International Hotel (San Francisco)

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International Hotel
International Hotel (San Francisco).JPG
The 2nd incarnation of the International Hotel
International Hotel (San Francisco) is located in San Francisco
International Hotel (San Francisco)
Location San Francisco, California
Coordinates 37°47′46″N 122°24′17″W / 37.7961°N 122.4048°W / 37.7961; -122.4048Coordinates: 37°47′46″N 122°24′17″W / 37.7961°N 122.4048°W / 37.7961; -122.4048
Built Original built 1907, current built 2005
Architect Unknown
Architectural style Contemporary
NRHP Reference # 77000333
Added to NRHP June 15, 1977

The International Hotel, often referred to locally as the I-Hotel and intended as a luxury destination for wealthy travelers, was originally built on Jackson Street in 1854, moved to its 848 Kearny Street location in 1873 and was rebuilt in 1907 after the great San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906. By the 1920s, the International Hotel found itself squarely in the middle of a 10-block Filipino American enclave along Kearny Street known as Manilatown, the Manilatown section of San Francisco and became a low-cost residential hotel. During the 1920s and 1930s, thousands of seasonal Asian laborers came to reside at the hotel.[1] It was home to many Asian Americans, specifically a large Filipino American population. Around 1954, the I-Hotel also famously housed in its basement Enrico Banduccci's original "hungry i" nightclub. By the late 1970s, the I-Hotel was almost all that was left of Manilatown. The hotel was demolished in 1981, and after the site was purchased by the International Hotel Senior Housing Inc., it was rebuilt and opened in 2005. It now shares spaces with St. Mary's School and Manilatown.


"Urban Renewal" planning[edit]

The primarily Filipino population of immigrants living at the I-Hotel represented an area of Kearny Street in Chinatown known as San Francisco's Manilatown. Despite its full occupancy, during the urban renewal and redevelopment movement of the mid-1960s, the International Hotel was targeted for demolition. This "urban renewal" that was occurring in response to the ending of World War II had destroyed the heart of this section of San Francisco—The Fillmore District, west of downtown, hundreds of homes and thousands of residents were displaced due to the city's plans to expand the downtown business sector.[2]

Eviction opposition[edit]

Along with the ten full blocks of low-cost housing, restaurants, barber shops, markets, clubs and other businesses that benefited the Filipino community of around 10,000 people being destroyed, the International Hotel was planned to be demolished next. In order for the city to demolish the building, they needed to evict all of the "old timers" that lived in the I-hotel.[1] Due to the 50 dollars a month rent, many of the tenants were poor and the community that was based around this residence was all that they had. There were 196 tenants in the building that were ordered to leave in October of that same year.

Jim Jones in front of the International Hotel in January 1977
Protesters in front of the International Hotel on August 4, 1977
Sheriff deputies and San Francisco Police officers confront demonstrators on August 4, 1977

For years after the first eviction notices were served in 1968, many individuals were involved in the long fight that took place on the streets, in courtrooms, and in the everyday lives of the I-Hotel Manilatown residents. Some community characters involved in the struggle were Al Robles, Filipino-American San Francisco Poet, and at one point, controversial Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones. After Jones was appointed as Chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission, the Housing Authority voted to acquire the building using $1.3 million in federal funds and then to turn it over to tenants rights groups.[3] When a court rejected that plan and ordered evictions in January 1977, the Peoples Temple provided two thousand of the five thousand people that surrounded the building, barricaded the doors and chanted "No, no, no evictions!"[3] Sheriff Richard Hongisto, a political ally of Jones, refused to execute the eviction order, which resulted in Hongisto being held in contempt and serving five days in his own jail.[3]

Looking out of a window of the International Hotel the night of the eviction.
International Hotel sat empty for years after the eviction before being demolished in 1981.
Protesters link arms making a human barrier against Sheriff's deputies the hours before the eviction.
Protesters with masks prepare for the Sheriff's deputies in front of the International Hotel early hours of August 4, 1977.
Supporters march in front of the Manila Cafe, next to the International Hotel hours before the eviction.
Protesters in front of the International Hotel in San Francisco January 1977, 7 months before San Francisco Sheriff's deputies evicted the elderly mostly Filipino tenants.
Supporters of the I-Hotel included artists, writers and political activists from the Japanese American community. Poet Janice Mirikitani at right talks to Doug Yamamoto from the Kearny Street Workshop before an anti-eviction rally.
International Hotel supporters help evicted tenants move out belongings.
International Hotel supporters included members of the Peoples Temple in San Francisco January 1977.
Former International Hotel tenant Felix Ayson (r) and a supporter the day after San Francisco Sheriff's deputies evicted tenants .
Former International Hotel tenant Wahat Tompao sits on the street outside the hotel at 848 Kearny August 4, 1977

The final residents were evicted on August 4, 1977. In 1978, then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein created an International Hotel Citizens Advisory Committee, which was unable to break the deadlock between low-cost housing advocates and the property owner. The building stood empty while the fate of the site continued to be debated, but was finally demolished in 1981.

San Francisco Supervisor Dorothy von Beroldingen (center) with Housing Commissioner Reverend Jim Jones at a protest in front of the International Hotel in San Francisco, California January 1977.
Reverend Cecil Williams of Glide Memorial Church joined protesters in front of the International Hotel January, 1977.
Young people and other Bay Area university students who were involved in the 1968 Third World Liberation Front strikes were attracted to the anti-eviction movement to save the I-Hotel.
Supporters of the International Hotel rally across from the I-Hotel January 1977.
International Hotel Tenants Association Vice-Chairman Calvin Roberts help expedite moving out tenants the day after the eviction. Artist Rachael Romero's poster from the SF Poster Brigade is on wall at rear.
Silkscreen artist Nancy Hom move artwork out of the Kearny Street Workshop, on Kearny and Jackson Streets.
Manongs stood in front of the International Hotel or wandered on the sidewalk the morning after eviction.
Protesters at an anti-eviction rally to Save the I-Hotel in January 1977..
San Francisco Sheriff's deputies prepare to evict tenants late in the evening of August 3, 1977. Deputies would later enter the hotel after climbing up ladders to chop holes in the roof.
Reverend Cecil Williams speaks at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting asking for removal of the eviction order for the International Hotel
Protesters at San Francisco City Hall demand the removal of the eviction order from the International Hotel

International Hotel Manilatown Center[edit]

In 1994 the site was acquired by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco.[4] The air rights were later sold to Chinatown Community Development Center which planned to build a replacement low-cost residential project. In 2003, construction began on the new I-Hotel, and the building was completed on August 26, 2005. The new building contains 105 apartments of senior housing. A lottery was held to determine priority for occupancy, with the two remaining living residents of the original I-Hotel given priority. Occupancy started in October 2005, and the new building also contains a ground-floor community center and a historical display commemorating the original I-Hotel.

Chan Is Missing[edit]

The hotel and its elderly Filipino tenants were in a scene in the 1982 indie film Chan Is Missing by Wayne Wang (director of The Joy Luck Club).[5]

"The Fall of the I-Hotel"[edit]

A child waits with luggage on sidewalk after the hotel eviction.
Filipino poet Al Robles August 4, 1977.
Curtis Choy and Christopher Chow in front of International Hotel filming the day after the eviction.

The documentary "The Fall of the I-Hotel" was made in 1983 and updated in 2005. Curtis Choy wrote and directed the piece, which was narrated by Filipino poet and housing activist Al Robles. The documentary shows the eviction of tenants of the hotel and its demolition.[citation needed]

Emil de Guzman, the head of the International Hotel Tenants Association being interviewed for the documentary, "The Fall of the I-Hotel" the day after the tenants were evicted from the hotel.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Salomon, Larry R (1998). Roots of justice: stories of organizing in communities of color. Chardon Press. p. 160. ISBN 978-1-890759-02-5. 
  2. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ a b c Reiterman, Tim, and John Jacobs. Raven: The Untold Story of Rev. Jim Jones and His People. Dutton, 1982. ISBN 0-525-24136-1. page 282–3.
  4. ^ The I-Hotel rises again, San Francisco Chronicle, July 22, 2005
  5. ^ Wang, Wayne (Dir.) (1982). Chan Is Missing (DVD). New York: Koch Lorber Films. Event occurs at 14:15. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]