Sky Room, Empire Hotel, San Francisco 1938
In the 1930s, several big American cities had bars and restaurants at the top of skyscrapers where people could eat and drink and admire the views stretching out before them.
The first such venue in San Francisco was in the Empire Hotel on McAllister Street and was called The Sky Room. (Seattle and New York, on the other hand, chose the equally romantic terms Cloud Room and Rainbow Room for their lofty cocktail bars.)
The witty and imaginative artwork on this 1938 menu cover shows elegant men and women partying as if they are on an open-air platform on the 24th floor.
They sit on the edge, their feet dangling, as waiters rush serve cocktails and a small crowd in the street far, far below looks up and cheers in amazement.
Here’s a description of the Sky Room we found on an old postcard.
'Stepping from the elevator, after a silent and swift flight of 24 stories, you are in a different world. Soft, deep carpets, subdued lights, luxurious furnishings… through the transparent walls of plate glass that surround the entire floor, San Francisco lies at your feet. The Bay Bridge, green Yerba Buena island, the Contra Costa hills, the Bay Cities. You follow the horizon – Nob Hill, the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge, Twin Peaks, Civic Center, Market Street, the teeming industrial area.. all these in the brief circle. And when the brilliant palette of the sunset is quenched in the Pacific, a Fairy Land springs into life. Long files of streetlights marching up the encircling hills. Blazing windows from a thousand serrated buildings. Neon signs with intense green and crimson fires. And overhead, the star-spangled canopy of the sky, with perhaps a silver crescent sailing through wisps of cloud. THIS is the Sky Room.’
The skyscraper, the most prominent building in the Tenderloin district, is now owned by UC Hastings College of the Law, and is used for student housing.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each order includes a print of the interior menu.