Happy 2018! I hope your New Year's Eve was a wonderful time for you and family, and that everyone is in good health.
I travelled south to my second home in Healdsburg, California over the holidays. I could not have been blessed with better weather.
I gifted my wife a New Year's Eve get away into the city. An overnight stay at the "Haunted" Queen Anne Hotel in San Francisco. I had read so many interesting accounts about it; and when I took a look at other "haunted" hotels/locations to experience in the city, this hotel stood out. So I booked us in for the night. The staff was so friendly and open about the "hauntings", we were welcome to walk about and explore, as long as we didn't disturb other guests. Of course there were a few other places I wanted to check out on this journey as well.
We began our trip on the morning of December 31, 2017. With the car full of gas, we picked up a lovely coffee and blueberry scone from the Flying Goat in Healdsburg and headed south on Hwy 101. The sun was shining, a bright blue sky above, and the air was warm. 15C/59F. For this Vancouver girl, it's spring weather, hoodie time; which makes it a great day to go exploring. Our drive into the city was without the usual clog of traffic, and we made it to our first stop in just over 1 hour. Although there were plenty of tourists in the city, it really was remarkable to find a parking spot directly outside our first destination.
Mission Dolores & Basilica.
Located in the Mission District of the city, and described as the birthplace of San Francisco, the Mission was built in 1776 under the direction of Father Juniper Serra, is the oldest building in San Francisco, and the oldest original intact in California. There is a reasonable donation to take a tour (self-guided, or a 90 minute guided tour is available) through the buildings and into the walled off cemetery nestled beside it. The cemetery is one of the last standing in the city, and is the resting place of Ohlone, Miwok and other First Californians, and notable pioneers, who built the Mission and were its earliest members. Markers date from 1830's to the late 1800's. The settlement was named for Saint Francis of Assisi (founder of Franciscan Order), but is commonly known by "Mission Dolores" for the creek nearby named Arroyo de los Dolores ("Creek of Sorrows").
Spanish soldiers first built a little Tule Arbor on the site in June 1776. Lieut. Jose Joaquin Moraga led his soldiers from Monterey Presidio for the San Francisco bay in hopes to establish a mission and presidio. Fathers Francisco Paulo and Pedro Cambon joined the expedition to establish the mission.
|Photo by Kati - Mission Dolores & Basilica (Dec.31/2017)|
|Photo by Kati - photo inside Mission, after 1906 earthquake (Dec.31/2017)|
It really was a beautiful place to visit, so we wandered through the old mission, enjoying the artifacts, the decorated ceiling, walls and windows with awe.
|Photo by Kati - Lieutenant Don Jose Joaquin Moraga interred in the Mission (Dec.31/2017)|
|Photo by Kati - ceiling in the Mission Dolores (Dec.31/2017)|
|Photo by Kati - the altar in the Mission (Dec.31/2017)|
Once inside the basilica, one can feel the enormity of it. Although it is small compared to those in Europe, it was filled with a grand spirit of tranquillity.
The tour gave us a peacefulness, as if we were alone engulfed in the beauty it bestowed.
|Photo by Kati - the altar at the Basilica & dome above (Dec.31/2017)|
|Photo by Kati - inside the Basilica (Dec.31/2017)|
While many people were enjoying the indoors of the Mission and Basilica, the Cemetery was quiet. We had walked into another world. The gardens had been restored and planted with native trees, flowers and plants from the 1791 period. It was truly breathtaking to walk among the old (some leaning) cemetery markers surrounded by beautiful colours and scents.
|Photo by Kati - the Mission Cemetery & Gardens (Dec.31/2017)|
In the midst of the graves was a hut of a replica home of the Bay area Ohlone Natives, known as a "ruway". Made of stripped, woven and shaped willow tree branches, and thatched with Tule reed, the hut sits in the middle of the cemetery with a description of how it was made.
|Photo by Kati - grave markers with replica of Ohlone Native home (Dec.31/2017)|
|Photo by Kati - cemetery markers, garden & replica of Ohlone hut (Dec.31/2017)|
|Photo by Kati - Madonna & Jesus in Basilica (Dec.31/2017)|
|Photo by Kati - the Basilica (Dec.31/2017)|
After the tour, we hopped into our car and drove a few blocks further into the Mission District to enjoy a delicious burrito luncheon (complete with homemade tortilla chips & a watermelon drink) at Pancho Villa Taqueria (at 3071 16th St). I recommend this place! You may encounter a line of people, but the flow to get your order is quick, and the food is fresh and oh so good! The staff is friendly in a fun atmosphere of the no-frills counter serve type of joint. The prices are absolutely affordable, especially if you're on a budget.
|Photo by Kati - Mission Dolores (Dec.31/2017)|
It was time to check into our hotel. The Queen Anne Hotel is located in San Francisco's Pacific Heights neighbourhood, at 1590 Sutter and Octavia Streets.
|Photo by Kati - Pancho Villa Taqueria (Dec.31/2017)|
|Photo by Kati - the Queen Anne Hotel on Sutter at Octavia Street (Dec.31/2017)|
This Victorian hotel was built in 1889 for Senator James G. Fair (rich from silver mines in the Comstock lode; Senator from Nevada 1881-1887), and opened as an elegant boarding/finishing school for young ladies in 1890 known as "the Mary Lake School for Girls". James wanted his teen daughters, Virginia and Tessie, to move to the city to be near him (Theresa Rooney divorced him in 1883, due to grounds of "habitual adultery"); therefore enrolled them in the school. Mary Ostrom Lake (July 15, 1849 - July 15, 1904), of Little Falls, New York, enjoyed teaching and taking care of her upper class girls. She taught them etiquette, social skills, and the polished art of being a lady for the times. It was rumoured that she had an affair with James Fair, but this was never proven.
Mary's family had moved to California from New York state after her father, Delos Lake (a lawyer) married her aunt, Myra Clark in 1855. Susan Clark, her mother, had passed away in 1853. Once in the San Francisco area, Delos became one of the city's wealthiest lawyers. The family is documented in the USA Census for San Francisco in 1860, and again in 1880. By 1887, Mary is noted to be teaching at the Zeitska Institute in the city directories; and by 1889, the listings confirm she is running a private boarding and day school for girls.
|Courtesy Newspapers.com - Weekly Courier (Nov.07, 1891) pg 02|
At the age of 63, James G. Fair passed away on December 28, 1894. Not long after, Mary Lake's school began to experience financial difficulties amidst a prolonged financial depression in the USA (1893-1897), and by 1896 it closed permanently.
The above ad confirms an auction of the contents from the school. It appears everything was up for sale.
By 1901, the US City Directories indicate Mary Lake continued her teaching career but had moved to 2008 Lyon in San Francisco, and in 1904 had moved to 1606 Van Ness Avenue.
On a passport application dated June 21, 1899, Mary is described as: 49 years, 5 feet 2 inches tall, with a high forehead, grey eyes, angular nose, full mouth, large and round chin, and dark brown hair with grey, with an oval face. I could not find a photo of Mary, so her description will have to conjure her image in our minds.
In 1904, Mary journeyed to New Jersey to visit with her sister, and suddenly died on her 55th birthday. The reason for her death is unknown. I wonder what happened to this friendly school teacher? News travelled fast to San Francisco, and shocked everyone.
|Courtesy Newspapers.com - San Francisco Call (June 23, 1896) pg 13|
The four-storey building, owned by the Fair estate, was leased to the Comos Club in 1897, an elite men's club in the city. It was one of the only buildings to survive the earthquake of 1906, with little damage. A candle snuffer roof over a corner tourelle had been removed possibly due to the earthquake. 1909, brought a new owner to the building. Kernan Robson (1872-1956), president of the Clark Construction Company. He made no intent to change the building, nor oust the club that leased it for the following 4 years (to 1913). The newspapers reported at the time of the earthquake, the Club had opened the building's doors to other clubs who had been burned out due to the earthquake; and the only changes that had been made since Mary Lake's school, was to convert it into a homelike institution. The following ad from 1915, indicates the Harris Institute had occupied at least part of the building.
|Courtesy Newspapers.com - San Francisco Chronicle (July 19, 1904) pg 11|
By 1926, the building was occupied by the Girls' Friendly Society Lodge (for girls/women ages 7-21), owned by the Episcopal Diocese. The Lodge was a home for young working women. In 1945, a newspaper noted a raging fire of several buildings in the area. Some displaced survivors were taken to the Central Emergency Hospital, while others were taken in at the Girls' Friendly Society Lodge. 75 people had been made homeless. No deaths were reported. In 1950, the building became a guest house called "the Lodge".
|Courtesy Newspapers.com - Los Angeles Times (Nov.14/1915) pg51|
The building was reported to have been sold in the mid-1970s and boarded up. Accounts tell us the building had been sitting empty from 1975-1980. It fell into disrepair until the 1980's when it was purchased and made into a posh bed and breakfast (one account read it was a "boutique hostelry") known as the Queen Anne Hotel.
|Courtesy Newspapers.com - Oakland Tribune (Mar.17/1956) pg10|
It is thought that due to the repairs and its transformation, the building woke up to old inhabitants, with spirit activity on every floor. To date, it is believed that Mary Lake is one of the main "spirits" of the hotel. Her suite, room 410, is to be the most haunted room in the building. This is where she had her office to the school, with her bedroom next door. Reports of Mary tucking guests in at night, appearing in the mirrors, feeling cold spots and breezes in her room, and watching over them as they slept were made. Other visitors report their luggage is mysteriously unpacked, while fallen pillows are placed back onto their beds. Mary appears to be taking care of hotel guests, as she did of her girls during the school years.
|Courtesy Newspapers.com - Journal News (Oct.31/1982) pg86|
|Photo by Kati - 4th floor, Room 410 (Jan.01/2018)|
|Photo by Kati - Lounge area near front of Hotel (Dec.31/2017)|
Our overnight stay was in Room 207. Although we experienced no "spirit" activity, we did encounter high EMF (electromagnetic field) near the walls, most likely due to power cables and outlets.
|Photo by Kati - Lounge area (Dec.31/2017)|
Free to roam and explore, Lesli and I walked up to the top of the hotel, the fourth floor, and found a staircase that led to nowhere. It had been boarded up. Looking out a nearby fire escape door, we saw only a little peaked window above. Perhaps it was a small attic space, or it may have some access to the roof. We asked our concierge about it, but she was not sure about its history. Lesli and I decided to quietly sit on the staircase just before the midnight hour. It wasn't long after that we felt a blast of cold air (no open doors or windows nearby) filled with electricity rush through us. Out came our digital recorders, and we captured 2 interesting EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) that evening from this area. We note, there was only one hotel room nearby, and we could faintly make out the people talking behind their closed door. One EVP had a girl giggling underneath my voice, while the other had a sigh or groan, which, after discussion, was neither Lesli or I. We'll share them on our website shortly under our "Evidence" tab.
We left a digital recorder on the stairs overnight, but captured no further evidence of "spirit activity". We visited the staircase twice that night. Just before midnight for 30 minutes, and around 1am for an hour. We then headed back to our room.
|Photo by Kati - the staircase to nowhere (Jan.01/2018)|
|Photo by Kati - looking down from the 4th floor (Jan.01/2018)|
Our stay at the Queen Anne Hotel was delightful. The staff was friendly, free coffee/tea was always available on the main floor sitting area, breakfast was served during the morning hours, and the freedom to roam and explore was encouraged. Our room was comfortable with a lovely big bed, shower/bathroom, table/chairs by the window and more. New Year's Day we checked out in the morning, and decided to visit an area of San Francisco we'd not seen in a few years before heading home.
|Photo by Kati - Bishop's Chair (Jan.01/2018)|
|Photo by Kati - Lesli (right) and I toasting the New Year at midnight (Jan.02/2018)|
Presidio's Pet Cemetery - A great short write up of the history and explanation of this unique cemetery can be found here: presidio.gov/places/pet-cemetery . Everytime we visit San Francisco, we enjoy dropping by. A few years back the city was rebuilding the Presidio Parkway viaduct, which passes above the cemetery. Today it appears close to finishing of the project, with much more air and light getting to the little graves of the beloved pets from the Army which was created in the 1950s. It's not known of the exact date. Check the link above for further information.
|Photo by Kati - Pet Cemetery at Presidio (Jan.01/2018)|
Our visit was during the day, before our trip back north, and not far from the Golden Gate Bridge. A great place for the view of the Bay and the Presidio. As you can see in the photo below, the bridge was covered with fog. This is a daily occurance.
|Courtesy Newspapers.com - Press Democrat, Santa Rosa (Feb.22/1985) pg03|
|Photo by Kati - View towards the Golden Gate Bridge from Cemetery (Jan.01/2018)|
|Photo by Kati - nestled beneath Presidio Parkway viaduct (Jan.01/2018)|
This concludes our First Adventure in Northern California. For more, please check back for the next blog entry of our Second Adventure to the Grey Whale Inn on the west coast of Mendocino County. It will be completed soon.
|Photo by Kati - Pet Cemetery at Presidio (Jan.01/2018)|
If you are ever in San Francisco, I recommend a stay at the Queen Anne Hotel, and by all means don't forget to check out the Mission Dolores & Basilica, as well as the Pet Cemetery. It will make your visit that much more enjoyable.
If you have stayed at the hotel, please tell us about your experience! We'd love to hear about them.
Until next time,
Sources: newspapers.com; missiondolores.org; sfmuseum.org; sfgenealogy.com; queenanne.com; eventbrite.com; pcad.lib.washington.edu; presidio.gov/places/pet-cemetery; wikipedia; google reviews; Ancestry.ca; wikipedia; google maps.
Note: Photos by Kati are the property of Kati Ackermann Webb and Vancouver Spooks Paranormal Investigations (VSPI) and may be used or copied without written permission. Contact us via our Website. Thank you.
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