The Hotel St. Francis, fronting Union Square on Powell street, has a thousand rooms and is one of the distinctive institutions of San Francisco. The fire of 1906 damaged the building but left its steel frame and granite sheath intact, and a banquet of business men was held there to celebrate the beginning of reconstruction. When you think of the St. Francis you think of beautiful wall arrangements. Its Garden Court and Fable Room, where La Fontaine’s diverting inventions serve as the motifs for murals, attract the younger set for dancing and tea. The Tapestry Room is a distinguished example of decorative treatment.
San Francisco is the greatest hotel city in the world in proportion to population. These pages necessarily skim only the surface of this aspect of the city’s life. There are some 2,000 hotels, records of the Hospitality Bureau of the Chamber of Commerce show, each having rates scaled to meet the guests to whom it caters. Representatives of the Hospitality Bureau copy the names of arrivals at the hotels from the registers. These names are classified according to interests and given to a Hospitality Committee made up of business men who personally greet arrivals, bring them to the clubs, and dispense other courtesies.
It was O. Henry, caliph of phrases, who called San Francisco the Bagdad of the West. In doing so he must have had in mind its profusion of shops which stretch through the city like an endless bazaar.
Midweek shopping crowds in San Francisco are comparable to Saturday afternoon crowds in other American cities. This fact has been commented upon frequently by merchandising specialists, and it has significance.
Street population spells buying power, and San Francisco has larger shopping crowds every day of the year than any other city west of New York. Every day but Sunday is a shopping day.
Constant shopping by San Francisco women gives stimulus to the city’s retailers to comb world markets for the newest and most attractive offerings. Buyers are sent by the larger establishments not only to Paris and other style centers, but to all of the larger international trade fairs. Stocks in the shops reflect the enterprise of the retailers, who not only display the latest modes, but frequently create them.
The downtown shopping district spreads from Market to all the streets that radiate from it, from Kearny westward, well above Powell. Market street itself is a continuous stretch of display windows. Grant avenue, Stockton, Powell, O’Farrell, Geary, Post and Sutter streets are lined with department stores and intimate shops.
The Richmond, Mission, Sunset and other out lying districts have their own sub-centers, each crowded six days in the week with shoppers. Otherwise the downtown streets would be congested.
Flower stands splash the street corners with color in the downtown shopping district, and the wares glow in the show windows like exotic blooms under glass.