San Francisco Landmarks
When the original Palace Hotel opened in 1875 with eight hundred rooms, it was the largest hotel in the Western United States, and according to some claims, the largest in the world. Financed primarily by Bank of California co-founder William Ralston, it offered many innovative modern conveniences including an intercom system and four oversized hydraulic elevators called lifting rooms. The most notable feature of the hotel was the Grand Court that served as an entry area for horse-drawn carriages. The area was converted to the palm filled "Garden Court" a few years before the 1906 earthquake.
In 1891, King Kalakaua,monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, died in the hotel.
Although the hotel survived the initial damage from the early morning April 18, 1906, San Francisco earthquake, by late that afternoon it had been consumed by the subsequent fires. Notably, tenor Enrico Caruso (who had sung the role of Don José in Carmen the night before) was staying in the hotel at the time of the quake, and swore never to return to the city.
Completely rebuilt from the ground up, the "New" Palace Hotel opened on December 19, 1909, and quickly resumed the role of its namesake predecessor as an important San Francisco landmark as well as host to many of the city's great events. While externally much plainer then the original Palace Hotel, the new "Bonanza Inn" is in many ways as elegant, sumptuous, and gracious on the inside as the 1875 building, especially the Garden Court - also called the Palm Court - which occupies the same area that the Grand Court did in the earlier structure.