Situated at the foot of the Claremont hills, the gleaming white Claremont Club & Spa overlooks the city of Berkeley and provides unobstructed views of Oakland and San Francisco.
First built in the late 19th century, the site has changed hands many times in its long history. The land was originally owned by William Thornburg, a Kansas native and associate of George Hearst who earned a fortune during the California Gold Rush. He built an imposing Tudor-style home and later sold it to John Ballard.
The site burned down in July 1901 and was sold to its third owners, Francis “Borax” Smith and Frank Havens. The pair decided to build a hotel in the style of an Elizabethan chateau and opened for business in 1915, just in time for the San Francisco World’s Fair.
The hotel had another seven owners before being jointly purchased in 2014 by FRHI Hotels and Resorts and former UC regent Richard Blum, the late husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Now it has been bought by Ohana Real Estate Investors, changing hands for the 11th time.
The 279-room hotel has hosted notable guests such as Louis Armstrong, Frank Lloyd Wright and former U.S. president Gerald Ford. It has also maintained a relationship with UC Berkeley, and Cal Athletics has hosted players there before home games. In 1989 the hotel added “The Club,” consisting of several sports facilities and a $6 million spa facility.
“I like the friendly members and staff, the classes, the facilities, the locker room, the pool, it’s a very nice place,” said Oakland resident and club member Laura Schummers. “It feels like you’re on vacation.”
Hotel management declined to comment on the most recent sale. Ohana Real Estate Investors and FRHI Hotels did not respond to requests for comment. According to documents filed May 12 with the Alameda County Recorder’s Office, the property was sold for approximately $163.3 million, as first reported by the East Bay Times.
Patrons and club members expressed indifference to the sale.
“I’ve overheard (other patrons saying) that it wouldn’t affect the club as far as the customer experience,” Schummers said.