Hotel Oakland’s illustrious history began with an impressive opening on December 23rd, 1912 and was marked with a sumptuous feast and lively gala. This highly anticipated social occasion hosted over 1,000 dinner guests, including Mayor John Leslie Davie and a majority of the East Bay’s high society as well as business dignitaries. The opening of Hotel Oakland, along with development of the waterfront and the commencement of construction of the Oakland City Hall, represented a renaissance of business in Oakland.
The Hotel Oakland was an extraordinary structure. Designed by the architectural firm of Bliss & Faville in the Italian Renaissance Revival style and encompassing a full city block, Hotel Oakland was one of the most magnificent hotels in the country with its elegant ballroom boasting Corinthian columns, oak-paneled grill room, and sophisticated dining room with spectacular chandeliers. The glorious lobby with gold-leafed, 30-foot ceilings made an immediate impression on the upscale guests.
Preceding the opening of Hotel Oakland, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire had left countless residents homeless and scared, and they migrated east to Oakland, more than doubling the City’s population in just a few years. The City of Oakland aptly responded to the influx by seeking to place itself firmly on the map as a cosmopolitan city, and strategies to accomplish this achievement included construction of the City Hall that would be the tallest building west of the Mississippi at 335 feet.
Please see many historical photos here along with a story of the grand opening in the Oakland Tribune, from 1912. Additionally, please find a newspaper article from 1907 about Hotel Oakland’s plans and construction here.
Presidents & Famous People
Hotel Oakland soon became the clear choice for dignitaries and celebrities traveling to Northern California.
- In September 1919, President Woodrow Wilson stayed in the Presidential Suite of the hotel while visiting Oakland to deliver a speech on the League of Nations.
- President Calvin Coolidge was a guest at Hotel Oakland during his 1923-1929 term in office.
- In October 1935, President Herbert Hoover stayed at Hotel Oakland while in town to deliver a speech on reducing waste and the significance of inflation and taxation.
- President Franklin D. Roosevelt stayed at Hotel Oakland in 1939 during a trip to view the newly finished Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Hollywood actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks stayed at Hotel Oakland and promoted Liberty Bonds for the World War I effort.
- In 1927, aviator Charles Lindbergh stayed at Hotel Oakland while in town to celebrate the opening of the Oakland Airport.
- In 1935, Amelia Earhart stayed after flying from Oahu to Oakland, thus becoming the first person to fly solo between Hawaii and the continental United States.
- Other celebrity guests included Sarah Bernhardt, Jean Harlow, and Lily Langtry.
Many uses over the years
In 1943, after closing due to the Great Depression, the Hotel Oakland converted to a military hospital and operated as the Oakland Area Station Hospital for 21 years. Thereafter, it was vacant for over 15 years during which time the City of Oakland considered demolishing it.
In 1979, Hotel Oakland was converted to affordable housing for seniors, a function it still serves to this day. And on December 18th, 1979, Hotel Oakland was designated Oakland Landmark #31, and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, senior residents at Hotel Oakland enjoy celebrating in the historic lobby just as much as the guests of decades past did. The Hotel Oakland Village residents fighting senior isolation risk, are highly engaged in the many Village Health Groups and social events that meet almost daily in the historic lobby.
Hotel Oakland Timeline
1912 Hotel Oakland opens and is considered a great architectural achievement.
1943 VA Hospital opens after Hotel Oakland closes due to the Great Depression.
1981 After being vacant for almost 15 years, Hotel Oakland opens as an affordable housing property exclusively for seniors.
1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake partially damages Hotel Oakland.
1992 Hotel Oakland completes a $12,000,000 seismic renovation.
2011 Hotel Oakland Village is formed with 8 resident co-managed Health Groups believed to be the first of its kind in an affordable senior community in America
2016 Hotel Oakland Village has 15 active Resident Co-Managed Health Groups and celebrates the 5th Anniversary of the formation of the Hotel Oakland Village.
2016 Hotel Oakland Village expands to include the formation of the “Village Health & Wellness Connection” that provides an ongoing custom “Wellness Plan” free to all participating Hotel Oakland residents. The “Wellness Connection” utilizes the on-site health services available to Hotel Oakland residents at Hong Fook Community Based Adult Services Center. Within two weeks of the introduction, 367 Hotel Oakland residents signed up for the “Village Health & Wellness Connection”. The “Village Health & Wellness Connection” is believed to be the first of its kind in an affordable senior community. The goal of the “Village Health & Wellness Connection” is to encourage other senior communities to follow its model of “rethinking health senior living”.