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St. Francis Hotel, a San Francisco landmark, turns 120

Westin St. Francis hotel, a San Francisco landmark, turns 120
Westin St. Francis hotel, a San Francisco landmark, turns 120 03:22

SAN FRANCISCO -- Howard Mutz began working at San Francisco's St. Francis hotel  in 1972. Back then, he was a busboy. From that humble beginning he worked his way up to manager and, eventually, official historian.

Today, he continues to embrace new and old memories at the iconic hotel overlooking Union Square.

"I had a nice note from Mrs. (Rosalynn) Carter when she was a guest of the hotel and stayed here. She just thanked me for my hospitality and taking good care of them. We've had several presidents that were here," Mutz recalled.

 "Mr. Bush senior used to stay here and we always had to put in Diet Dr. Pepper because that was his drink of choice." 

The hotel was built in 1904. It survived the 1906 earthquake and, well over a century later, it is still standing. 

As the hotel celebrates its 120th birthday, Mutz reflected on a few more special memories he has had while serving the hotel -- like a special moment with legendary actress Bette Davis.

"I said 'Ms. Davis, welcome to the St. Francis, we are so thrilled to have you with us. I'm your room service manager. So I want to make sure I take care of all your needs.' She said nothing at first. I thought 'maybe I've overstepped my bounds?' Then all of a sudden she said, 'Come on up!'"

From superstars to everyday tourists, Mutz has built a lifetime of memories serving guests at the St. Francis and has gained a work family. Standing next to hotel manager Clif Clark, the pair symbolize the Westin St. Francis' past and future. Clark has been working to update the 32-floor hotel.

Clark was particularly pleased to show off the newly updated Windsor suite where Queen Elizabeth stayed, Clark said a fresh take is just what the hotel needs. Even with many updates scheduled, some things will remain like the original ceiling moldings from 1906, still visible at one of the new restaurants -- the Westin Club -- expected to open later this spring. 

Clark is keeping his team in the loop with all the changes, including perhaps the biggest change of all, the landmark lobby on Powell street.

That monumental lobby, subject of the classic phrase "Meet me under the clock" uttered by generations of San Franciscans ( referring to one of the oldest master clocks on the West Coast), might be getting a makeover but it will remain a focal  point for the hotel.

Clark says that, while there are many changes reshaping the neighborhood, the St. Francis is here to stay.

"One thing that's consistent is all of these iconic hotels that have been here in San Francisco for over 100 years are still here," Clark said.

"It's like home. This is my home," Mutz said.

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