The empty Cathedral Hill Hotel at Geary and Van Ness has finally starting crumbling to the ground this week. Built as the Jack Tar Hotel in 1960, its final descent into entropy is aided by demolition crews with excavators that will level it before building it back up as the new California Pacific Medical Center.
When it opened, the modernist lump was hailed as "the world's most modern hotel," with amenities that included air conditioning, a swimming pool, a wedding chapel and a rooftop ice skating rink. Although some thought it was the bee's knees, as the Chronicle's resident old person Carl Nolte remembers today, the city's contrarian set referred to it as, "the box Disneyland came in," "the Wurlitzer Hilton," and, "Texas' idea of what Los Angeles looks like." In 1983, after being rebranded as the Cathedral Hill hotel just a year before, a fire broke out killing two, injuring 37 and causing what then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein called, "total devastation."
More recently, however, it had simply been called a waste of space. It was rebuilt after the fire and operated for another 25 years until it closed in 2009. San Francisco was reminded of the vacant building's existence when it hosted several homeless activists, a brass band and a "guitar bard" during 2011's Occupy SF activity. At the time, the protestors claimed much of the hotel was still furnished and habitable.
The demolition effort is expected to wrap up early next summer. At which point, construction on the new 226-foot tall, 274-bed hospital can begin.