‘The most beautiful hotel in San Francisco’

For years, the 1881 Victorian was the headquarters of the San Francisco Medical Society.

By FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

“I want to have the most beautiful hotel in San Francisco,” says Bernard Rosenson about the Mansion on Sutter, which he recently purchased.

A visit to 1409 Sutter Street suggests that wish is on its way to becoming reality. From the carefully restored Victorian era woodwork to the polished marble floors and unique art and antiques — plus a presidential suite with steps leading to a private gazebo with views — the Mansion on Sutter is emerging as the newest jewel in the neighborhood’s crown.

Its signature restaurant, 1881, is already serving dinners created by executive chef Juan Carlos Olivera, and a downstairs speakeasy bar, Notorious, is set to open on July 4.

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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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Plan to tear down St. Dominic’s School sidelined

A PROPOSAL TO tear down the historic St. Dominic’s School and replace it with a modern new pastoral center over a 59-car below-grade parking garage got a chilly reception from the Planning Commission on May 24.

The project came before the Planning Commission with a recommendation from its staff that the proposal be rejected as inconsistent with the city’s general plan, which calls for preserving historic buildings.

“The project would demolish a known historic resource that has been deemed to be individually eligible for listing on the California Register of Historical Resources because it represents the work of a master architect and possesses a high degree of artistic value,” the Planning Department report noted. “Demolishing the subject building would represent the irreversible loss of a historic resource with significant architectural and aesthetic value.”

Noting that the project was located in what is primarily a residential area, the report concluded: “The department does not find the project to be necessary or desirable, as there is ample space on the subject site, namely the surface parking lot at the northwest corner of the site, that would be better suited for redevelopment. Likewise, there are opportunities to adaptively reuse the existing school building or to construct a rear addition to the building, which would achieve many of the project sponsor’s programming objectives while retaining the building.”

The planning commissioners voted unanimously to continue the proposal indefinitely and told church leaders to come back with a comprehensive plan for the St. Dominic’s block that included the school building.

EARLIER: “St. Dominic’s plans 5 new buildings

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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