Claremont Hotel & Spa

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Claremont Club & Spa, A Fairmont Hotel
In 2006
General information
Location Oakland, California, United States
Address 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley, California
Coordinates 37°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
Opening 1915
Owner Fairmont Hotels and Resorts
Technical details
Floor count 10
Design and construction
Architect Charles William Dickey
Walter D. Reed
Other information
Number of rooms 279
Number of suites Studio Suites
Petite Queen Suites
Number of restaurants Meritage at the Claremont
Bayview Café
Official website

Claremont Club & Spa, A Fairmont Hotel is a historic hotel at the foot of Claremont Canyon in the Berkeley Hills. The location provides scenic views of San Francisco Bay. The main hotel building is entirely in Oakland. However, a portion of the property, which includes the spa, the gardens and parking area, falls within the city limits of Berkeley,[1][2][3] and the resort's mailing address is Berkeley (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 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 Claremont opened in 1915 as the Claremont Hotel, named for the Claremont district where it is situated. It was constructed by a group of real estate developers that included mining magnate "Borax" Smith. The group was associated with the Key System, and had already opened another large hotel, Key Route Inn, in Oakland at Grand Avenue and Broadway. The Key Route Inn suffered a serious fire in September 1930 and was demolished in April and May 1932.

As with the Key Route Inn, a transbay Key Route line (eventually designated the "E" line) ran right to the doors of the Claremont Hotel, approaching from between the tennis courts. Thus, Claremont Hotel guests not only had a magnificent view of San Francisco, but could go there directly from the doorsteps of the lobby. The tracks were removed in 1958 when the Key Route System was dismantled, but the tennis courts survive, separated by a path where the tracks used to be.

The hotel was also convenient to automobile traffic, as it was situated along the principal route over the Berkeley Hills via Claremont Canyon. In 1903, a small tunnel was excavated above the next canyon south of Claremont Canyon, 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 called the Caldecott Tunnel, which opened in 1937. 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. As the Claremont Hotel was under construction, its investors noticed it was just inside this no-alcohol zone. They determined to fight the definition so that they could make more money by serving alcohol. 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 it specifically excluded 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.[8][9] 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.[10] 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.[11] This point had been publicly discussed in 1913, however.[12]

The hotel had an unusual fire escape that was 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.[13] 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.[14] The Claremont was purchased in March 2014 by the Fairmont Hotel chain and financier Richard Blum.[15]


  1. ^ City of Berkeley Zoning Map
  2. ^ 41 Tunnel Road Parcel Summary, City of Berkeley
  3. ^ "Claremont Hotel is a towering East Bay landmark", Annalee Allen, Oakland Tribune Inside Bay Area, 11/06/2011
  4. ^ The Claremont Hotel and Spa website
  5. ^ "The Tennis Club", F. Eisenmeyer and F. Jury, p.264 in Exactly Opposite the Golden Gate, published 1983, The Berkeley Historical Society
  6. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  7. ^ "Claremont gets 'landmark' status". Berkeley Daily Planet. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ Hichborn, Franklin (1913). Story of the session of the California Legislature of 1913. Press of the James H. Barry company. pp. 303–304. 
  10. ^ California Penal Code Section 172. Subd. (d) was added in 1937.
  11. ^ "Free Drinks for Life". History. The Claremont Hotel. 2007. Archived from the original on August 4, 2008. Retrieved January 3, 2011. 
  12. ^ Oakland Tribune, April 2, 1913, Page 4, column 3, comments by Mayor Mott of Oakland.
  13. ^ Century-old Claremont Hotel files for bankruptcy", San Francisco Chronicle, February 2, 2011
  14. ^ Paulson-Owned Resort Group Chapter 11 Exit Plan Approved
  15. ^ Claremont Hotel bought by Fairmont and Richard Blum group George Avalos, San Jose Mercury News online edition, March 21, 2014

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