The International Hotel (For Raquel)

Built in 1907, the International Hotel, on the southeast corner of Kearny and Jackson Streets, was a low income residential hotel in an area next to Chinatown. The area would become known as Manilatown because of the Filipino American neighborhood that was located there from the 1920s to the 1970s. In the mid 1960s the International Hotel was scheduled to be demolished, and eviction notices began going out to the residents of the hotel in 1968. After a long court battle and many protests at the site by activists wanting to save the building, the last residents were evicted in 1977 and the hotel was demolished in 1981. A new and smaller International Hotel occupies the corner today.(Thumbnail images)

The International Hotel viewed from the northwest corner of Kearny and Jackson Streets as the building was being demolished, and the new International Hotel that’s there today: (Vintage picture from Wikimedia Commons)

 

Another view of the hotel in 1976 in a picture from the FoundSF website: The buildings in the background are, from left to right, the Transamerica Pyramid, the Hilton Hotel that replaced the old Hall of Justice, and the Bank of America Building.

 

Looking north along Kearny toward Telegraph Hill and the back side of the Sentinel Building, aka as Columbus Tower, during the fight to save the Hotel. (freedomarchives.org)

SF Police on standby for protests at the International Hotel in August of 1977: (SF Chronicle)

Protesters in front of the hotel, looking down Kearny Street to the pedestrian walkway that crosses Kearny from the Hilton Hotel over to Portsmouth Square:

What’s left of the International Hotel near completion of its demolition in 1981, and the same spot today: (theculturetrip.com)

 

From 1952 until 1969 guests were entertained at Enrico Banducci’s hungry i nightclub, located in the basement of the Jackson Street side of the International Hotel. The hungry i was paramount in kick starting the careers of many entertainers, including Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, Jonathan Winters, Joan Rivers, Bill Cosby and the Kingston Trio. In his 1967 book, ‘San Francisco, City on Golden Hills’, Herb Caen writes about a walk he took from his Russian Hill home, down Chestnut Street to Columbus Avenue, and along Kearny Street to Jackson Street, where he stops at the International Hotel to visit Enrico Banducci in his hungry i office.

{I don’t think you could raise a gang there today to topple a statue or set out for Galapagos, but around Jackson, it’s still pretty colorful. Peruvian and Chinese restaurants, Filipino pool Halls and barber shops, the barbers sitting in their chairs between customers and playing guitars and violins. The big hotel that was once a whorehouse—two doors down from the old Hall of Justice. I peered through a window into Enrico Banducci’s, office above the hungry i. Enrico may not have the most elegant office in town, but it’s the most ridiculous: two roll top desks, a pool table, a billiard table and three phones that never stop ringing.

“Hey, Bandooch,” I said, “I’ll play you for a buck.”You’re on,” he said, dumping his secretary off his lap and grabbing a cue, or even vice versa. A drunken seaman came in, waving a bottle and dancing around the room. “Hey, Enrico!” he shouted. “I got my papers again—I’m going back to work! I ship out tonight!” “That’s wonderful, Kelly,” said Enrico, “just wonderful!” The seaman pulled the secretary out of her chair and began dancing around with her. I sank the fifteen in the side pocket and expected Bill Saroyan to walk in any minute. His kind of scene.}

 

The album Barbra Streisand recorded at the hungry i in 1963: (themusicshopandmore.com)

 

The Kingston Trio, up Kearny Street from the hungry i between Columbus Avenue and Broadway, on the cover of their 1964 album, ‘Back in Town’: In the background of both images is the domed Sentinel Building. To the right of the Sentinel Building on the album cover image is the old Hall of Justice Building.

3 thoughts on “The International Hotel (For Raquel)

    • That’s the way I interpret the expression, Tony. The hotel started out as guest accommodations, but somewhere along the line became low income housing. I think if it had been a little closer to Chinatown the building might have been protected from demolition because some of the buildings across Kearny Street appear to be just as old.

      • Oh, of course, ‘low income housing’. That does not sound good, especially since we know how expensive ‘low income’ is.

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