The Claremont Hotel is a large hotel on the Oakland side of the border between Oakland and Berkeley. Although it has been painted bright white for many years, it originally had a darker color scheme when it was built as a destination for The Realty Syndicate via the Key System.
Prior to the construction of the Claremont Hotel, an estate was built on the site by Bill Thornburg for his daughter and wife who wanted to live in an English castle. Purchasing 13,000 acres, Thornburg went on to build the castle, which included horse stables on the grounds.
Bill Thornburg sold the castle following the death of his wife to the Ballard family. On July 14, 1901 the castle and many other houses in the hills burned down due to hot, dry winds.
Next to own the property were Frank "Borax" Smith and his business partner, Frank Havens who planned to build a resort hotel. Legend has it that in a game of checkers between Havens, Smith and Berkeley businessman John Spring the property was wagered and that Havens won.
In 1905 Frank Havens and his Claremont Hotel Company started construction. After some delays, and the purchase of more land, the Claremont Hotel opened in 1915. The hotel was the largest anywhere on the West Coast and sits on the borderline between Oakland and Berkeley. The hotel was designed by architect C.W. Dickey for "Borax" Smith and Frank Havens' Realty Syndicate.
There is an alternate account of the Claremont Hotel, in which Frank Havens sold the land to Erick Lindblom, and that it was Lindblom, not Havens, that went on to construct the hotel in 1914. 2
Longtime employee Claude Gillum bought the Claremont in 1937 for $250,000 and completely renovated the interior. Claude Gillum and his wife installed a fire resistant roof, automatic sprinkler system, high pressure water system and a smoke proof, water cooled fire escape. The wooden hotel building was threatened by the 1991 Oakland Firestorm. Images of the hillside behind the hotel covered with flames were shown around the country.
On [date needed] the Claremont Resort & Spa (Claremont Hotel) was designated Oakland Landmark #133, under Zoning Case #LM01-404.
The San Francisco Business Times reported in January, 2014 that the Claremont is being purchased by FRHI Hotels and Resorts which also owns the Fairmont in San Francisco.4
Won 2014 "Readers' Choice" Best Spa in Oakland Magazine.
41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley, California, 94705
(yes, the mailing address is in Berkeley, but the Hotel itself is within the Oakland city limits)
Links and References
- The Claremont Hotel Club & Spa: History The Beginning official website
- The Claremont Story Alameda Info
- Designated Landmarks, Heritage Properties, and Preservation Districts City of Oakland
Berkeley's Claremont Hotel to be bought by Fairmont, Raffles group San Francisco Business Times