Hotel Rafael: California’s Society Resort

by Laurie Thompson

Hotel Rafael, 1895. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

Marin Journal, October 1887:

“The work of construction of this magnificent hotel was undertaken in 1885 by the San Rafael Hotel Company, capital $200,000. This Company was composed of men, who were not only residents of this charming suburb, but are some of the most prominent and substantial business and capitalists of California…..”

“The site chosen for the hotel was originally a portion of the Coleman tract…. The site is about twenty-one acres in extent, is shaped like a horseshoe, an oblong knoll some seventy-five feet in height as the highest point….”

“From the hotel veranda, or even the grounds, the whole length of the valley on both sides, dotted by handsome villas, is visible. The view reaches from San Anselmo Junction to San Quentin Point, with the waters of San Pablo Bay, ever enlivened by steam and sailing craft, in the eastern distance…..”

“The goodly sum of $47,000 was paid for the grounds and about $125,000 expended in the construction of the hotel, club houses and cottages….. R. Ulrick, the efficient landscape gardener, who designed and laid out the grounds surrounding the Hotel del Monte at Monterey, will do the landscaping. The Hotel building, designed by Curlett & Chuthbertson, well-known architects of San Francisco, is simply a masterpiece of modern architecture…..”

Hotel Rafael. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

Federal Writer’s Project Essay by Everett Hendricks, January 16, 1936:

“In the year 1888 the Hotel Rafael was thrown open to the public, under the direct management of Baron J.H. Von Schroeder….and the hotel for more than a decade afterward was the scene of some of the most brilliant social events of the bay district….

Hotel Rafael Tennis Courts. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

“The Hotel Rafael tennis courts became internationally famous and many of the crack players of America, Europe and Australia played there. May Sutton and her sister made their original national reputation on the Hotel Rafael courts, the National Women’s Championship once being held there.”

“But in spite of the society clientele the hotel did not pay and in 1909 it was closed….. The hotel remained closed until 1921 when it was refurnished and opened under the ownership and management of W.C. Jurgens of the Hotel Oakland, Oakland, California.”

“It at once became popular and made some money. In 1924 the Inter State Company took over the hotel lease and placed Harry Annan of the Palace Hotel, San Francisco, in charge. After three years Annan was succeeded by J.W. Allen, and later by William West.”

“On Sunday, July 29, 1928 the hotel was destroyed by fire believed caused by defective wiring; at the time there were 134 guests registered…all guests escaped without injury; many, however, lost all their personal belongings….”

“The following day flame-scarred chimneys, towering above heaps of smoldering embers stood as pathetic monuments over the funeral pyre of the Hotel Rafael, which in years past had been the scene of the most brilliant social events in Northern California.”

Originally published at



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Anne T. Kent California Room

Anne T. Kent California Room


The official Medium account of the archive of Marin County history & culture at the Marin County Free Library