Mark Hopkins was known as one of the "Big Four" in San Francisco in the late 19th century. He was one of the founders of the Central Pacific Railroad. Hopkins choose to build his mansion on the fashionable Nob Hill where his fellow multimillionaires of the Gilded Age also resided. Sadly Hopkins would not see his mansion since it was completed in 1878 after his death. The mansion was a show piece which anyone can tell from the photographs. It survived the devastating 1906 earthquake but sadly was destroyed in the fire that followed in the days after. Today, the Mark Hopkins Hotel stands on the site.
Mary Sherwood Hopkins, on her death in 1891 at the age of seventy-three, left the Nob Hill mansion and a $70 million estate to her second husband, Edward Francis Searles. In 1893, Searles donated the building and grounds to the San Francisco Art Association (now San Francisco Art Institute), for use as a school and museum.
After the devastating earthquake and fire with the fence and a chimney remaining:
Mark Hopkins Continental Hotel was built in 1926 and is still standing on the site today