A new outlook on the park

The home at 2570 Jackson (far left), built in 1924, has been completely renovated.

The home at 2570 Jackson (far left), built in 1924, has been completely renovated.


A  flurry of recent renovations along the north side of Jackson Street facing Alta Plaza Park are nearing completion. The two blocks include a string of historic residences that have been home to many prominent San Franciscans. The exquisite French Revival style house at 2570 Jackson Street has been meticulously renovated and is again a private residence, after serving for decades as the official residence of the French consul general.

Still standing after a move one lot south

The history of 2018 Webster (center) is intertwined with its neighbors, Temple Sherith Israel on the right and the Health Sciences Library on the left. Photograph by Bridget Maley.

The history of 2018 Webster (center) is intertwined with its neighbors, Temple Sherith Israel on the right and the Health Sciences Library on the left. Photograph by Shayne Watson.


Long owned by the California Pacific Medical Center, the house at 2018 Webster Street has remained vacant for almost 25 years. It was recently sold and will be returned to residential use, after a rear addition and interior upgrades, as three housing units.

The history of this Victorian house is intertwined with its two large institutional neighbors. Temple Sherith Israel, built in 1905, is on one side at the northeast corner of California and Webster. On the other, the Health Sciences Library, at the southeast corner of Sacramento and Webster, was constructed in 1912 as Lane Medical Library, a part of Stanford University. Both buildings are designated city landmarks and both were designed by noted San Francisco architect Albert Pissis.

In between sits the empty dwelling at 2018 Webster, constructed around 1889 with a mix of Victorian influences, including Queen Anne and Stick styles. Its hybrid features are typical of San Francisco’s Victorian residential architecture.


The Fillmore getting a jazzier sign


A NEW MARQUEE is in the works for the legendary Fillmore Auditorium at Geary and Fillmore.

The Planning Commission has unanimously approved changes to the city’s sign ordinance that would permit a 60-foot-tall vertical blade proclaiming both the storied rock ’n’ roll venue and the surrounding neighborhood. Currently signs can be no higher than 24 feet. The proposal now goes before the Board of Supervisors.

The new marquee would replace both the existing Fillmore sign, which rarely functions, and the illuminated check cashing signs below it. Drawings of the new sign considered by the Planning Commission report were said to be placeholders while the law is changed. The final design of the new sign is expected to be more artistically exciting.

Planning staff noted that because the building opened as the Majestic — a dance hall — it never had a historic marquee. It became the Fillmore Auditorium in 1954.

An icon gets more authentic

Photograph of the Haas-Lilienthal House by Jim Simmons Photography

Photograph of the Haas-Lilienthal House by Jim Simmons Photography

THE HAAS-LILIENTHAL HOUSE at 2005 Franklin Street has a new paint job that returns the historic Victorian to its original, more subdued color palette.

To restore the historic integrity of the house, which now serves as its headquarters, San Francisco Heritage commissioned architectural conservator Molly Lambert to conduct a paint study to determine the original colors, patterns and sheens of the house. Lambert took 40 paint samples for microscopic testing, which can differentiate layers of primer, glaze, dirt and paint to identify the original colors.

“We don’t choose colors,” said Lambert. “They are there for us to discover.”


The shah’s consulate

Built as a home, 34-- Washington was later a flashpoint for Iranian protests.

Built as a home, 3400 Washington was later a flashpoint for Iranian protests.


Constructed in 1927 by insurance executive Henry Foster Dutton for his second wife, Violet, the classically inspired house at 3400 Washington Street was acquired by the Imperial Government of Iran to serve as its official San Francisco consulate in the mid-1950s.

The house was designed by architect Erle J. Osborne, who had a steady stream of wealthy clients and produced interesting houses in Presidio Terrace, St. Francis Wood and Atherton — in addition to a few Southern California commissions — throughout the ’20s and ’30s. His corner lot house for the Duttons replaced a house built there earlier by Judge James Monroe Allen.


New plan to revamp the Clay


A  NEW PLAN is in the works to remodel the historic Clay Theatre on Fillmore Street by expanding the concession area in the lobby and offering additional food and beverage options, including beer and wine.

The plan abandons earlier efforts to carve the Clay into three smaller screening rooms and build townhouses above the theater and an adjacent building, with a garage excavated underneath.

“We’ve been trying to figure out a way to get the theater revitalized and bring some life back to the boulevard,” said architect Charles Kahn, who is collaborating with the owner of the building, Blagobind Jaiswal. Jaiswal also owns the building next door housing the Alice + Olivia boutique and the Cielo clothing boutique a few doors south.

“This is all about saving the theater,” Kahn said. “It’s a much more modest project than where we started.”

A public hearing on the plans will be held on Monday, January 4, at 7 p.m. in Calvin Hall of the Calvary Presbyterian Church at 2515 Fillmore.

Kahn said the new plan calls for relocating the restrooms now in the lobby to the back of the theater behind the screen. That would free up space for an expanded food and beverage operation. Seating would also be upgraded and accessibility improved.

Kahn said no changes are planned to the facade of the theater.

UPDATE: The public hearing on January 4 left local supporters of the Clay Theatre optimistic about the future of the 110-year-old movie house. The owner of the building, Blagobind Jaiswall, and his architect, Charles Kahn, said they were “absolutely committed” to renovating and continuing the theater.

Film fans at the meeting questioned plans to move the restrooms inside the theater behind the screen, but no one objected to other renovations, including an expanded concession area serving beer and wine.

“We’re trying to figure out ways to increase the hours the building is open,” Kahn said after the hearing. “I collected some very valuable information.”

Staffers from the Clay attended the meeting and offered a number of suggestions. Afterward, the head of Landmark Theatres, which operates the Clay, said he was encouraged by his talks with the owner and architect.

“So far, so good,” said Landmark CEO Ted Mundorff. “I think it’s the beginning of a plan. If we can get a better theater out of this, then it’s a great plan.”

The question remains how to pay for it.

“That’s gonna be the rub,” said Mundorff. “There’s not this big cash cow that walks in the door when you sell beer and wine.”

Kahn said he will bring detailed plans for remodeling the Clay and expanding its offerings before the city Planning Commission in the coming months.

Landmark announced in August 2010 it would close the Clay, but a last-minute deal kept the theater in operation.

EARLIER: “How the Clay dodged a bullet

Ever a house of healing


Its richly ornate Romanesque portal welcomes visitors to 1801 Bush Street.


The Romanesque Revival, L-shaped building with the colorful garden courtyard at the corner of Bush and Octavia Streets was originally built nearly 90 years ago as Greens’ Eye Hospital. Doctors Aaron S. and Lewis D. Green, of Latvian heritage, came to San Francisco shortly after the 1906 earthquake to intern with Stanford Hospitals. Noted researchers, inventors and practitioners of various corneal treatments, the brothers were also active in community service, including working as ophthalmologists at San Quentin Prison.


Grand in a very Victorian way



The Payne Mansion at 1409 Sutter Street, on the south side of Sutter between Franklin and Gough, is a distinctly visual reminder of the city’s Victorian past. Recently renovated to accommodate the boutique Payne Mansion Hotel, the building was constructed in 1881 and survived the 1906 earthquake and fire. It was designed by the architectural collaboration of two brothers-in-law, William F. Curlett and Theodore Eisen.


Classically inspired — and connected

Pacific Heights School was built in 1924 at the corner of Jackson and Webster Streets.

Pacific Heights School was built in 1924 at the corner of Jackson and Webster Streets.


A headline in the November 15, 1922, edition of the Chronicle proclaimed: “Board of Education Cites Pressing Need for Additional Quarters.” The ensuing article provided a long list of “needy schools.” City Architect John Reid Jr., a hometown boy who graduated from Lowell High School and UC Berkeley, was faced with a crisis in accommodating the city’s schools.

Within a few years, he and his colleagues designed almost 40 schools. Reid’s designs included several schools in the neighborhood: Pacific Heights Elementary, finished in 1924 at Jackson and Webster Streets, now San Francisco Public Montessori; Sherman Elementary, also completed in 1924, at Union and Franklin Streets; and Grant Elementary, dedicated in 1922, situated between Pacific and Broadway near Baker Street, now demolished.

Under his direction, his peers designed a number of other neighborhood schools, including the Emerson School at 2725 California, now Dr. William L. Cobb, and the Madison School at 3630 Divisadero Street, now part of Claire Lilienthal.


Architect to the stars

Photograph of 2555 Divisadero Street by Shayne Watson

Photograph of 2555 Divisadero Street by Shayne Watson


The house at 2555 Divisadero was designed by an “important, neglected California designer,” the Planning Department’s Citywide Historic Building Survey in 1976 noted. That architect, Paul Revere Williams, has since been rediscovered.

Williams, one of the few African-American architects working in California in the decades before World War II, is now well known, thanks to the perseverance and publications of his granddaughter, Karen E. Hudson. Her books lovingly tell the story of this remarkably talented and pioneering architect. A key designer of the Hollywood Regency style, Williams was a master at slenderizing and refining Classical forms and motifs, creating a Modern version of shapes and features extracted from traditional architecture.

Often referred to as “the architect to the stars,” Williams designed many Hollywood and Beverly Hills mansions, as well as some iconic Southern California buildings such as the Golden State Mutual Insurance Company — the largest black-owned insurance company west of the Mississippi — and the Music Corporation of America headquarters and the Saks Fifth Avenue store, both in Beverly Hills. He also made important renovations to two luxury hotels: the Beverly Hills and the Ambassador, which has since been demolished.

While Williams’ work in Northern California was limited to a few commissions, he partnered with his clients at 2555 Divisadero to create a Hollywood Regency style house set amidst the much more traditional Colonial Revival houses atop Pacific Heights.