Still visible above a bagel shop, a drug store and a take-out pizza
parlor, the Carleton Hotel on the corner of Telegraph and Durant
provided rooms for students, faculty and university guests. The poet
Witter Bynner was quite pleased with his simple accommodations. “Here I
am —” he wrote, “located not on an aesthetic and embowered hilltop, but
in a brick hotel in the heart of town. After looking assiduously
around, I decided that, for the present at any rate, a central location
and the advantages of a hotel outweighed the importance of a romantic
view. That I can climb to when I want it. And the climb does not
become my bounden occupation several times a day. My two rooms and bath
are presentable and comfortable and are, moreover, no dearer than less
space and less convenience would be in the outlying places I’ve looked
at.... The beauty of the place is unspeakable. It catches my breath.”
Bynner turned his rooms into an Aesthetic Movement retreat, a shrine to
the mysterious Orient in two rooms above Telegraph Avenue. Here — six
feet tall, with a rich baritone voice — he greeted guests wrapped in a
silk kimono, in a cloud of plum-blossom incense. Undergraduates who met
with Bynner in the Carlton Hotel wrote of the exotic experience. Eda
Lou Walton was both dazzled and intimidated:
Your Chinese den is green and white
Five years before Bynner’s residency, the Carleton Hotel hosted another
famous literary figure, Rupert Brooke, the best known of the
British War Poets.
And red, lit with a golden light,
And everyone I know has been
Made welcome by your genial grin
To pass an hour’s pleasant flight.
The walls hang oriental silks, bedight
With painted figures dimly bright,
Who nod at memories within
Your Chinese den.
An ancient muse has cupped her chin
And hid behind your manikin.
Although she keeps well out of sight,
Yet like the grey moth of the night,
She burns her wings for incense in
Your Chinese den.