The Hotel President, designed by noted Palo Alto architect Birge Clark, has been returned to its original hospitality use after a conversion to apartments in 1968. The new 100-key hotel, under the Graduate Hotels brand, is now a celebrated local gathering place, drawing crowds to its stunning rooftop terrace bar and ground floor public spaces.
Built in 1929 in the heart of Downtown Palo Alto on University Avenue, the Spanish colonial revival-style building was originally named for President Herbert Hoover, an alumnus of nearby Stanford University. The design goal was to transform the building into an up-to-code hotel while maintaining its historic character. The renovation and reuse of the local landmark exemplifies a sustainable approach, retaining the building envelope while upgrading the interior for contemporary hospitality use.
Through a careful integration of Graduate Hotels’ brand, the renovation preserved the spirit of Clark’s original design while enhancing the building’s personality, a careful balance that involved the restoration of essential, character-defining project elements: decorative Spanish tiles on the staircase, a classic wood-beamed ceiling, and chandeliers in the lobby and entrance vestibule. These characteristics had largely been obscured or removed over the decades, but the design team was able to use historic photographs, as a reference for what to put back and where. The building’s renovation involved numerous upgrades, including a seismic structural retrofit, restoration of the historic elevator and addition of a new elevator providing rooftop access, renovation of the central stairway, reconfiguration of rooms, and the restoration of the original sign at the building’s prominent corner. Interior décor draws on Stanford’s rich heritage, from important alumni (Sigourney Weaver, John Steinbeck, etc.) to outstanding noteworthy athletic achievements.
New to the building entirely are two food and beverage areas. A rooftop bar – the only one in Palo Alto – offers 360-degree views and a lush aesthetic that recalls the original hotel’s rooftop garden. At the lobby level, a café/bar gives visitors the chance to dine on casual food. A “living room,” located just off the main lobby, is often used as a gathering space for community events and discussions. A ground floor conference center is designed to allow the hotel to host larger groups for meetings and gatherings.