Claremont Hotel 2

The Claremont Hotel is a large hotel in the Oakland/Berkeley Hills bordered by Tunnel Road and Claremont Avenue, two roads that for years were the main routes between between Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Although the hotel has a Berkeley mailing address and is often described as being in Berkeley, the entire hotel and nearly all of the grounds are on the Oakland side of the border between Oakland and Berkeley. When construction on the hotel started in 1905, the property was not part of either city, but the site was part of a major annexation to Oakland that was approved by voters in 1909.

Prior to the construction of the Claremont Hotel, the current hotel property was part of a 13,000 acre estate assembled by Bill Thornburg for his daughter and wife, who wanted to live in an English castle, which Thornburg did construct. The property also included horse stables and other amenities. After his wife passed away and his daughter moved to England, Bill Thornburg sold the castle and the property to the Ballard family. On July 14, 1901, the castle and many other houses in the hills burned down due to a fire caused by hot, dry winds.

Next to own the property were Frank "Borax" Smith and his business partner, Frank Havens, who planned to build a resort hotel as a destination for The Realty Syndicate via the Key System. Legend has it that in a game of checkers (or dominoes, or poker) between Havens, Smith and Berkeley businessman John Spring, the property was wagered and that Havens won.

In 1905 Frank Havens and his Claremont Hotel Company started construction. After some delays, and the purchase of more land, the Claremont Hotel opened on May 3. 1915. 9 At the time, the Claremont Hotel was the largest hotel on the West Coast. The hotel was designed by architect C.W. Dickey for "Borax" Smith and Frank Havens' Realty Syndicate. Although it has been painted bright white for many years, it originally had a darker color scheme when it was built.

There is some ambiguity as to who was ultimately responsible for completing the construction of the Claremont Hotel, A story from the backside of a 1957 hotel menu asserts that Alaska miner Erick Lindblom purchased the property from Havens and was responsible for the entire construction. Other sources, including the paperwork prepared for the nomination of the Hotel for the National Register of Historic Places, assert that Mr. Lindblom was simply the source of a large infusion of capital in 1914 to complete the project. 7 Mr. Lindblom took control of the hotel in 1918. 7,8

Longtime employee Claude Gillum bought the Claremont in 1937 for $250,000 and completely renovated the interior. Mr. Gillum and his wife installed a fire resistant roof, automatic sprinkler system, high pressure water system and a smoke proof, water cooled fire escape. The wooden hotel building was threatened by the 1991 Oakland Firestorm. Images of the hillside behind the hotel covered with flames were shown around the country.

On July 16, 2002, the Claremont Resort & Spa (Claremont Hotel) was designated Oakland Landmark #133, under Zoning Case #LM01-404. Despite the efforts of neighbors and historic preservationists, the designation covered only the building but omitted the surrounding hotel grounds, although the City Council did impose certain zoning restrictions to protect neighbors' views of the original building. 10 

On May 12, 2023, the property, which is now known as the Claremont Club & Spa, was purchased by CH Property Owner LLC, an affiliate of Redwood City-based Ohana Real Estate Investors. 5,6 They purchased the property from an affiliate of Fairmont Hotels, which had purchased the hotel in 2014.4

Won 2014 "Readers' Choice" Best Spa in Oakland Magazine.


41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley, California, 94705
(yes, the mailing address is in Berkeley, but the Hotel itself is within the Oakland city limits)

Claremont Hotel Tower and Flag from Evergreen Path
(Courtesy NAParish; CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Claremont Resort & Spa (Claremont Hotel), Oakland, California 3



photo CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by www78

Links and References

  1. The Claremont Hotel Club & Spa: History The Beginning official website
  2. The_Claremont_Hotel_Berkeley_CA_Story_from_1957_menu.jpg Alameda Info (via the Wayback Machine)
  3. Designated Landmarks, Heritage Properties, and Preservation Districts City of Oakland
  4. Berkeley's Claremont Hotel to be bought by Fairmont, Raffles group San Francisco Business Times

  5. Landmark East Bay Claremont hotel is bought for more than $160 million East Bay Times May 16, 2023

  6. Alameda County Real Estate Document Access

  7. NHRP Registration Form 

  8. Erick O. Lindblom, Head of Hotel Claremont, Dies at 71 Oakland Tribune September 24, 1928

  9. Claremont Hotel Opens With Large Guest List San Francisco Call May 3, 1915

  10. Council declares Claremont hotel historic landmark (continued on p9Oakland Tribune July 17, 2002