“Mentone” (2003)

(332/12) 387–397 Ellis Street; Hotel Mentone. Hotel with eighty rooms and eighty baths. 6B stories; steel frame structure with Flemish bond brick; galvanized iron cornice and five-story bay windows; two-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; desk lobby with coffered ceiling, decorative elevator frame; storefronts: prism glass transoms survive over two stores, green marble base; neon blade sign at corner (restored); alterations: glass panes removed from marquee and side panels added, vestibule remodeled, storefronts partially altered. Original owner: Board Realty Company. Architects: Smith and Stewart. 1913.

Across Ellis Street from the Riviera Hotel is the Hotel Mentone. I have always found the name “Mentone” somewhat amusing; it stirs up notions of steamy locker rooms and old-fashioned gyms redolent of leather and sweat. A few years after I photographed the hotel, some of its original character was restored by a new paint job, but to be honest, it was the faded beauty shown here that I really loved. Happily, the unique lettering on the marquee and corner blade sign has been preserved, as it hearkens to a time when more San Franciscans lived in residential hotels than in any other type of domicile.


Postcard, circa 1915. Note the glass-paned marquee.


“Hotel Mentone” (2003)

Until 1930, sixty percent of San Franciscans were permanent hotel residents. Between 1975 and 1980, landowners eliminated 6,085 units, almost a fifth of the City’s entire stock of residential hotel units. Today, San Francisco’s residential hotels house nearly 30,000 people.

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