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Union Hotel –
Place - Union Hotel
401 First Street, PO Box 874
Benicia, California 94510
Web Link * (707) 746-0110
The Union Hotel is located on the main
street in the old town section, in the lovely historical town of
Benicia, built beside a beautiful part of the Sacramento River,
known as the Carquinez Strait, about an hours drive north of San
This lovely, three story, 1850s upscale,
cream-colored hotel has always offered first class amenities and warm
hospitality to its many guests. The first floor houses the dining
and bar area. Floors 2 and 3 are where the guest rooms can be
found. The decor throughout the hotel combines the finer qualities
of California's past with "touches of European elegance."
Unlike other older, historical buildings
found in other parts of California, The
Union Hotel was never allowed to slip into disrepair, which is
no small feat for older structures. In fact, the owners have made
sure each room "features a private bathroom with Jacuzzi,
distinctive amenities, private phone lines and period interior". Of
course, the suites "feature spectacular views of the water and
spacious bathrooms with Whirlpool Jacuzzi tubs for two." ( One can
see why it is a favorite place for newly weds to spend their
The town of Benicia was founded in 1847,
named after the wife of General Vallejo, who originally owned the
land but graciously sold it for $100.00 to Lieutenant Robert
Semple, a dentist by trade and Thomas O. Larken, a friend and
settler. When they started the town, nothing much was there but
open land, a glorious view of the river, a natural bay (perfect for
a marina) and a U.S. Army Arsenal outpost. However, that soon
By November of 1847, there were 15
buildings, a wharf, and it had enough people to set up a local
government. By 1850, over 100 homes made up the town and the
Pacific Mail and Steamship Company decided to set up its shops and
wharfs in Benicia, providing a large source of jobs and income
revenue for this booming city, despite the draw of the gold fever
bringing many men to Central Calif.
The 1850s were a time of much growth.
Benicia became the first incorporated city in the new state of
California, was named county seat of Solano County, and housed the
California State Capitol briefly from 1852-'54, which attracted a
lot of business. Many schools were built here because of the lack
of saloons and dance halls and other moral temptations. It was
considered an oasis of civility, serenity and culture, a stark
contrast to the bawdy, gold towns and simple villages surrounding
them. Benicia earned the nickname, "Athens of California".
Some schools which were established in
Benicia, moved to San Francisco later in the century. The
Young Ladies' Seminary, which was open from 1852 - 1871 in Benicia,
later moved to San Francisco, becoming the present day Mills
The St. Catherines Convent and School moved
to town in 1854, which is where many girls in Benicia went to
school. While the Convent moved to San Rafael, the school remained
open until 1962!
Other schools had closed their doors by the
end of the century. In 1868, the Episcopal Church established a
boys' school, St. Augustine's, and a girls school, St. Augustine's,
which closed in 1884.
It was during the early 1850s when the
upscale, Union Hotel was built and began serving with style the
many visitors drawn here by business, the schools and the State
Two Ghosts, a young man and a young woman
haunt the hotel.
The Young Woman Entity - It is reported that in the 1800s a
young, distraught woman hung herself in one of the rooms, because
of heartbreak and despair, perhaps because of a love relationship,
a common cause of emotional upheaval of young people, which can
lead to a high drama moment. She is described as being woeful in
She has been seen as a full apparition wandering the hallways,
and also in several of the bedrooms.
She has been seen sadly peering out the windows facing the
street during the evening hours.
Guests and hotel employees have heard her crying and talking to
herself when the hotel is still and empty.
Lights turn off and turn on by themselves.
- The Young Man Entity — The theory is that he is connected
to her tragic story in some way.
- His apparition is seen in the bar area and the dining room,
sitting in a chair, looking wistfully toward the stairs which led
up to the floors above, or pacing back and forth, waiting for
someone he longs to see.
Many visitors and employees have witnessed
Benicia Historical Museum * The Union Hotel
Photographs © Tom Carr