15. Golden West Hotel San Francisco Cal. Corner Ellis and Powell Streets - 1914

A speakeasy in the basement and a novelist upstairs.

The Golden West Hotel (now the Hotel Union Square) was one of many that sprung up in anticipation of the visitors San Francisco was expecting to its 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. The original building featured Egyptian-motif mosaic murals, grand staircases, and ornate moldings.

The hotel’s long and colorful history includes a 10,000-square-foot speakeasy called The Golden Bubble that was hidden in the basement during the Prohibition Era. The original terrazzo floors and wallpaper still remain in what is now used as a storage area.

The Golden West Hotel was a favorite stopping spot of mystery writer Dashiell Hammett, who came to San Francisco in 1915 to work as a detective at the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. (Hammett is the author of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man series.) He loved the hotel so much that he booked his bride-to-be, Josephine Dolan, in a suite the night before their 1921 wedding.

In the 1950s, the hotel was renamed the Golden State Hotel. The Personality Hotels group bought the building in 1980 and reopened it as the Hotel Union Square in 1982.

The 131-room hotel completed a renovation in 2008 that included adding a Dashiell Hammett Suite. Two stainless steel eyes in the entrance are a reference to Hammett's story "The Girl with the Silver Eyes." The hand towels feature Hammett’s likeness. Other features include an antique suitcase filled with Hammett books, a collage dedicated to Hammett’s books and movies, photos of Hammett's wife and daughters, a vintage-style radio, and a mural of The Shadow of the Thin Man.

Hotel Union Square
114 Powell Street
San Francisco, CA 94102