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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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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A tree of light

The tree atop UCSF is controlled from a room just underneath.

The tree atop UCSF is controlled from a room just underneath.

FOR DECADES it has been a familiar sight during the holidays for drivers headed west on Pine Street: a 40-foot Christmas tree in the sky made of lights — 3,000 lights, on 60 strands, with 50 lights each.

The tradition started when Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. built its four-story black glass headquarters in the 1950s on the site of the old Laurel Hill Cemetery, after the bodies were dug up and moved to Colma. The tree has continued to rise every year since the University of California-San Francisco took over the building in 1985.

As the university prepares to move this neighborhood campus to Mission Bay and development plans for new housing on the site proceed, the fate of the tree is in doubt.

Photographs © 2017 Jean Collier Hurley

Photographs © 2017 Jean Collier Hurley

Photographs © 2017 Jean Collier Hurley

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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The wedding cake that wasn’t

A drawing of 2302 Steiner Street from 1896, when it was built.

A drawing of 2302 Steiner Street from 1896, when it was built. From the Chronicle.

LOCAL HISTORY | LIV JENKS

Sunnie Evers had been living at 2302 Steiner Street for nearly a decade. One day while she was standing in front of her house, a woman stopped to talk. She told Evers that Adolph Sutro — land magnate, capitalist, philanthropist and short-lived mayor of San Francisco — had built her house for his mistress. The woman, who Evers believes was Sutro’s granddaughter, pointed across the street to Alta Plaza Park and said Sutro designed the park to look like the wedding cake his mistress would never have.

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