Historic Sir Francis Drake Hotel nears completion of its regal transformation as the elegant Beacon Grand
The Beacon Grand Suite, one of several new luxury suites just completed at the new Beacon Grand Hotel (Courtesy of Beacon Grand)

Historic Sir Francis Drake Hotel nears completion of its regal transformation as the elegant Beacon Grand


Of all the things to know about the history of the Beacon Grand, the most legendary is how its staff and guests circumvented alcohol restrictions in the Prohibition era.

Back then, the hotel was called the Sir Francis Drake, and it was a marvel—all carved banisters and intricate plaster ornamentation. Its style drew fashionable guests from all corners of the world. Its speakeasy—a small, secret room wedged behind the elevator shaft halfway between two of the upper floors—kept them partying through the night.

Although modern rules and regulations required that chapter of history to be sealed when the storied hotel changed ownership and reopened last summer, its new proprietors assured that none of its other historical details would be lost. They restored the hotel’s magnificent staircase and the dainty murals on its mezzanine ceiling, its wood paneled walls and its exquisite chandeliers.

When the work was done, the Sir Francis Drake was rechristened the Beacon Grand.

The grand entrance leading to the lobby at the Beacon Grand.(Courtesy of Beacon Grand)

At the end of May, the hotel completed its second-to-last major renovation: A series of elegant luxury suites, each with tranquil slate blue walls, pale velvety gray couches, cushy king-size beds, and brand new snowy white bathrooms with gleaming brass fixtures.

There are junior suites with studio apartment-like layouts, and grand one-bedrooms with separate rooms for sleeping and living spread over 580 square feet. The matriarch of them all, the Beacon Grand suite, is a massive 885 square feet with a dining table, a soaking tub, and the only rooftop terrace in the joint.

All the hotel’s rooms—including the smaller “classic” accommodations with their custom San Francisco landmark wallpaper and original marble tiled baths—had already been gifted with new sound-dampening windows and light-maximizing upgrades, wood floors with modern silver-toned area rugs, and large LED TVs with Chromecast and high speed WiFi.

The living room and terrace in the Beacon Grand Suite.(Courtesy of Beacon Grand)

But the refresh doesn’t stop at the door to the guest rooms. Most locals, for example, will notice the disappearance of the Beefeaters who steadfastly manned the doors of the Sir Francis Drake for almost a century.

The most dramatic difference between the original hotel and the Beacon Grand, though, is on its mezzanine level. In its previous iteration, the floor overlooking the lobby was a drab, underutilized space despite the lovely architectural details that framed it. It’s now been remade into a bar and lounge in tranquil shades of blue and gray.

There are couches for lounging and tables for eating breakfast and dinner (brunch is available Friday through Sunday). The menu at both meals highlights California cuisine, with farmers market touches and mains like Maple Leaf Farm duck breast with beets, and hand-rolled spinach and mushroom cannelloni.

Picture-perfect views through the windows of a junior suite.(Courtesy of Beacon Grand)

The mezzanine’s south side, in what was originally the ladies lounge, now houses two sorts of libraries: the cozy book-reading kind and the whiskey kind. By night, the former becomes a place for sipping drams, cocktails, and flights from the collection of contemporary and vintage bottles housed in the latter.

Historical details add rose-tinted charm to the Beacon Grand elsewhere too, like the original mailbox chute which stretches from the 20th floor all the way to the basement. Drop a complimentary postcard in the glass box and the hotel will stamp and send it anywhere in the world. But they haven’t skimped on the tech when needed. The fitness center is full of shiny top-notch Peloton bikes and interactive treadmills, along with free weights and other essential equipment.

There’s just one last update on the Beacon Grand’s to-do list: Renovating the famed Starlight Room. The 21st floor bar and lounge, known for its 360-degree views of Union Square and beyond, will trade its gaudy old look for one that’s more in line with its history. The space is expected to reopen to the public at the end of 2023. In the meantime, its windows shine with the colors of Pride, and the space can be booked for private events.

Even incomplete, the Beacon Grand has already turned heads the way its predecessor, the Sir Francis Drake, did back in the 1920s and '30s. On its 2023 list of the 100 best new hotels, Travel + Leisure named the Beacon Grand number 64; that’s number 64 not just in the U.S. but in the entire world.

With the opening of its chic new suites and the upcoming return of its rooftop retreat, the hotel’s star is poised to rise even higher.

// 450 Powell St. (Union Square), beacongrand.com

The mezzanine bar and lounge at the Beacon Grand.(Courtesy of Beacon Grand)

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