Beyond the Golden Gate
By Cpl. Ethan E. Rocke
| | December 12, 2003
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
With countless lavish hotels competing to attract high society's most socially elite, the heart of downtown San Francisco may not seem like the most appealing place to stay on a service member's salary.
But among the high-priced, high-end hotels and clubs, there lies a diamond among diamonds, sparkling with a special splendor that beckons to the visiting Marine with its crimson and gold magnificence while still carrying a cubic zirconia price tag.
The Marines' Memorial Club, located just two blocks from San Francisco's Union Square, is a 12-story, Beaux-Arts style building housing 137 guest rooms and suites.
The club was established in 1946 after then - Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift directed the establishment of a memorial in San Francisco "... as a tribute to those Marines who have gone before and a service to those who carry on."
Instead of erecting a statue or static display, it was decided that a 'living memorial' would best honor Marines of the past, present and future. Since opening its doors Nov. 10, 1946, the club has fulfilled Vandegrift's vision by being that living memorial.
"The club is fantastic," said Jack McCloskey, a retired firefighter and former Marine. "It's the best place to stay in San Francisco. The service is impeccable. It's a first-rate hotel, and it's the only one like it in the world."
The club's founding members decided the living memorial concept would best be realized with the integration of three components - historical, business and emotional. This original vision continues to be the club's winning formula as its three functions consistently complement each other.
The original vision of the club called for the establishment and maintenance of a museum, which would serve as a tribute to all Marine heroes. During its 57 years of existence, the numerous displays and artifacts found throughout the club have done just that, creating an atmosphere that nurtures and carries on the Corps' proud history and traditions.
Every exhibit, plaque, artifact, work of art and classic piece of furniture in the club tells a story of the past, according to retired 1st Sgt. Scott de Carrillo, director of historical programs, Marines' Memorial Association.
The MMA is the umbrella organization that oversees the club and hotel.
"We place a lot of emphasis on military history," said de Carrillo. "It's very important to always remember where we came from. That's why we are preservers of the past and ushers of the future."
The club's library, located on the 11th floor, acts as a strong link to the past as well, housing several of the club's historical displays and countless military-related books. The library also features a semi-panoramic view of the city.
The MMA is a non-profit veterans' organization, which thrives as a living memorial sustained by a number of revenue sources.
While hotel accommodations are the club's primary source of revenue, annual membership dues generate a significant percentage of the club's income, with close to 20,000 members across the United States.
"(Association) membership is such a vital part of sustaining the living memorial," said de Carrillo. "It helps us provide affordable rates and outstanding service for our guests."
All members of the U.S. military are eligible for membership in the MMA. However, association membership is not a requirement for active duty service members to stay at the club. Association membership does carry several fringe benefits. It is well worth the cost, and nightly club rates for members and their guests are the most reasonable in San Francisco, according to de Carrillo.
"I encourage every Marine to seriously consider membership with the Marines' Memorial Club. It's a wonderful example of Marine Corps tradition and pride, and the benefits are endless," said Col. Thomas W. Spencer, chief of staff, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and the Western Recruiting Region, and MMA board member.
The Skyroom Restaurant and cocktail lounge, located on the club's 12th floor, is more than a source of revenue for the club. The Skyroom offers a graceful setting to dine in with a vibrant city view. While staying at the club, members can enjoy free cocktails from 4 to 6 p.m. and complimentary breakfast from 7 to 10:30 a.m.
The club also generates revenue from its two elegant ballrooms, which host several corporate conventions and symposiums annually and a variety of ceremonies including weddings, receptions, reunions and Marine Corps birthday balls.
To accommodate guests on business, the club also maintains a corporate business center equipped with two internet-accessible computers and a conference room.
Lastly, the club rents space and some of its facilities.
"Club One," one of San Francisco's premiere fitness centers, occupies the basement portion of the memorial, and MMA members can take advantage of Club One's services.
The memorial's theater, located on the third floor, is also rented out and features a variety of plays and shows throughout the year. The theater has played host to such famous acts as Tony Curtis, Bing Crosby and Burt Lancaster.
The club also rents two spaces on the ground floor. To the left of the club's entrance is "Cesario's Restaurant." To the right is a convenience store and cigar shop.
The MMC was established to honor the memory of past Marines while at the same time serving those who carry on the Corps' legacy. For its more than 57 years of existence, it has done that and more, providing much more than a place to sleep. The club is a place for Marines and their fellow service members to revel in the camaraderie and pride they share in carrying on the legacy of the U.S. military. This was Vandegrift's vision, and the MMA perpetuates this goal today.
Keys to the city
When it was established in 1946, the Marines' Memorial Club could not have been more strategically placed for visiting service members on a mission to explore the vast city of San Francisco.
Any hotel guests who are unfamiliar with the city can find the perfect starting point a few blocks away at the city's visitor information center. The center, which provides visitors with all kinds of helpful resources and information, is conveniently located next to the Bay Area Rapid Transit station in Union Square.
All the keys to the city's numerous attractions and landmarks are within convenient close proximity to the club.
San Francisco's Union Square, home to one of the city's largest shopping districts, is less than two blocks away, and Chinatown is a short walk as well.
Fisherman's Wharf, Golden Gate Park and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art are just a few of the city's more popular attractions that can be reached by taxi or bus.
San Francisco has a seamlessly never ending plethora of historical landmarks, cultural symbols and fascinating attractions.
Service members interested in taking advantage of the Marines' Memorial Club and exploring the legendary city of San Francisco can call the MMC reservations line at (800) 562-7463 or log on to www.marineclub.com.
What Marines will pay for a night at the club
$49 privates to sergeants
$74 staff NCOs
$84 lieutenants to captains
$119 majors and up
Rates increase $10 on Friday and Saturday nights. Guests receive complimentary breakfast and free happy-hour cocktails. Rates do not include the 14 percent city hotel tax.
2004 membership prices
Until 2004, enlisted Marines can take advantage of current membership prices, which vary from $20 to $30. Membership supports the club and hotel.