Vance Hotel Building
The Vance Hotel was built in the Italianate style in 1872 under the leadership of John Vance, a Eureka lumber magnate and entrepreneur. The Vance Hotel was the first in the city to have electricity and advertised first class service and was regarded as the finest hotel in northern California outside of San Francisco at the turn of the century. Today, the building is home to Eureka Main Street and various retailers. The building is also part of the Eureka Old Town Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Backstory and Context
In 1872, lumber pioneer John Vance commissioned to the architect B. Mackay to design a new hotel near the bustling Eureka waterfront, which was filled with shops, warehouses, and saloons. Mackay's original design featured two stories, plus a sloping mansard roof with an "attic style" third story. The roof was topped by a cupola, intended for viewing ships that were arriving or departing from the Humbolt Bay.
The Vance Hotel as it was originally built featured over 65 guest rooms, plus a dining room that could serve up to 120 people. It was considered to be the grandest hotel in the region, "not excelled by any hotel outside San Francisco for beauty, size, cost and architecture." In 1885, the Vance Hotel became the first building in Eureka to have electricity and one of the first wood-frame commercial buildings in the county to offer electric light. Its electricity was powered by the generator at Vance's saw mill, then located on G street. The Vance Hotel also held the distinction of being the second-largest building in California to be constructed entirely of wood. This is fitting, given that the building's owner made his fortune in lumber.
In 1902, the mansard roof was removed during a remodel of the property by a new owner, M. Delon. In its place, two additional full stories were added to create a twice as many hotel rooms. Thus, the upper two stories showcase a relatively more restrained Edwardian or Classical Revival style architecture, as opposed to the earlier and more ornate Victorian style that characterizes the two lower stories. The lower stories still retain their original 1872 facade.
In 1912, a moat bridge was added to connect the second story of the Vance Hotel with a neighboring warehouse on the opposite side of Snug Alley, the small delivery street which ran between the two buildings. This moat bridge enabled hotel guests to conveniently reach the warehouse, where they were able to view sample displays of products being offered for sale by traveling merchants. For many years, the hotel served as the commercial and social center of the town.
During the 1950s, the hotel was purchased during a private auction by the family of the actor, Lloyd Bridges, and was one of several historic buildings in Eureka acquired by the Bridges family. The hotel was acquired by new owners in 1998 who restored the property as a Victorian retail/office space complex. Today, the Vance Hotel building houses various businesses, shops, and restaurants, such as the Vance Cafe in a street-level storefront. Tenants also include Eureka Main Street, a public-private partnership that represents the interests of the merchants, professionals, community organizations, and City of Eureka. The Vance Hotel anchors Eureka's Old Town Historic District, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 as a National Historic District.
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"Historic Sites and Points of Interest in Humboldt County: Vance Hotel", Noe Hill. Accessed March 17th 2020. https://noehill.com/humboldt/poi_vance_hotel.asp.
M., Lynette . "Vance Hotel, from 1881 to Now", Lynette's NorCal History Blog. Accessed March 17th 2020. https://lynette707.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/vance-hotel-from-1881-to-now/.
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HSU Special Collections/Ericson
Humboldt County Collection/Woods
History of Humboldt County