Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Claremont Hotel

The Claremont Hotel is a historic resort located at the bottom of Claremont Canyon in Oakland, CA.  It was suggested as a nominee for the National Register of Historic Landmarks, but was not included in the list due to property owner objection.

A view of the Claremont Hotel as you come up the main drive.
The Claremont Hotel opened in 1915 and was built by a group of wealthy local investors, notably Francis Marion "Borax" Smith and Frank C. Havens.  These two men were heavily involved in local real estate development and were instrumental in several other historic East Bay developments, including the Key System, Idora Park, and the Key Route Inn.  Supposedly Havens won the land that the hotel is built on from "Borax" Smith in a game of dominoes.  Havens began building the hotel in 1906, but stopped due to a brief economic downturn.  In 1910 he began construction again with the help of an investor named Eric Lindblom, a prospector who had returned to California after striking it rich in the gold fields of the Klondike.  The site that the hotel was built on was ideal at the time of its construction since at the beginning of the twentieth century Claremont Canyon was one of the primary means of traveling over the Berkeley hills and the hotel was convenient for travelers and tourists visiting the East Bay.  The hotel was also tied into the city rail networks, with the Key Route "E" line pulling up to the front of the hotel where the tennis courts now stand.  Though this lacked the pizzazz of the Key Route Inn's train tracks that ran through the center of the hotel building, it was still convenient for guests.

The postal location and city of residence of the hotel has been an area of confusion in the past.  The hotel is technically located in the city of Oakland, though portions of its property do cross the official Berkeley city border.  The hotel has also had problems in the past with its proximity to the University of California campus.  A Berkeley City ordinance dating to 1876 prohibited the sale of alcohol within one mile of the campus.  The hotel fell within this one mile radius and it was only due to some geographic sleight of hand, essentially relocating the center of the campus as defined by the ordinance, that placed the Claremont Hotel barely outside of the alcohol-free zone.  Even after the passing, and then repeal, of Prohibition the hotel continued to have problems with the Berkeley ban on alcohol near the campus.  In 1936 a Cal student determined that, rather than consider the ban as consisting of a mile radius from the center of the university as the crow flies, the mile distance should instead be considered as the distance required to travel on foot or by car over surface streets.  Through judicious mapping the student determined that the shortest practicable route from Cal to the Claremont Hotel over surface streets was a few feet over a mile.  The Claremont Hotel immediately opened a bar based on this evidence.

 Getting There By Bike...

The hotel entrance.

It's pretty straight forward to get to the Claremont Hotel by bike.  The most direct route is to take Ashby or Claremont straight to the base of the hills.  Once you reach the intersection of the two streets, right below the bottom of Tunnel Road, look for the giant white building that's looming over you.  That's the hotel.  Both Claremont and Ashby can be traffic heavy, so ride safely.  Once you're there, I like to look at the sites from the comfort of the Peet's patio across the street from the tennis courts.  You can also ride your bike through the front gate and look at the gardens.  I've never been asked to leave, but be aware that they may not want people wandering the grounds if they aren't guests.  The former site of the Kennedy Tunnel is a short jog up Tunnel Road if you feel like trekking a bit farther, and Claremont Canyon is a steep, though beautiful, climb to the top of the hills.

1 comment:

  1. Another great post. I hadn't heard about the bar and proximity to the Berkeley campus.