A home for the telephone king

Both client and architect of this corner house shared a fascination with telephones.

Both the owner and architect of 1900 Pierce Street shared a fascination with telephones.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

The wonderfully designed corner house at 1900 Pierce Street was built in 1887 for John I. Sabin, an early investor and proponent of the telephone, under the direction of architect William F. Smith.

John I. Sabin

John I. Sabin, first owner of 1900 Pierce

Both architect and client appear to have shared a fascination with telephones. In 1877, Sabin founded the American District Telegraph Co., the first telephone company on the west coast. Later he became the president of the Pacific States Telephone Co. and acquired the nickname the “Telephone King.” In 1901, architect Smith filed for a patent for a “message transmitting and recording mechanism for telephone systems.” This device was capable of passing a message from one switching station to another and recording it on paper tape at the receiving end.

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Val Kilmer is Mark Twain at the Clay

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FILM | ANDREA CHASE

The last generation or two thinks of Hal Holbrook when it comes to one-man shows about Mark Twain. Not to take anything away from Holbrook’s dry wit and perfect timing when performing Twain’s words, but Val Kilmer with Citizen Twain makes a compelling argument to join him as another master interpreter of those words. He will be presenting the piece one night only in San Francisco, December 22, at the Clay Theatre on Fillmore Street.

In Kilmer’s telling, the voice is deeper than Holbrook’s, the performance more physical, but the delivery is just as spot on. Kilmer is also more sardonic, yet finds an almost self-deprecating way with Twain’s take on humanity, making it clear that he doesn’t spare himself when passing judgment. He brings a contemporary vibe to Twain’s reminiscence about a particularly sadistic schoolteacher he enjoyed taunting, despite the teacher’s liberal use of corporal punishment, his still prescient take on politics and his unabashed love of adulation.

Distilling a lifetime of Twain’s splendid writings into a 90-minute piece cannot be easy, but Kilmer — who wrote and directed the play now filmed from a live performance for cinematic presentation — has made choices that are equally splendid, leaving viewers tickled and wanting more.

“Citizen Twain” is a thoroughly engaging reminder of why Twain is still a pleasure to revisit for both his biting satire and his uncanny insight about what makes people tick.

Instead of a general release, Kilmer is presenting his film one city at a time, hosting the screenings he calls Cinema Twain, and making himself available for a Q&A with the audience. More information about the December 22 screening at the Clay here.

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Fillmore’s Beauty Row

Atelier Cologne from Paris is the newest beauty and body shop on Fillmore Street.

Atelier Cologne from Paris is the newest of many beauty and body shops on Fillmore Street.

THE ONRUSH OF new fashion and cosmetics brands and boutiques onto Fillmore Street in recent years has been astonishing — and beauty and body products are the indisputable trend of the moment.

There is understandable confusion about why so many have located so near each other and what sets them apart. And those seeking something new or a special gift are met with a barrage of adjectives: ethically sourced, cruelty-free, anti-microbial, sustainable or hypoallergenic.

But step inside any of the stylishly sleek shops and you’ll find knowledgeable sales associates with a true passion for their products. Lotions and potions are formulated not just to prettify, but also to fortify the health of the skin and the spirit of the soul.

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Mom and pop shop bucks the trends

Asmbly Hall’s Ron Benitez (center) offers Mayor Ed Lee fashion advice

Asmbly Hall’s Ron Benitez (center) offers Mayor Ed Lee some fashion advice.

By BARBARA KATE REPA

Five years ago, when many saw the neighborhood becoming inhospitable to mom-and-pop businesses as ever more corporate chains moved in, Tricia and Ron Benitez turned a deaf ear to the naysayers and opened their one-of-a-kind clothing boutique at 1850 Fillmore Street.

They stocked it with pieces for men and women by indie designers for the customer they described as a “sophisticated prepster” and named it Asmbly Hall, a moniker they said “describes a gathering place for the community that brings fashion, art and music together.”

Five years later, it’s all come true — even the mom and pop part, since the couple welcomed daughter Harlow 21 months ago. Mayor Ed Lee recently chose Asmbly Hall to kick off the “Shop and Dine in the 49” campaign, a holiday initiative to encourage spending in to the city’s neighborhoods. And Ron this year became president of the Fillmore Merchants Association.

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Presbyterians embrace protesters, spark more

A new banner at Calvary Presbyterian Church includes new protests and eternal verities.

A new banner at Calvary Presbyterian Church includes new protests and eternal verities.

FIRST PERSON | FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

It started out of frustration. A pastor at a mainline San Francisco church got tired of pulling together candlelight services after yet another black youth was killed. He wanted to do something positive to show support for the black friends he and many of his parishioners knew. So he hung a banner on the front of the church’s education building. Black Lives Matter, it proclaimed, the logo of a nascent movement.

This happened a few months ago at Calvary Presbyterian, the 164-year-old church at the corner of Fillmore and Jackson. Alongside the banner, minister John Weems hung a rainbow flag. He was also weary of attacks on the LGBTQ community, which incredibly still occur in San Francisco.

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An architect’s classic but understated homes

An attractive grouping of E.E. Young’s work graces the southwest corner of Octavia and Jackson.

An grouping of E.E. Young’s work graces the southwest corner of Octavia and Jackson.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

Architect Edward Eyestone Young became known for his collaborative work with speculative housing developers during the first few decades of the 20th century. Designing and building houses primarily on San Francisco’s north side, with a particular focus in Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights and along Lake Street, Young established strong relationships with some of the city’s important developers. Several homes were often crafted in a small group, each with a similar floor plan but with varying facades.

Three of Young’s more distinctive Pacific Heights collections still stand at the corners of Octavia and Jackson, Divisadero and Green, and Presidio and Jackson.

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Triumph of the new Elite is its bar

Photographs of the new modern Elite Cafe for John Storey.

Photographs of the new modern Elite Cafe at 2049 Fillmore by John Storey

SALOONS | CHRIS BARNETT

For months — long past its supposed July opening — the windows were papered over, thwarting sidewalk squinters who wanted a peek at the new Elite Cafe, wondering whether the new owners would preserve all that magnificent mahogany, the private booths, the historic bar and the New Orleans influenced menu.

In early October, the paper came down and the 35-year-old eatery made its latest debut. The Elite Cafe has been reborn as a sleek, sophisticated midtown Manhattan restaurant with a revived slate of French Quarter offerings, but only faint traces of its Art Deco past.

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New Fillmore arch proposed

A new public space at Fillmore and California could eventually include a restored arch.

A new public space at Fillmore and California could eventually include a reimagined arch.

A NEW PUBLIC  SPACE would be created in the heart of the neighborhood at Fillmore and California under a proposal that will get its first public airing on November 15.

The plan would incorporate the Fillmore Stoop parklet in front of Delfina restaurant on California Street and extend it eastward into a landscaped area with public seating in the parking spaces and sidewalk fronting the Preston Apartments, Smitten Ice Cream and Dino & Santino’s pizzeria.

The ambitious plan calls for the eventual re-creation of an arch over the Fillmore-California intersection, inspired by the metal arches on Fillmore in the early 20th century erected after the 1906 earthquake and fire. The arches came to symbolize Fillmore Street and remained in place until 1943, when they were removed for scrap iron during World War II.

Leaders of the Fillmore Merchants Association earlier this year raised the idea of expanding the parklet, created by the neighborhood design firm Siol. Siol’s team has been interviewing local residents and merchants to come up with a design strategy for future public seating, signage, lighting and landscaping.

A neighborhood party to unveil the plan will be held on Tuesday, November 15, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Dino’s at 2101 Fillmore.

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Marching against ageism

The Age March takes place on December 4 on Union Street in San Francisco.

The third Age March takes place on December 4 on Union Street in San Francisco.

FIRST PERSON | BARBARA ROSE BROOKER

My idea for an Age March began with a dream.

I dreamed there was an end to age discrimination and segregation — and that men and women of all races and sexual orientations marched to celebrate their ages. I led the marchers along with several other people, holding a giant red banner emblazoned with the words “Age March.” Accompanied by jazz musicians, we marched a mile as we chanted, “Celebrate your age! Don’t lie about it!”

And then I woke up.

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Boulange Fillmore may finally reopen

There's a new awning, but nothing more at 2047 Fillmore.

There’s a new awning, but nothing more at 2043 Fillmore.

It’s been over a year since Pascal Rigo reclaimed the space at 2043 Fillmore he’d sold to Starbucks as part of a $100 million deal.

Since then, even as he reopened a reinvented Boulangerie around the corner on Pine Street, the windows on the Fillmore cafe have remained papered and the French blue paint has faded. Now Rigo says he’s finally ready to roll.

“It’s going to be a slightly different Boulange,” he says. “No open face, because they are all going to be available at Pine. But great fun sandwiches in a different type of bread and a lot of beignets, as well as soft serves.”

Much of Rigo’s recent attention has been focused on baking for Trader Joe’s and Costco in the massive production bakery he reacquired from Starbucks.

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