The Definitive Resource Of Oscar Wilde's Visits To America

The Palace Hotel

Wilde’s Lodgings in San Francisco 

Oscar Wilde arrived on the west coast by overland train on Sunday, March 26, 1882.

His train terminated at Oakland, from where he was taken by carriage to the wharf for the ferry-boat crossing to San Francisco. He was accompanied by many members of the press and a reception committee which had ferried over to Oakland at 8:00 AM that morning to meet him.

In San Francisco he was whisked away to The Palace Hotel, the largest and one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, which was to be his base for the duration of his two weeks stay in California where he lectured ten times, the first at Platt's Hall in San Francisco where lectured four times.


Built: 1873-75 (William Chapman Ralston)

Opened: October 2, 1875

Height: 120 feet (37 m); San Francisco's tallest building for over a decade

Guest rooms: 755

Destroyed (fire): Wednesday, April 18, 1906, following the San Francisco earthquake

Replaced by: the "New" Palace Hotel, opened on December 19, 1909 (extant)

The original Palace Hotel was built by San Francisco banker and entrepreneur William Chapman Ralston who heavily depended on his shaky banking empire to help finance the $5 million project. Although Ralston's Bank of California collapsed in late August 1875, and Ralston himself unexpectedly drowned in San Francisco Bay on the same day that he lost control of the institution, it did not interfere with the opening of the Palace Hotel two months later on October 2, 1875. Ralston's business partner in the project was U.S. Senator William Sharon who had helped cause the collapse of the Bank when he dumped his stock in the Comstock Lode. Sharon ended up in control of the hotel as well as both the Bank and Ralston's debts both of which he paid off at just pennies on the dollar. (Wikipedia)



Complete Letters, p.158 (courtesy Merlin Holland)


People I Have Met: Short Sketches of Many Prominent Persons

Mary Watson, Francis, Valentine & Company, 1890

Images are taken from the Bruce C. Cooper Collection online at Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum ( and used in accordance with this web site's fair use policy of  public domain material

For more images and information about The Palace Hotel see

Oscar Wilde In America | © John Cooper, 2024