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History of the Claremont Hotel and Spa in Berkeley

Claremont Hotel











The iconic Claremont Hotel and Spa, pristine white against the Berkeley Hills, represents a unique history and hospitality that exudes authentic Bay Area charm. Overlooking the San Francisco skyline and named after its location in the Claremont district, the hotel bridges together old money with the new for a truly memorable experience.

Originally constructed during the Gold Rush days by a Kansas farmer named Bill Thornburg as an English castle, he sold the estate to the Ballard family. Unfortunately, the castle burned to the ground when a fire broke out in the Berkeley Hills and spread by help of the hot arid winds. The property, now severely damaged, was passed on to Frank Havens and “Borax” Smith. Plans to start a hotel, with trains to San Francisco running right into the lobby, though these plans did not come to pass. During a fateful game of checkers, Havens won and claimed the property as his prize. Havens and his men began work to building the hotel subsequently.

The hotel was finally opened in 1915 after much delay and setback, as the elegant building that is known today. One noteworthy part of the hotel’s history subsequent to its opening is its connection to a state law that prohibited the sale of alcohol within a one-mile distance from the Cal campus. A female student measured the distance from the hotel to campus and found that the hotel was just a few feet over a mile. This led to a bar being opened on the hotel premises and the student being awarded free drinks for life.

Boasting of a wide variety of activities and amenities, the hotel is a fabulous venue for recreation, for business meetings, and everything in between. Consider, for a marketing or consulting gathering, being able to experience the rich past-meets-present, the gorgeous architecture, and the unfolding San Francisco Bay. You’ll be sure to fall in love.

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