportunity to reinvigorate a sense of civic pride throughout their communities. As such, those intellectuals incorporated the colonnades and low-pitched roofs of Renaissance-era buildings, with the characteristics of Mannerist and Baroque-themed architecture. Perhaps the greatest structural component to a Renaissance Revival-style building involved the installation of a grand staircase in a vein similar to those located at the Château de Blois and the Château de Chambord. This particular feature served as a central focal point for the design, often directing guests to a magnificent lobby or exterior courtyard. Yet, the nebulous nature of Renaissance Revival architecture meant that its appearance varied widely across Europe. As such, historians today often find it difficult to provide a specific definition for the architectural movement.


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    John Barrymore, actor known for his roles in such films like Grand Hotel, Twentieth Century, and Midnight. 

    Elizabeth Taylor, actress known for her roles in Cleopatra and The Taming of the Shrew.  

    Judy Garland, actress and singer known for her roles in A Star is Born, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Wizard of Oz.

    Betty Grable, actress known for her roles in such films like Mother Wore Tights and How to Marry a Millionaire. 

    Elvis Presley, singer, musician and actor, affectionately known as the “King of Rock.”

    Benny Goodman, jazz clarinetist and band leader remembered to history as the “King of Swing.”  

    Tommy Dorsey, jazz musician known for such songs like “Opus One,” “Song of India,” and “I’ll Never Smile Again.”

    Dorothy Lamour, singer and actress best remembered for appearing in the Road to… film series.

    Charles de Gaulle, World War II hero and President of France (1959 – 1969)

    Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist Part of the Soviet Union (1953 – 1964)

    Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh and consort to Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

    Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (1930 – 1972)

    Queen Juliana of the Netherlands (1948 – 1980)

    Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States (1929 – 1933) 

    Dwight D. Eisenhower, 32nd President of the United States (1933 – 1945) 


  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    Walk a Crooked Mile (1948)

    The Lineup (1958)

    Bullitt (1968)

    Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting (1969)

    Father’s Day (1997)


  • Art Collection +

    Of all the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel’s artistic and architectural treasures, some of the finest are the nine murals depicting early California in the Room of the Dons. These seven-foot-high panels were painted by two of California's most famous Western artists, Maynard Dixon and Frank Van Sloun, whose works may be seen in museums and discerning private collections across the country. These priceless murals were completed by the artists for The Mark Hopkins' grand opening December 3, 1926. The nine murals portray the history of early California in a rich medley of reds, blues, and browns against a background of gold leaf. The historically and artistically important murals depict California history and a fantasy rendition of international neighbors harkening from distant shores. Prized throughout the art world, the murals are as follows:

    • The arrival of the Spanish conquistadors and missionaries in mid-18th century California
    • The Chinese, Eskimo, and Japanese people who lived north and west of California
    • The Aztec and other Indian cultures living south of California
    • The American pioneers making the westward trek to California
    • Life in the first half of 19th-century California under Spanish and Mexican rule
    • The Spanish discovery of California in the early 16th century
    • Calafia, an allegorical virgin queen of an Amazonian tribe, perhaps a symbol of an untamed and bountiful California before European settlement
    • Sir Francis Drake's landing in California in 1579
    • The discovery of the West by American trappers and traders after the American Revolutionary War
    • Artist Frank Van Sloun (1979-1938), a Minnesota native who moved to San Francisco in 1911, was one of America's finest etchers, specializing in American genre and Biblical subjects. He was also a talented painter and muralist, known for his superb sense of color. Sloun even taught at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art, which preceded the Mark Hopkins Hotel on its Nob Hill site.

    Artist Maynard Dixon experimented with various painting techniques including Impressionism, Modernism and Cubism. He is best known today for his pictorial style of the great West, characterized by robust draftsmanship, skillful use of color, and organization of abstract elements into dramatic and coherent tableaux. Last year, a Maynard Dixon retrospective toured major museums throughout the United States. A flamboyant dresser who often wore cowboy boots, a black Stetson hat, and a silver Navajo belt, Dixon favored painting rugged Western landscapes featuring Indians, cattle ranches, desert canyons, and flat prairies. When the Mark Hopkins Hotel opened in 1926 to great fanfare, Maynard Dixon and Frank Van Sloun's murals were an instant sensation. "For the first time in the history of art in the world, two great artists have worked together and produced nine masterpieces which will live forever,” enthused one San Franciscan on opening night. The Room of the Dons and its paintings continue to delight the generations of San Franciscans and guests at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel.


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