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Newsletter | Mar/Apr 2003


OWA Program - Tuesday 22 April 2003
by Janet Crane

6:30 pm Tour of Clift Hotel, 495 Geary St., S.F.

Before Ian Schrager arrived on the lodging scene during the mid 1980's, hotels could be homey or posh but they were rarely innovative or entertaining. Ian Schrager, former owner of the Palladium and Studio 54 in New York, and his partner Steve Rubell, collaborated with Andree Puttman, the distinguished French interior designer, on their first art hotel, Morgans, in Manhattan. They called it a "boutique", not only because the rooms were small but because the service was customized to their clientele. The Royalton and Paramount followed, starting a relationship between Ian Schrager and the French designer Philippe Starck that has transformed the hospitality industry. Schrager recreated the lobby as theater. His hotels' restaurants and bars draw local residents as well as guests.

The Clift Hotel catered to a clientele with loyalty spanning many decades. The Redwood Room, the Clift's illustrious bar, was one of Herb Caen's favorite spots for a quiet lunch or after work drink. The Architect was George Applegarth, former Associate of Bernard Maybeck. Among his later San Francisco commissions were the Palace of the Legion of Honor and the Spreckles Mansion.

The Clift was designed in 1913 in the Italian Renaissance style for $1,000,000. In 1924, the hotel expanded considerably, adding three more floors and a second wing on Geary Street. The renovation added 240 rooms for a total of 540 rooms and required significant interior alterations.

When Schrager purchased the Clift Hotel, the hotel itself had become dowdy and its original lobby had been redecorated and reduced in size. Philippe Starck set new the character with his design for the d├ęcor, furniture and light fixtures. His first sketch showed a 20 foot tall alcove in a cubic lobby with a ghostly figure in relief on the back wall, an image that has been created in the final project.

Our firm, Freebairn-Smith and Crane, collaborated with Philippe Starck and the very talented facilities group at Ian Schrager Hotels for over three years to complete the renovation. The building remained open until its completion in July 2001.

We look forward to showing you around the Hotel on April 22nd.

The address of the Clift is 495 Geary Street between Mason and Jones. It is two blocks west of Union Square and is walking distance from Powell Street BART (take Cable Car up to California and walk up to the top of Nob Hill) Parking is available at the Sutter/Stockton Garage or in the garage below Union Square.

After the tour, we can have a drink in the Redwood Room and catch a bite to eat in the neighborhood. A visit to the newly renovated Union Square could conclude the evening.