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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.

Painting the ladies

SAN FRANCISCO ARTIST Kit Haskell has established herself as the gold standard for pen and ink drawings of the city’s Victorian homes. The newest book to feature her drawings lets children of all ages choose their own favorite Crayola colors for the Painted Ladies.

It’s a coloring book featuring 20 of Haskell’s meticulously accurate drawings of some of San Francisco’s finest vintage homes, many of them located in the neighborhood. Each one comes with a history lesson, naturally, given Haskell’s long involvement in the Victorian Alliance and the San Francisco History Association.

Her book is available at Browser Books on Fillmore.

A concert series in an Arts & Crafts treasure

Photograph of the Swedenborgian Church by Laurie Passey

CULTURE BEAT | PAMELA FEINSILBER

Andrew Dodd lives nowhere near the neighborhood, but he’s brought something special to it. Dodd created the Second Sunday Concert Series at the Swedenborgian Church, at Washington and Lyon Streets, offering live music in the stunning 1895 Arts & Crafts-style church.

You live in Concord. How did you get involved with a small church more than 30 miles away?

After I got divorced, someone I dated in San Francisco showed it to me, and I couldn’t believe it. It’s more like a meetinghouse than a church — the original design didn’t even have a cross anywhere near the altar. Everyone who experiences it comes away amazed at its beauty and humility and simplicity and authenticity. I wanted more people to have that kind of experience.

It sounds more peaceful than religious.

The best way to explain it might be John Muir’s statement that, to him, a grove of redwoods was a cathedral. This church was conceived of and designed by a friend of his, Joseph Worcester, and it embodies in a very humble way that feeling of being in a natural, very intimate, personal place to explore one’s spirituality — much like Muir did in the wilds of California. You know, the trunks of madrone trees from the Santa Cruz mountains hold up the roof.

What about other Arts & Crafts elements, like the chairs?

The chairs were handmade by a friend of Worcester’s of hard maple with no screws or nails, just perfect craftsmanship. The rush-woven seats are from reeds in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The notion is that handmade things are imbued with the spirit of the maker. One of the prototypes of the chairs is in the Smithsonian collection.

So the idea of adding beautiful music to this beautiful place….

Yes, it seemed like a natural recipe for the experience I wanted. I came up with the idea because many people living in the neighborhood, with a National Historic Landmark right in their front yard, were not aware of it.

How do you select the performers?

I want to, as is often quoted in scripture, cast a wide net. Emanuel Swedenborg felt that all faiths are equally important in heaven, so all are valuable paths to the divine. And so many musicians are drawn to San Francisco because so many styles are appreciated here. I enjoy doing my own crossover. I find the musicians, negotiate the fees, schedule the shows and produce the advertising.

What’s your background?

I had a career in advertising for almost 30 years. I organized photo shoots, supervised copywriters and illustrators and designers. I was responsible for budgets and a year-long calendar. So I had all the tools I needed.

EARLIER: “The Arts & Crafts movement started here

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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‘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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