An emotional break-up has caused paranormal activity…
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 honeymoon!)
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 changed.
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 College.
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 Capitol.
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 demeanor.
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.
a. 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 both entities.
401 First Street, PO Box 874
Benicia, California 94510
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 Francisco.
- Benicia Historical Museum * The Union Hotel Website
- Exterior Photographs © Tom Carr