Recently, we camped at the Hotel Union Square, a refurbished showplace built in 1913 for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
The 131-room, six-story structure is a noirish, nostalgic time trip of moodily lit hallways, brick walls, Egyptian-motif murals, high ceilings, tall doors, antique fire escapes, bannistered staircases, art deco touches, and occasional creaks and groans.
It's a member of the five-property boutique Personality Hotels group.
One very special room is No. 505, the Dashiell Hammett Suite. It's been staged to evoke the memory of Hammett, a pioneer of "hard-boiled" detective fiction ("The Maltese Falcon," "The Continental Op," the lighter "Thin Man" series).
In the 1920s, Hammett worked across the street in the Flood Building as a PI for the Pinkerton Detective Agency. For a while, he lived in Room 505 at the then-Golden West Hotel, where he sat at a desk overlooking the streets below and typed his San Francisco-based mysteries.
Hammett was known to raise a glass in the spacious speakeasy beneath the hotel, the Golden Bubble. Now that space is used for storage, but the original tile floor and some of the wallpaper remain.
Walk into the Hammett suite and the impression is that the writer has momentarily left the room and will return shortly. An antique Royal Quiet Deluxe typewriter sits on a desk, the echo of clacking typewriter keys almost audible. Period luggage holds early editions of Hammett's books and vintage photos punctuate the past. Stenciled on one window are the words "Spade and Archer," referencing the detective agency run by partners Sam Spade and Miles Archer in "The Maltese Falcon."
A 1920s-era hat, coat and scarf hang from an antique coat rack. A blown-up portrait of Hammett looks sternly from one wall. A black statuette of a raptor the Maltese falcon glares at visitors.
Was that typewriter really Hammett's?
"It was found in the basement storage room," said hotel manager Tony Abboud. "It could have been his."
Across the street is John's Grill, a wood-paneled period piece (1908) straight out of Old San Francisco. Hammett dined there often and used it in a scene in "The Maltese Falcon." That's why the long second-floor dining room is a memorabilia-heavy homage to the writer and the 1941 movie version of "Falcon," which starred Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet.
Which brought to mind a quote from Sam Spade: "You're good. You're very good."
HOTEL UNION SQUARE
114 Powell St., S.F.; (415) 397-2169, www.personalityhotels.com
The Dashiell Hammett Suite rental averages $300 a night, though the price varies depending on hotel occupancy.
63 Ellis St., S.F.; (415) 986-0069, www.johnsgrill.com
Try the succulent oysters Wellington, as featured in Gourmet magazine.