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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

Cardinal Hotel

229 - 231 - 247 - 251 Hamilton Avenue and  546 - 548 - 552 Ramona Street

Ramona Street Architectural District

235 Hamilton Cardinal
Inventory photo Cardinal Hotel

The following is from the National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form dated May 21, 1985 and the Historic Buildings Inventory as revised in 1985:

Physical appearance:   The three-story structure is rather more classical and formal than the Spanish Colonial Historic District, but it is important as a visual landmark and anchor. The ground floor pilasters incorporate the automobile as a decorative motif.

The one-and-a-half ground floor elevation has entrances on Hamilton and Ramona Streets which are framed by decorative, terra-cotta marquees, pilasters, and spiraled columns with Corinthian capitals. Showcase windows on both streets are terminated by clerestory delineated by wood spindles and narrow spained glass windows. These showcase windows have been partially altered by various tenants. Fenestration on the second and third floors is partially framed by decorative terra-cotta borders. Squares of terra-cotta with various motifs are inserted between windows at the second and third levels. Two wrought iron balconies define the base of second-level windows on Hamilton Avenue. The flat roof is terminated by Spanish tiles and an egg and dart cornice. Both stucco and terra cotta on the top two floors have been painted a uniform cream color which alters the original palette.

Today [1985], the original dining room is an antique store in which most of the original wall and ceiling stenciling is well preserved, as well as the Art Deco chandeliers and sconces. The lobby has seen the addition of a mezzanine staircase, but still contains some of the early pieces of furniture, glazed tile floor, and all the large wrought iron sconces and torchieres. ... architectural pieces that remain are columns, boxed beams, fireplace with massive mantel and skylight. The original stenciling of columns and beams has been painted over, as has the gold leaf wall treatment.

Significance:   The three-story Cardinal Hotel was designed by William H. Weeks in 1924 for the Palo Alto Improvement Company as part of its effort to bring commercial development to Hamilton Avenue. Birge Clark was the supervising architect. This stucco-clad three-story building is more formal and massive in appearance than the other district buildings because of its uniform roof line, regular fenestration, and classic elements.

This building was designed by a major California architect especially noted for his numerous school building commissions; Birge M. Clark also was associated with the work as local supervising architect.

The hotel was built by the Palo Alto Improvement Co. as part of its effort to develop the commercial area along Ramona Street and Hamilton Avenue. Until the President Hotel was built in 1929 it had no rival in the city and has always been the principal hotel in the western area of Palo Alto.

The most recent owner is the family of Bjarne B. Dahl.

column interior
Berton Crandall photo

Berton Crandall photo
Restored/renovated lobby, 2005
Cardinal Barber Shop car
detail Ramona entrance
Ramona Street entrance
Osteria map

This structure was built in 1924 and it is a Category 3 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The architect as W. H. Weeks and the builder John Madsen. The property measures 100 by 100 feet.

Sources: Palo Alto Times 3/1/24, 3/12/24, 3/13/24; Birge M. Clark Reminiscences and Commercial Building Inventory; National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, May 21, 1985


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