Moved from Union Square

The home at 2355 Washington was moved from its original location near Union Square.

The home at 2355 Washington was moved from its original location near Union Square.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

“The large frame dwelling which for so many years stood at the northeast corner of Sutter and Mason Streets has been removed to the south side of Washington between Buchanan and Webster, where it is being remodeled and improved by Dr. Merritt, daughter of the late Adolph Sutro.” So reported the Chronicle on July 7, 1900.

That handsome residence now sits at 2355 Washington Street. Constructed around 1870, the house changed hands at least one other time before coming into the possession of Emma Sutro Merritt and her husband, George Washington Merritt, who was also a doctor. The wood-frame, Italianate and Second Empire influenced house with an unusual mansard roof originally sat a few blocks below the apex of Nob Hill.

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The Grabhorn brothers were master printers

A plaque at 1335 Sutter Street notes the building’s history.

A plaque at 1335 Sutter Street notes the building’s history.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

Brothers Edwin and Robert Grabhorn founded their Studio Press in 1916 in Indianapolis. They moved to San Francisco in 1919, and a few years later their enterprise formally became known as Grabhorn Press. During that time, California was becoming a hub for small, craft-driven print houses. The Grabhorn brothers soon became among the state’s most respected specialty printers.

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Plan for Alta Plaza: ‘Go lightly’

Improvements at Alta Plaza Park can proceed now that a plan has been adopted.

Improvements at Alta Plaza Park can proceed now that a master plan has been adopted.

A MASTER PLAN for Alta Plaza Park was approved by the Recreation and Park Commission on April 21, clearing the way for long-awaited improvements.

The plan would repair crumbling asphalt pathways, replace aging furnishings and replant, with new drought-resistant landscaping, the entrances to the hilltop park created more than a century ago by John McLaren, the visionary who also guided the creation of Golden Gate Park.

“Go lightly,” said landscape architect Jeffrey Miller, who developed the plan at the behest of the Friends of Alta Plaza Park, a neighborhood group founded in 2004. “This was the message: Maintain the park as it is. Maintain the beauty and simplicity of this park.”

A decade ago, the Friends raised the money to renovate the playground and tennis courts atop the park. Then, to conserve water and stop leakage onto the sidewalks, the city installed a new irrigation system and replanted the terraces on the south side of the park.

“It became apparent there has to be a sequence of things,” said Judith Maxwell, who lives near the park. “We learned that when the no-mow grass was put in but the leaks weren’t fixed.”

Commission president Mark Buell recused himself from the hearing “because I live within about five feet of the park.” Buell and his wife Susie Tompkins Buell live in the penthouse of the 2500 Steiner Street tower on the northeast corner of the park.

Others lauded the Friends for their extraordinary public outreach during the last decade while the plan was being developed.

“You set a new standard,” said commissioner Meagan Levitan, a real estate agent who is active in the neighborhood.

“It’s been a long road for the Friends of Alta Plaza Park,” said Phil Ginsburg, director of the Recreation and Park Department. “It is not lost on us how much you care about this piece of open space.”

VIEW THE MASTER PLAN

A modern cathedral celebrates 45 years

St. Mary's Cathedral soon after it opened in 1971.

St. Mary’s Cathedral soon after its opening, beyond the tower of St. Marks Lutheran Church. Photos: San Francisco History Center | San Francisco Public Library

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

May 2016 marks the 45th anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, a recognized masterpiece of religious architecture at 1111 Gough Street. Opening after an agonizing design process, the building was not immediately loved by many of San Francisco’s Catholics, who had previously worshiped in two very traditional churches.

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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 (left), built in 1924, has been completely renovated.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

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.
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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.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

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.

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The Fillmore getting a jazzier sign

Fillmore-sign-FINAL

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.”

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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.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

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.

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New plan to revamp the Clay

clay-night

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