San Francisco Chronicle
Huntington Hotel sold; owners plan to restore it
Two hotel investment and management firms announced Monday that they acquired the Huntington Hotel in San Francisco’s Nob Hill neighborhood for an undisclosed sum.
The firms, Highgate and Flynn Properties, said they planned to “restore and elevate every aspect” of the hotel, “returning it to its original glory while reestablishing it as the single finest luxury hotel in San Francisco.”
The Huntington shut down after a spate of financial challenges linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant effects on tourism. At one point, the hotel had defaulted on its $56.2 million mortgage. The hotel’s website said the Huntington remained closed as of Monday morning.
Built in 1924 as the first brick-and-steel high-rise in the West, the 12-story hotel sits at the peak of California and Taylor streets near Grace Cathedral. The hotel was named for Collis Huntington, one of the Big Four railroad tycoons often derided as robber barons.
In its day, the Huntington made Nob Hill the city’s fanciest hotel destination, along with the Mark Hopkins and the Fairmont. The restaurant on the Huntington’s first floor was an evening destination, first as L’Etoile, a swank scene with society favorite Peter Mintun at the piano, and later the Big 4, a martini bar decorated with relics of the era when the railroad was king.
The hotel was owned by society matron Dorothy “Dolly” Fritz, a San Francisco heiress who had been given the hotel for her 14th birthday by her father, Eugene Fritz. Dolly Fritz also inherited the Brocklebank Apartments across Huntington Park from the hotel. After Fritz died in 1976, it was inherited by her husband Newton Cope, a onetime Sacramento car dealer. When Cope died in 2005, the holdings went to a consortium of his children and Fritz’s. Eventually, the Nob Hill empire was divided among them, and the Huntington sold to a Singapore investment group.
The Big 4 closed as the hotel was resold in 2018 to Woodridge Capital, a Los Angeles investment firm. There was talk of transforming the hotel into luxury apartments or condos. The new owners plan to keep it as a hotel and also plan to reopen the Big 4, and the luxuriant Nob Hill Spa. The plan is to reopen the Huntington in 2025, just missing its centennial.
“I could not be more excited about the opportunity to bring the iconic Huntington Hotel back to its former glory and beyond,” said Flynn Properties founder and CEO Greg Flynn in a press release. “Being a San Francisco native and current resident, I am deeply committed to this city. The opportunity to contribute to its renaissance through investment in one of its true treasures is a privilege, and I am committed to making sure that it is done to perfection.”
Flynn Properties holdings include the Carneros Resort and Spa, and Solage, both in Napa Valley. Highgate owns the Stanford Court Hotel on the eastern slope of Nob Hill, along with the Newbury Boston, and the Knickerbocker Hotel and Park Lane Hotel in New York City. The company has offices in New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle.