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Exterior of Hotel Sainte Claire
Photograph by Judith Silva, courtesy of the City of Santa Clara

Today a Larkspur Hotel, the Hotel Sainte Claire is a hexagonal six-story building, dominating a corner lot at a busy downtown San Jose intersection. The significance of the Sainte Claire Hotel is twofold. First, its history is an integral part of the history of San Jose and remains to this day among the city's most recognized architectural landmarks. Secondly, the Sainte Claire was designed by the prominent San Francisco architectural firm of Weeks and Day, which also designed several of the great hotels in San Francisco, including the Mark Hopkins and St. Francis. Weeks and Day were well noted for both their school and hotel designs in California. Interior similarities exist between San Jose's Sainte Claire and the Mark Hopkins in San Francisco. Especially notable are the coffered lobby ceilings designed by the firm for both buildings. The northwest corner is truncated and recessed forming the corner entrance which faces the intersection of South Market and San Carlos Streets. North and west elevations meet the truncated corner at a 120-degree angle, thus framing the entrance. Tawny brick sheathes the steel and concrete frame on floors two through six, and rusticated buff colored stone faces the ground level. The three part vertical composition includes the arcaded ground level, a shaft of four stories, and the six floors distinguished by paired windows set in arched frames. Denticular stringcourses separate the first and second floors, the third and fourth floors and the fifth and sixth floors. Detailing is basically derived from the Renaissance Revival tradition, though there are several references to French and Spanish architecture.

[rotating photos] Images of interior and exterior details of the hotel
Photographs by Judith Silva, courtesy of the City of Santa Clara

The hotel lobby remains the most intact interior space within the building. The Patio Room, once the hallmark of the hotel, has been covered over, modernized and combined with the Empire Room. Originally, the open patio room was framed by a Corinthian arcade. A small formal garden and fountain room, the Spartan Room on the second floor has also been modernized. Ceilings in the lobby, Spartan and Empire rooms were handpainted, but alterations over the years have obliterated the original work. Wood details in the guest rooms and the ornate hand-carved wood doors leading to the retail areas are intact. Many of the rooms have original bathroom fixtures. The hotel was financed by noted realtor and developer T. S. Montgomery, a prominent citizen of San Jose largely responsible for much of the commercial development in the downtown. In addition to financing such an ambitious project, Montgomery donated to the city a parcel of land across from the hotel for the new civic auditorium, which stands today. The Hotel Sainte Claire enjoyed the status of being the premiere grand hotel in the entire south peninsula region, and the reputation of having the most elegant accommodations between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Located at 302 South Market St., San Jose, the Hotel Sainte Claire, now a Larkspur Hotel, is an active business. There are pamphlets available for the public about the hotel's history. Call 408-295-2000 or visit the hotel's website for further information.

The Sainte Claire is a Historic Hotels of America member, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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