Claremont Hotel & Spa

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Claremont Club & Spa, A Fairmont Hotel
In 2006
General information
LocationOakland, California, United States
Address41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley, California
Coordinates37°51′32″N 122°14′30″W / 37.8588°N 122.2418°W / 37.8588; -122.2418Coordinates: 37°51′32″N 122°14′30″W / 37.8588°N 122.2418°W / 37.8588; -122.2418
OwnerFairmont Hotels and Resorts
Technical details
Floor count10
Design and construction
ArchitectCharles William Dickey
Walter D. Reed
Other information
Number of rooms279
Number of suitesStudio Suites
Petite Queen Suites
Number of restaurantsMeritage at the Claremont
Bayview Café
Official website Edit this at Wikidata

Claremont Club & Spa, A Fairmont Hotel is a historic hotel situated at the foot of Claremont Canyon in the Berkeley Hills and located in the Claremont district which straddles the city limits of Berkeley and Oakland. At its elevation (400 feet), the location provides scenic views of San Francisco Bay. The hotel building is entirely in Oakland, as are the spa, the gardens and parking area. However, a small portion of the property located just east of the Berkeley Tennis Club is within the city limits of Berkeley,[1][2][3] and the resort uses the address of this parcel as the hotel's address (41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley CA 94705).[4]

The Berkeley Tennis Club leased a portion of the hotel grounds from 1917 to 1945. In 1945, the Club purchased this section of the grounds, and remains located at 1 Tunnel Road, Berkeley next to the Hotel.[5] The club's property straddles the Oakland-Berkeley city limits, which run down the pathway between the sets of courts.

The Claremont has 279 guest rooms, a 20,000-square-foot (1,900 m2) spa, 10 tennis courts, and 22 acres (8.9 ha) of landscaped gardens. Romantic stories tell that it was once won in a checkers game. The Hotel was nominated and deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, but was not listed due to owner objection.[6] It is a designated Oakland City Historical Landmark.[7]


The site upon which the hotel was constructed was originally located in an unincorporated section of Alameda County, outisde of any city limits. It was developed by an early settler, William B. Thornburgh, who constructed a large home that he called a "castle". After his death, it was sold to John Ballard. On July 14, 1901, a wildfire descending from the hills burned the house to the ground.[8][9] The property was subsequently acquired by a group of investors, including John Hopkins Spring, Francis "Borax" Smith, Frank C. Havens, Louis Titus, and Duncan McDuffie.[10] They formed the Claremont Hotel Co. in 1905. Smith and Havens were already involved with what came to be known as the "Key System", a major transit and real estate development company in the East Bay, whose commuter trains began rolling in 1903.

Construction of the hotel began about 1905, contemporaneously with the nearby Claremont Park development of Duncan McDuffie, but halted as a result of supply and financial difficulties caused by the 1906 earthquake. Construction resumed for a time in 1910, but further difficulties impeded progress. In the meantime, a referendum in November of 1909 brought the annexation of the area that included most of the hotel site into the city limits of Oakland. Finally, the hotel was completed and opened in 1915 as the Claremont Hotel.

A transbay Key railway line (eventually designated the "E" line) was run right to the doors of the Claremont Hotel, approaching from between the tennis courts that are now part of the Berkeley Tennis Club. Thus, Claremont Hotel guests not only had views of San Francisco, but could go there directly from the lobby steps. The tracks were removed in 1958 when the Key System was dismantled, but the tennis courts are still separated by a path where the tracks used to be.

The Key System constructed another large hotel near downtown Oakland, the Key Route Inn, which also had its own train service.

Besides the direct rail connection, the Claremont Hotel was also convenient to vehicular traffic, as it was situated along the principal route over the Berkeley Hills via Claremont Canyon. In 1903, a small tunnel was excavated above Temescal Canyon (the next canyon southward), accessible by a new road dubbed Tunnel Road, which ran from the end of Ashby Avenue. The same route later led to a newer, larger tunnel which opened in 1937 as the "Broadway Low Level Tunnel", later re-named the Caldecott Tunnel. The street address of the Claremont is still 41 Tunnel Road. Tunnel Road is a designated part of State Highway 13.

In 1876, a state law was passed that prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages within one mile (1.6 km) of the perimeter of the University of California. In 1913, the hotel's investors sponsored AB 1620 (known as the Ferguson bill), supposedly to further restrict alcohol near churches and schools statewide, but specifically excluding the Claremont Hotel from the dry zone. Influenced by activism from women's clubs and temperance groups in Berkeley, the Ferguson bill was defeated by one vote.[11][12] In 1933 when Prohibition was repealed, the Claremont Hotel continued to suffer from the state law prohibiting the sale of liquor within a mile of the university. In 1937, the law was amended to measure the distance following street routes rather than a straight line, and the hotel was then able to serve liquor legally.[13] According to a story on the hotel’s website, a student at the University discovered in 1936 that the route was over a mile and was awarded free drinks for life.[14] This point had been publicly discussed in 1913, however.[15]

The hotel had an unusual fire escape in the form of a multi-story spiral slide for guests to make their escape. Many people over the years, including teenagers, sneaked in and took the ride, but the slide was eventually boarded up and removed. On the final day the slide was opened up to the public and anybody making a donation to the hotel's selected charity was given a monogrammed terrycloth hand towel to slide down with.

The Claremont faced destruction in the 1991 Oakland firestorm, but firefighters and the lessening wind stopped the flames short of the hotel.

In 2007, the Claremont was acquired by Morgan Stanley. On February 1, 2011, the resort filed for bankruptcy due to losses attributed to the ongoing recession.[16] Lenders including Paulson & Co., Winthrop Realty Trust and Capital Trust foreclosed on the property. In 2013, the owners reached a deal to sell the Claremont and three other properties to the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation.[17] The Claremont was purchased in March 2014 by the Fairmont Hotel chain and financier Richard Blum.[18]

Reported haunting[edit]

The Claremont is reportedly haunted, particularly Room 422.[19] Reports include the sound of a baby crying,[20] but the story of the death of a six-year-old girl in that room has not been substantiated.[19][21]


  1. ^ City of Berkeley Zoning Map
  2. ^ 41 Tunnel Road Parcel Summary, City of Berkeley Enter the address "41 Tunnel Road" to get the parcel information.
  3. ^ Annalee Allen (November 6, 2011). "Inside Bay Area: Claremont Hotel is a towering East Bay landmark". Oakland Tribune.
  4. ^ The Claremont Hotel and Spa website
  5. ^ F. Eisenmeyer; F. Jury (1983). "The Tennis Club". Exactly Opposite the Golden Gate. The Berkeley Historical Society. p. 264.
  6. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  7. ^ "Claremont gets 'landmark' status". Berkeley Daily Planet. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
  8. ^ Oakland Tribune, July 15, 1901, p. 4.
  9. ^ Berkeley Daily Gazette, July 15, 1901.
  10. ^ Oakland Berkeley City Directory 1906, p.105.
  11. ^ Robert W. Cherny; Mary Ann Irwin; Ann Marie Wilson (2011). California Women and Politics: From the Gold Rush to the Great Depression. University of Nebraska Press. p. 191. ISBN 0-8032-3503-8.
  12. ^ Franklin Hichborn (1913). Story of the session of the California Legislature of 1913. Press of the James H. Barry company. pp. 303–04.
  13. ^ California Penal Code Section 172. Subd. (d) was added in 1937.
  14. ^ "Free Drinks for Life". History. The Claremont Hotel. 2007. Archived from the original on August 4, 2008. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
  15. ^ Oakland Tribune, April 2, 1913, Page 4, column 3, comments by Mayor Mott of Oakland.
  16. ^ Tiffany Kary (February 2, 2011). "Century-old Claremont Hotel files for bankruptcy". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on February 4, 2011. Retrieved July 4, 2019 – via San Francisco Chronicle.
  17. ^ Christie Smythe (February 22, 2013). "Paulson-Owned Resort Group Chapter 11 Exit Plan Approved". Bloomberg News.
  18. ^ George Avalos (March 21, 2014). "Claremont Hotel bought by Fairmont and Richard Blum group". San Jose Mercury News.
  19. ^ a b Katie Dowd (June 6, 2019). "Leaving Oakland, the Warriors may lose one of the NBA's weirdest competitive advantages". San Francisco Chronicle.
  20. ^ Houston Mitchell (March 26, 2014). "Tim Duncan tells of strange happenings at haunted hotel". Los Angeles Times.
  21. ^ Katie Dowd (March 27, 2014). "Tim Duncan, Spurs terrified by ghosts at Berkeley's Claremont Hotel". San Francisco Chronicle (Sports Events blog).

External links[edit]