Hotel Union


“Union” (2007)

(320/23) 807–815 Geary Street; Rhodema Hotel (1929), San Carlos Hotel, Hotel Union. Mid-priced hotel with sixty rooms and sixty baths. 6B stories; steel frame structure with brick walls; stacked pilaster orders, galvanized iron cornice; three-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; vestibule: wood order with glass and iron doorway; lobby: pilaster order with balcony; storefronts: orange and black tile bulkheads, most transoms, display windows intact; alterations: some altered windows in storefronts. Original owners: Dora and John H. Herbst, Herbst Bros. Manufacturing Company. Architects: Smith and Glass. 1925.

From 1969 to 1977, science fiction, fantasy and horror writer Fritz Leiber lived at the Union Hotel, in Room 507. My introduction to Fritz Leiber’s writing was The Mind Spider and Other Stories, a paperback collection of his short horror stories that I bought in 1962. I was twelve years old and had a voracious appetite for horror, which I fed with a steady stream of thirty-five cent paperbacks. By the time I had finished reading “The Mind Spider” I was a devotee of Fritz Leiber. Fortunately for me, Leiber was a prolific writer, and I continued to buy his books through the ’70s, making most of my purchases at City Lights Books after moving to San Francisco in 1968.

One of the books by Leiber that I bought from City Lights was Our Lady of Darkness, which takes place in San Francisco. The story’s protagonist, a literary simulacrum of Leiber, resides at the “Rhodes Hotel” (the Union was originally the Rhodema Hotel) at 811 Geary Street, in Room 607. Such a thrill it was to read this story, one of his best, replete with descriptions of places* and landmarks that were by then (1977) very familiar to me. God, I loved living in San Francisco! I still do.

*for example, McDonald’s Bookstore on Turk Street (refer to “Dalt”).

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