Oakland’s first large hotel, the Grand Central (1872–1880), at 12th Street from Webster to Harrison, was built in 1872 and destroyed by a fire which started on March 9th, 1880 at about 2:00 A.M. It was designed and originally co-owned by Samuel Merritt and Captain P. S. Wilcox, although the hotel had been purchased by a gentleman named Michael Reese (who was a director of the Oakland Bank of Savings along with Merritt and Wilcox) sometime in 1879.
The 1874 Oakland City directory called the building one of the most expensive in the city. Covering a full city block, the building was in the style of Italian architecture [? - in the photo, it looks more like French Second Empire style?] with a Mansard roof, and was 4 stories high with 3 towers (probably above these 4 stories). A porch led from each entrance all the way to the sidewalk, making dismounting from carriages convenient even in rain or sun. ”The vestibule at the main entrance has a tesselated flooring of artificial marble. The ceiling rises eighteen feet in the clear. Laurel, oak, and walnut are represented in the graining, which has been executed with considerable care.” Other modern features included an elevator and telegraph office, and suites were available in addition to private rooms.
Various Oaklanders lived in Grand Central Hotel, including U.C. president Daniel Gilman. Physician E. Lee Jones both lived there and had his office there.
Newspaper advertisement for the new and elegant Grand Central Hotel listed in the Oakland Daily Evening Tribune, Monday, 29 June 1874.
- Langley, Henry G. A directory of the city of Oakland and the town of Alameda for the year ending 1874. Oakland: HG Langley, 1874. (available for free online)
- "The Oakland Fire," Daily Alta California, March 10, 1880 (very interesting article!)