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The reception given to President Hayes by San Francisco is destined to be a prominent landmark in the eventful history of our city. It is said that self-praise is no recommendation, but, despite this adage, we may fairly claim for the Golden City, the credit of having succeeded in giving the Chief Executive of the United States a welcome that was worthy of the honor conferred upon us by his visit.

No feature of this ovation will be more pleasurably remembered by our citizens than the manner in which the authorities of the Palace Hotel have acquitted themselves in the matter. To house the President was, of course an enviable honor, and one which the management of any hotel in the world would do its best to obtain. But the Palace was sure of this distinction, by virtue of its pre-eminent rank and prestige. Whatever efforts it made to accord special honors to its illustrious guest could have been instigated only by a desire to uphold San Francisco’s reputation for loyalty and magnificent hospitality. We are sure, therefore, that we only echo the public sentiment when we say that the Palace has earned the gratitude of all our citizens by the splendid part which it voluntarily played in the reception of the President.

San Francisco was the goal of the President’s journey, and here it was that every one expected the grandeur of his “progress” to culminate. It was eminently fitting, therefore, that the last scene of the pageant—the final housing of the illustrious guest—should be the most imposing and gorgeous of all. That this was the case was shown by the astonished gratification with which the President and his party, on their arrival at the Palace, viewed the preparations which had been made for their reception. The elaborate and flattering ceremonial which they had just gone through—the procession, the speeches, the shouts of welcome from the crowd—all paled into insignificance, and were for the moment forgotten, when the great courtyard of what General Sherman aptly calls our “fairy Palace” was entered. There was not a soul in all the assembled multitude who did not feel proud of the gigantic edifice, and feel that the gala robes in which it had been arrayed for the occasion were an honor to San Francisco. And, in truth, the decorations were as beautiful as they were profuse and costly. If the city had appropriated a large sum for the purpose, a more lavish display could not have been made than that which was the result of private generosity. Huge streamers and banners of bunting, gay shields bearing appropriate mottoes, long graceful festoons of evergreens, and innumerable other happy devices, almost hid the delicate architecture of the towering corridors from view. Wherever the eye wandered, the results of ingenuity, good taste and lavish expenditure elicited the admiration of the beholder.

But the courtyard was not alone in this respect. The hotel throughout was similarly decked out in holiday attire, the multifarious details of which it would require a volume to record. Nor was the management satisfied with decorating the interior. The bridge connecting the Palace with the Grand Hotel was converted into a magnificent triumphal arch, and, partly owing to its unrivaled position across New Montgomery Street, was unquestionably the handsomest and most imposing piece of out-door display to be seen in the city.

This bridge is in itself an ornament to the street it spans. As we have said, it connects the “biggest hotel in the world” with the Grand Hotel, which itself is an enormous caravansary. Its length is seventy-two feet, its breadth ten feet, and its height, from the street below to the summit of its roof, is no less than fifty feet. Its appearance from without is very elegant and graceful, but, at the same time, care has been taken to render the structure immensely strong. The whole is framed in the most perfect manner, and profusely glazed with heavy plate glass. The interior is painted and furnished with corresponding richness. On the occasion in question, the bridge was surmounted by a huge figure of Victory, on either side of which stood figures of Mercury and Geography. Beneath these was emblazoned the word “Welcome,” while on the face and center was the coat of arms of the State, surrounded by trophies. An extremely tasteful arrangement of shields, banners, stars, etc., completed this elaborate decoration.

We may be sure that when all this was done to please the President’s eye, still more was accomplished in order to insure his personal comfort, and render his private apartments worthy of their occupant. The suite of rooms allotted to the illustrious guest are four in number, including a parlor, a dining room and two sleeping apartments, and are situation on the southeast corner of the second floor. These rooms were furnished especially for the occasion, in a most sumptuous and elegant style, the furniture being all of California make. The appointments of the parlor are particularly rich. The furniture is mainly of ebony and gold, upholstered with maroon satin, though several odd pieces of artistic design tend to obviate any monotony of appearance. A rich Turkish carpet, curtains of gossamer lace, twined with smilax and flowers, rare bronzes, magnificent paintings of California scenery, and vases of fragrant exotics, all go to make up the tout ensemble of an apartment of royal luxuriousness. The sleeping rooms are furnished with proportionate elegance, and the dining room, with its massive sideboard groaning under a weight of gold and silver plate and glittering crystal, is the very perfection of luxurious comfort.

This is the way they do things at the Palace. Experience has taught them how to entertain a distinguished guest. Probably no hotel in the world, certainly none in America, has been honored with the presence of so many illustrious travelers. Great personages, representing most of the important countries of the earth, have made a temporary home beneath the mighty roof of the Palace. Brazil has been represented by its Emperor, the Hawaiian Kingdom by its monarch, Italy by the brother of its present sovereign, the Duke of Genoa, France by the Royal Duke of Penthievre, England by the Governor-General of Canada, the Earl of Dufferin, the Duke of Manchester, and other nobles innumerable, Russia by many of its millionaire Princes, China by her ambassadors, America by Cabinet Ministers, statesmen, and now by her President. But the list is too long to enumerate, and we must leave the rest to the memory of the reader.

But though from its vast scale and magnificent appointments, no less than from its well-earned prestige, the Palace naturally eclipses all our other caravansaries, its success and popularity must not be wholly attributed to these causes. Its perfect management has a great deal to do with it. If Mr. Alexander D. Sharon, the lessee and manager-in-chief, were less able than he is, if Mr. George H. Smith, the head clerk, or Mr. DeL. Harbaugh, the cashier, were less popular and efficient than the are, if the whole host of subordinates and servants were less ably selected and organized than is the case, the Palace, be it never so big and splendid, would fall far short of its present position as the leading hotel of America.

San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser
May 1, 1880