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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Japan Center turns 50

The Japanese Cultural and Trade Center when it opened in 1968. SF Public Library photo.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

Major portions of the Western Addition were wiped out in the name of redevelopment in favor of new plans that began to take shape in the late 1950s. This is reflected in the complex history of Japan Center, bounded by Laguna, Geary, Fillmore and Post, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Japanese families first migrated to the area after the 1906 earthquake. Census records from 1920 reveal a remarkable concentration of Japanese-American families living in the area between Bush and Geary. By 1940, this thriving community, with more than 200 businesses owned by Japanese Americans, was comparable only to Little Tokyo in Los Angeles.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed everything. With the American entry into World War II, all people of Japanese ancestry were removed from coastal locations to inland internment camps. This left storefronts, houses and apartments vacant in what had been a prosperous and active Japantown.

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A police station with a past — and a future

Photographs of the renovated North End Police Station by Shayne Watson

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

The original North End Police Station was located on Washington Street near Polk. It burned, as did several other police stations and San Francisco’s Hall of Justice, during the earthquake and fire in 1906.

A May 1908 bond issue funded a new Hall of Justice and police headquarters and the replacement of burned out neighborhood stations. The temporary North End Station was housed at 3118 Fillmore, near Pixley Street.

North End Station was to serve both the immediate north side neighborhoods and the nearby Panama-Pacific International Exposition that rose in what is now the Marina — financed, promoted and designed to celebrate both the opening of the Panama Canal and the rebirth of the city. A site was selected that was conveniently located near the exposition grounds on the south side of Greenwich between Pierce and Scott Streets, nestled along a residential street.

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Serenely Modern: William Wurster in Pacific Heights

Photographs of William Wurster’s neighborhood homes by Shayne Watson

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

In a prolific five-year period between 1937 and 1941, one of California’s premiere Modernist architects, William Wilson Wurster, designed several important houses in Pacific Heights.

Drawing on an established reputation as a residential designer, Wurster crafted these homes for urban living. However, each takes advantage of its distinctive site to include an outdoor room or significant garden space, sometimes designed by Wurster’s long-time collaborator, landscape architect Thomas Church.

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Medical library is on the block

Architect Albert Pissis designed the library and the temple behind it.

Architect Albert Pissis designed the medical library and the temple behind it.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

The classical Health Sciences Library at 2395 Sacramento Street may soon find a new use. California Pacific Medical Center recently disposed of its collection and vacated the space, the library having gone entirely digital. The building, which was designated a San Francisco landmark in 1980, is currently for sale at an undisclosed price, marketed as a “one-of-a-kind development opportunity.”

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Garages find a new use

The Patagonia store at 770 North Point was formerly a neighborhood garage.

The Patagonia store at 770 North Point was formerly a neighborhood garage.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

As the automobile increased in popularity and affordability in the 1920s, neighborhood parking garages and repair shops became the norm in San Francisco.

Because private homes were commonly constructed without garages, a new type of building evolved to serve residents with parking needs. Neighborhood garages were often one- or two-story concrete structures with industrial interiors. However, given their placement within the city’s established residential enclaves or along commercial corridors, they were often designed to fit into an existing architectural vocabulary. Many of these once indispensable buildings are still found across the city and in our neighborhood.

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A pair of important homes

The Vedanta Society's "new temple" at Fillmore and Vallejo.

The Vedanta Society’s “new temple” at Fillmore and Vallejo.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

The Vedanta Society of Northern California was founded in 1900 by visiting Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda, who earlier gained fame and admiration at the Chicago Parliament of World Religions in 1893. The society owns two neighborhood landmarks: the “old temple” at 2963 Webster at Filbert, completed in 1905, then further expanded in 1908; and the “new temple” at 2323 Vallejo at Fillmore, dedicated in 1959.

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