The InterContinental Mark Hopkins – A Hotel Still Recalling Pan Am’s Past

The InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco
Photo Credit: Luca Zocche

SAN FRANCISCO – “We had a great first half and we saw a sequential improvement month by month as it went on. It varies across the world. The Americas are incredibly strong. Business demand, leisure demand groups meetings, events keep getting better.” said CEO of IHG Keith Barr at the recent Skift Global Forum 2022.

Amidst the hotel’s old age, built after the San Francisco earthquake and 3-day fire the hotel is still at the center of high quality service in the city as it was in its heyday. Built by George D Smith, on land previously owned by Mark Hopkins the 19 story hotel was designed with a French Chateaux Spanish Renaissance style.

Such a style brought many special guests such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Charles D. Gaulle stayed in one of the 7 exclusive suites. Such a marvellous hotel could only catch the attention of the airline due to its incredible reputation and history.

“IHG development strategy was to have a major hotel in all the principal cities served by Pan Am, worldwide”. said SVP for Development at IHG Edward Trippe, also the 8th son of Pan Am’s founder Juan Trippe.

“Hence, as Pan Am began to expand its presence in US gateway cities IHG’s development priorities reflected Pan Am’s presence in these gateway markets. In NYC the Barkley InterContinental, in SFO the Mark Hopkins, in MIA the Four Ambassadors were early properties.”

“The Mark Hopkins was first. Others later included The Willard in Washington, plus hotels in Chicago, Dallas, Boston. Los Angeles was a priority but a difficult market to enter. “

“IHG for sure benefited from the relationship with Pan Am, but apart from the quality brand association with IHG, Pan Am marketing did not benefit to the same extent from its relationship with IHG. Pan Am needed to have strong marketing relationships with all hotels in the markets it served.”

This is what led to the airline’s acquisition of the Mark Hopkins in 1973 as part of the hotel’s first property in the U.S. The hotel was initially started by Juan Trippe in Belem, Brazil in 1946 and expanded to locations all over Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia including to the likes of Afghanistan (until the Soviet invasion in 1979).

Its aim was to offer a hotel with a local cultural feeling and American luxury as passengers from all over the world who flew with the carrier needed a place to sleep in addition to serving as an accommodation for its airline crew.

41 years since Pan Am sold the subsidiary and 31 years since the fall of Pan Am, InterContinental is still flying high today as displayed by its CEO and still serves not only as a centerimage for service from its time under George D Smith but also as one from the Pan Am days that hasn’t changed even today. 


Upon entering the lobby of the hotel staff were present, asking how you’re doing and offering to help with anything that you needed throughout the stay.

Of the 383 rooms in the InterContinental Mark Hopkins hotel, I was in one of the classic rooms which includes a hallway which leads to your king sized bed and a large bathroom. In addition to this as I was in one of the corner rooms on the twelfth floor I had a great view over the whole city.

Every day the hotel’s cleaning service would come  and clean the room, even to the point of ordering the items of your beauty case which showed the extra touch the hotel puts into its service.

Nob Hill

Upon entering the Nob Hill restaurant I was approached by InterContinental Management trainee Antonio Monteiro who always asked how I was doing and tried his very best to ensure the very best level of service. An example of this was how he would always double check each platter based off of my allergies being gluten and lactose free without me even asking.

Image of Breakfast menu. The 3 favorite options were the Summer Avocado Toast, Mark’s classic breakfast and Three Egg Omelette.

The Mark Hopkins Cappuccino was blended quite well and was on par to a cappuccino you can order in Italy. Service was very fast with it taking anywhere from 10-15 minutes to receive your  order which I would consider a record speed.

Service was very fast with it taking anywhere from 10-15 minutes to receive your order which I would consider a record speed.

Avocado toast platter with poached eggs was quite tasty and soft. The three egg omelette was very rich and crunchy.

Exclusive Rooms

Out of its 383 rooms, 7 are exclusive rooms. With some of the most beautiful scenery and quite traditional interior design, there is no doubt as to why the hotel is still a one of a kind.

Top of the Mark

The Top of the Mark is the hotel’s rooftop bar with the best view of the city and has been serving patrons since 1939.

Originally the top floor was a private residence but at some point in the early 50’s the rooftop residence moved out and it was decided to make it a bar which became the biggest hit in the city.

Antonio was working the following night and I decided to take the Hush Lush which was quite delicious. A tradition that was told to me by staff is that since WW2 the Top of The Mark is the to go place for those in the military to say their goodbyes to their loved ones. 

Originally it was one serviceman who left a bottle for the rest of his squadron but once the bottle was finished the servicemember who finishes it last would have to buy another bottle for the next group of service men visiting the bar. 

 This tradition still stands today and upon entering the rooftop bar you can see a clear glass closet with bottles of liquor for those who are in service or are veterans.

Ultimately if you are still serving or are a U.S veteran then you have many types of liquor to choose from when you go to the Top of The Mark!

Peacock Court and Room of Dons

Guests in its heyday would dance and eat at the hotel’s social club in the ‘Peacock Court’ ballroom where there was even a live radio station at the time.

The Room of Dons (depicted at right) displays a piece of history with its 9 feet murals from 1926 displaying the ‘Amazon Queen’ which California is named after and a depiction of early life in the state.

Depiction of the Amazon Queen (which model Ola Carson depicted and lived till 2011 to tell the story), which California is named after, displays how early life was in California.

Conclusion & Future of the Hotel

The Mark Hopkins continues to maintain the quality and service it started with under George D Smith and after Pan Am’s acquisition in 1973.

With such a rich history the Mark Hopkins and InterContinental have a long way forward and I would highly recommend staying at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins on your next trip to San Francisco (amidst not taking Pan Am on your next trip to the city).

As IHG’s CEO said “Human nature is very very slow to change” and that’s what will make this hotel the gem standing out in the dark amongst new competitors and more modern upcoming hotel designs.

All Photo Credits: Luca Zocche

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