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The ’89 quake in the Fillmore

St. Rose Academy, at Pine and Pierce, was torn down after the 1989 earthquake.

ON OCTOBER 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake shook the Fillmore and the rest of the Bay Area. The neighborhood was spared major damage, but felt the effects of the quake in ways large and small. The most visible local damage was at St. Dominic’s Church, where the top of the tower was lost and the historic home of St. Rose Academy was razed.  

St. Rose Academy, a Catholic high school for girls, was completed only a few months before the 1906 earthquake, but survived — only to be torn down after the 1989 earthquake when seismic concerns were raised.

Katherine Petrin, an architectural historian, San Francisco native and St. Rose graduate, class of ’81, observes: “The feeling at the start of the 1989-90 school year was that St. Rose was experiencing some uncertainty. This was spurred in part by St. Ignatius College Prep becoming coeducational a few years earlier and the desire of the Dominican order to focus its educational mission at other facilities in Marin. After the October ’89 earthquake, many St. Rose alumnae were none too pleased when the Dominican Sisters claimed the building could not be seismically retrofitted.”

Soon several alumnae formed Save St. Rose!, a group advocating not necessarily for continued educational use, but that a compatible new use could be found for the building, generating income to pay for the project. Partnering with San Francisco Architectural Heritage, the Save St. Rose! group put forward a study, confirmed that federal and state funds were available and presented preservation alternatives to the city Planning Commission and the community.  However, on June 26, 1991, the San Francisco Board of Permit Appeals upheld the Planning Commission’s approval of a permit to demolish St. Rose. 

An earlier St. Dominic’s Church building was heavily damaged by the 1906 earthquake and later torn down and replaced by a new Gothic building in 1928. The highly decorative lantern that extended for decades from the top of its tower was damaged and removed after the ’89 quake. Flying buttresses were later added to strengthen the walls of the church and support its stained glass windows.

— Bridget Maley

The top of the tower at St. Dominic’s Church was damaged and removed.

READ MORE: Locals drew together after the quake at the Pacific Heights Bar & Grill, then a key community gathering place, which never recovered from the earthquake.

Third home’s the charm for St. John’s

St. John’s Presbyterian Church at Lake Street and Arguello Boulevard.

By BRIDGET MALEY

Sometimes mistaken for an Episcopalian church, St. John’s Presbyterian, the eclectic Shingle Style landmark at the corner of Lake Street and Arguello Boulevard, does indeed have its architectural roots in the Episcopal building tradition. And it has a rich history.

The story begins in March 1870, when a newly established Presbyterian assembly acquired a building on Post Street between Mason and Taylor: the former St. James Episcopal Church, built in 1867. Not much is known of this earlier building, and no architect has been linked to its design. Historic images depict a small, wooden frame structure with a swirl of English country church, Tutor Revival and American Carpenter Gothic influences. It had an almost rural character, sharing a lot with a residence and small yard in what was an increasingly urban San Francisco.

The Episcopalian priest who was the rector of St. James apparently defected to the Catholic church in 1870, leaving the building available for another congregation.

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From the ashes of St. Paul’s

Grand Central Market at 2435 California Street shortly after it opened in June 1941.

ARCHITECTURE | BRIDGET MALEY

Since it opened in June 1941, touted as the city’s “newest drive-in market,” the Grand Central Market, now Mollie Stone’s, at 2435 California Street, has been a bustling neighborhood grocery.

The News Call Bulletin declared that “a program of entertainment would signalize its opening.” A photograph appearing with the article showed a gleaming white building with a black tile base and a Streamline Moderne blade sign. There were two entrances on California Street and one facing west toward the parking lot, for customers who took advantage of the readily available parking. This modern grocery was inserted into a block that had once housed a stately Episcopal church.

The south side of the 2400 block of California Street looked drastically different in 1915 when it was mapped by the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company. At the southwest corner of California and Fillmore Streets was a drugstore with apartments above it. Several other businesses, including a Japanese laundry, were west of the drug store along California Street. Mid-block there were several small single family dwellings and the imposing St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. At the southeast corner of California and Steiner were two additional small-scale store buildings.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

St. Paul’s, designed by the architect Samuel Newsom, was a small ecclesiastical building with a steeply pitched main gable and a red stone facade. The church, which was completed in 1896, burned in 1933, and several adjacent residences, also owned by the Episcopal Church, were damaged by the fire. The church was not rebuilt and the land then became available for commercial development.

The architect of the Grand Central Market was Albert W. Burgren, who was at the twilight of his career when he designed this modern grocery. Burgren, who was born in San Francisco in 1876 to Swedish parents, began a prolific partnership with T. Paterson Ross in 1900 that lasted until 1913. Their projects included a number of hotels and apartment buildings built after the 1906 earthquake, as well as the iconic Sing Fat Building in Chinatown. After his split with Ross, Burgren opened his own office, but continued some collaborative work until Ross was severely injured in 1922 at a construction site. Burgren served in Europe during World War I, returning to San Francisco and working mostly in commercial architecture until his death in 1951 after a long and prolific career.

The Grand Central Market included a meat counter run by the Petrini family, which also had counters at the Lick Super, Sunset Market and Manor Market. Petrini’s was established in 1935 by Frank Petrini, who immigrated from Lucca, Italy, at the age of 12, and was known to have the best meats in Northern California. Petrini’s advertisements are remembered for their inspiring quotes, which also appeared on walls and signs throughout the stores. The quotes were published in a collection in 1992 titled The Proverbs of Frank Petrini: Food for Thought.

The Grand Central Market became Mollie Stone’s in 1998, one of nine stores across the Bay Area. When the new owners remodeled the building, Mollie Stone’s kept the Grand Central blade sign, with some modifications.

He scraped the gingerbread off

Erich Mendelsohn’s floating modern landmark at 3778 Washington Street in 1952.

ARCHITECTURE | BRIDGET MALEY

“For some 14 months now the normally placid Pacific Heights intersection of Washington and Maple Street has been host to what might be described as a perpetual traffic jam,” reported a Chronicle article on June 17, 1951, headlined “A King-Size House That Floats on Stilts: Mendelsohn Creates a Landmark.”

Architect Erich Mendelsohn, a German modernist whose innovative designs had riveted the Weimar Republic in the 1920s, had indeed produced one of San Francisco’s most innovative — and attention-getting — modern homes.

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Versailles on the Heights

Photograph of the Petit Trianon at 3800 Washington by Bob Morris

By BRIDGET MALEY
with KAMALA MOSTERT

Having recently visited Versailles, it is easy to see how Corrine Koshland became so enamored with the estate’s Le Petit Trianon that she commissioned a copy as her family home in San Francisco.

In September 1900, Corinne and Marcus Koshland, their three young children, Daniel, Robert and Margaret, along with a nursemaid, embarked on an arduous journey via rail and sea to Europe. In France, Corinne fell in love with the Palace of Versailles, the royal residence of France beginning in 1682 under Louis XIV, until the start of the French Revolution in 1789.

Specifically, it was the Petit Trianon that caught Corinne’s attention. Completed in 1768, the garden pavilion situated within the larger Versailles gardens was designed by Ange Jacques Gabriel. Originally conceived for Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s mistress, Louis XVI later presented the garden pavilion to his young bride, Marie Antoinette, who immediately began an elaborate reworking of the interiors and gardens. The Petit Trianon, from its inception, had a strong female presence. This too, likely inspired Corinne Koshland, who later became a grande dame of San Francisco, entertaining extensively in her home.

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‘From the girl to the dial’

Photograph of the telephone exchange at 1930 Steiner Street by Shayne Watson

ARCHITECTURE | BRIDGET MALEY

The imposing and somewhat out-of-place building at the southeast corner of Steiner and Pine Streets was completed in 1932 as a Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co. switching station, a function that continues today.

Designed by architect Edwin V. Cobby, the building both blends in to the streetscape, with its neutral terra cotta cladding, and also stands out for its scale and Art Deco-influenced architecture. It is especially radiant on sunny days when the terra cotta tiles glow in the afternoon light.

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When a cemetery became an office park

Laurel Hill Cemetery entrance gate and monuments.

ARCHITECTURE | BRIDGET MALEY

In 1940, after years of efforts to ban cemeteries in San Francisco, workers began exhuming bodies from the Laurel Hill Cemetery for reinterment outside the city limits. The cemetery occupied a large site bounded by California Street on the north, Presidio and Parker at the east and west and an angled edge along the southern boundary. A landscape of meandering paths and ornate headstones and mausoleums, Laurel Hill was a picturesque, park-like final resting place for the city’s most influential residents.

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Three temples on Geary

At rear, tops of the Fillmore Auditorium, Beth Israel temple and Masonic temple in 1946.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

Since 1904, the south side of Geary between Fillmore and Steiner has been graced with a series of temples: a fraternal temple, a temple of worship and a majestic temple of entertainment. It’s a tale of three buildings, two earthquakes and one dangerously zealous religious leader, along with many other characters and stories. Only one of the temples remains today.

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A lodge with a view

Photograph of the Lodge at the Presidio by Kentyn Reynolds

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

Just before the Fourth of July, the lucky first guests checked in to the Lodge at the Presidio, a new addition to the collection of overnight accommodations available in San Francisco’s Presidio. The stunning renovation of a former army barracks provides a unique urban park experience with world class views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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The St. Dominic’s Block

A rendering of St. Dominic’s Church from the May 1924 Architect & Engineer.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

One of San Francisco’s most impressive interpretations of Gothic-inspired architecture, St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, at the corner of Steiner and Bush Streets, is the fourth ecclesiastical structure to stand on this site.

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