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San Francisco, California 415-921-3430

The Story of Our San Francisco Motel

Built in 1939 to celebrate the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marina Motel is considered by many of its guests to be "San Francisco's Best Kept Secret".  The motel was built by Henry Louis (aka: Lou) who was the son of a California Gold Rush miner.  Lou's father came to San Francisco from Hannover, Germany in 1852 to "strike it rich" in the California Gold Rush Fields. He made his claim near the town of Madera on the road towards Yosemite and named it "The Hannover Mine".
As was common during the Gold Rush days, young Lou lived in San Francisco with his mother and three siblings during the school year while his father worked his gold mine in Madera all year round.  Madera was a several day horse and wagon ride away from San Francisco.
Working in the gold mine was hard work in all weather conditions with hot summer days and cold, wet winters.  Frequently gold miners got sick working in the damp mines all day and there were few legitimate doctors to be found.  Unfortunately, when Lou was nine years old, a messenger showed up at his house in San Francisco with the sad news that his father had caught Pneumonia and died. Gold had been found in the Hannover mine but the gold vain had been lost just before Lou's father death. Many years later after the mine had been sold, the new owner re-discovered the vain under Lou's mother's vegetable garden.
With the sudden death of Lou's father, Lou's mother was alone with four children and could speak limited English. Nine year old Lou dropped out of school to help support his family and became a "runner" for a San Francisco newspaper called the Call Bulletin. In the days before cell phones or computers, the newspaper reporters would hand their story off to Lou so he could run it through the city to deliver it into the hands of the newspaper's publisher.
A year later, Lou became an apprentice to a candy maker teaching him such useful skills as pulling taffy.  As Lou matured, he was able to talk some investors into opening up a Café and Bakery call the Buckley Café at the foot of Market Street along the Embarcadero waterfront.  There was no Bay Bridge in the early 1900's so each arriving ferry boat filled his restaurant with customers. The café burnt down in the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. When San Francisco got back on its feet years later there were so many new restaurants opening in the same area that they decided not to rebuild.

On to his next adventure, Lou opened up San Francisco first Ford dealership selling Model A's and Motel T's.  He would tell each customer you can have any color you want as long as it's black.
In 1915, San Francisco wanted to show the world that it was back on its feet after its devastating 1906 Earthquake by hosting The Panama Pacific Exposition. The Exposition was built on top of all the debris from the buildings that were destroyed in the earthquake and that was thrown into the wetlands on the northern most shore of San Francisco.  The nearby Palace of Fine Arts and its beautiful lake is the only relic that stands today from this 1915 Exposition.  When the fair closed its doors, Lou jumped in to help develop San Francisco's newest neighborhood, the Marina District, into the Mediterranean-style enclave it is today. The Marina District is one of San Francisco's most desirable areas to live since it is near the beach, yacht clubs and waterfront.
At the age of 70, Lou took a trip to Niagara Falls and stayed at his first "Auto Court". He came home from his trip, pulled himself out of retirement and decided to open San Francisco's first "Auto Courtyard".  Being the 1930's, the neighbors had a different idea and thought that such a place would attract gangsters. After a lengthy battle, Lou began building little apartments surrounding an inner courtyard. Just before he finished, he was able to get the "motor courtyard" zoning approved and built the last half of the rooms without kitchens. The Marina Motel today is still in the same family and proudly operated by Lou's granddaughters.
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