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Sue Fisher King is moving to Fillmore

Sue Fisher King runs one of San Francisco’s favorite home design stores.

By CYNTHIA TRAINA

After more than four decades on Sacramento Street, luxury home goods retailer Sue Fisher King is moving her store to 1913 Fillmore Street. She will take over the storefront just south of Florio restaurant recently vacated by the wellness brand Saje. 

Rather than retire, she is looking forward to a new chapter. 

“Fillmore is a wonderful street with interesting stores,” King says. “It has a lot of activity and was the only viable location for us.” She adds with a smile: “And our staff is looking forward to all the new dining options.” 

King looked at several locations on the street before selecting the corner of Fillmore and Wilmot. She is especially fond of the Victorian architecture on the block and its mix of interesting shops. 

Embarking on the move as she prepares to celebrate her 45th year in business, she says: “The important thing is not to think about it. I’m just not someone who can be bored, and I still want to contribute. I need something concrete to do every day — and besides, everyone here is so nice to me.”  

In fact, many of her core staff were hired straight out of San Francisco State University and some are still with her after 25 years. “I have been lucky to hire great people who are smart and contribute a great deal,” she says.

The Sue Fisher King crew is preparing for an early to mid-May opening. Remodeling is underway. Saje’s iconic green plant wall is gone, but the herringbone floors stay. The space’s interior arches are being modified to divide the store into three sections.

Shelves for her bestselling handmade ceramics from Astier de Villatte have already been installed. Those milky white ceramics were a brand she discovered in Paris in 1996 and launched into the U.S. market. Since then, the brand has expanded across the globe. 

The store will also experiment with new inventory and will continue to collaborate with new artists. Sue Fisher King staples include handcrafted and traditional items, including handpainted porcelain from Richard Ginori and Marie Daage, Fortuny lighting, Porthault linens and glassware from Murano, Italy.

When she was 16, King’s parents insisted she had to find a job in her hometown of Portland. She went to work in retail and to her surprise fell in love with the variety of people she met on the job. After graduating from UC Berkeley, she joined the executive training program at Joseph Magnin, where she specialized in selling high-end home goods. Determined to share finds from her personal travels and visits to the studios of design world creatives, she opened Sue Fisher King in 1978 at 3067 Sacramento Street. The store quickly built a following for its refined and quality home goods, including a range of luxury tabletop items, decor accents, fine European bed and bath linens, handmade jewelry, furniture and unique gift items. 

In addition to the retail store, Sue Fisher King has a thriving online business and a warehouse near Polk Street. The company is currently hiring sales associates for the new location. 

Cynthia Traina is a longtime neighborhood resident and a real estate advisor with Vantage Realty.

Farewell to one of Fillmore’s finest

David Johnson | Fillmore Street, circa late 1940s

DAVID JOHNSON, who took the most famous photograph ever taken on Fillmore Street, looking south from Fillmore and Post in the late 1940s, died on March 1 at age 97.

Johnson, a Florida native, first came through San Francisco on his way to serve in the navy during World War II. He returned after the war to become the first black student in a new photography program directed by Ansel Adams at what became the Art Institute. Adams encouraged Johnson to “photograph what you know,” which led him to Fillmore Street at a time when it was alive with jazz clubs and home to a vibrant black community.

Johnson’s photographs were rediscovered when KQED in 1998 began its award-winning documentary, “The Fillmore.” His work was featured in the book that followed, “Harlem of the West,” and in numerous exhibitions around the country.

MORE: David Johnson in the New Fillmore

David Johnson talks about his work at Marcus Books on Fillmore Street.

Medical library may become condos

Rendering of proposed additions to the library at Sacramento and Webster.

A PLAN TO upscale the landmark Lane Medical Library at Sacramento and Webster into 24 condominiums — which so far has found smooth sailing through the city’s planning apparatus — has run into a roadblock. It is being appealed to the Board of Supervisors, with a hearing scheduled on February 6.

After serving as a medical library for more than a century, the classical structure built in 1912 was sold in 2018 when California Pacific Medical Center moved to its new home on Van Ness Avenue. Since then it has been an event facility.

Now Gokovacandir LLC proposes gutting the interior of the building and adding towers to the east and south sides of the building that would extend to 87 feet — more than double the height limit in the neighborhood. The structures would include four four-bedroom units, nine three-bedroom units, 10 two-bedroom units and one one-bedroom unit, plus 26 underground parking spaces.

Sacramento Street elevation, courtesy of BAR Architects.

The project has been helped along by new state laws that encourage the construction of more housing, allowing developers to build beyond current zoning restrictions and giving them a “density bonus” if the project includes below-market-rate units. The 2395 Sacramento project would include three “affordable” units, qualifying it for five additional units as a density bonus.

In his appeal, neighbor Jonathan Clark challenges the Planning Department’s approval of the library conversion.

Clark’s lawyers argue that the city “has embarked upon a dangerous, far-reaching and blatantly unlawful interpretation” of environmental laws governing the project. They write: “The proposed project will jeopardize the historically significant Lane Medical Library, which is listed as City Landmark 115, by placing an 87-foot tall building on one side of the historic landmark and a 72-foot building on another side — all in a zone with a 40-foot height limit.”

Webster Street elevation, courtesy of BAR Architects.

The addition on the Webster Street side would sit between the library and Temple Sherith Israel at California and Webster, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The medical library has also been nominated for the National Register. Both buildings were designed by noted architect Albert Pissis. A three-panel mural by Arthur Mathews, one of early California’s most respected artists, would be removed, along with the rest of the library reading room, as part of the project.

Critics say the project exemplifies the problems created by speeding projects through the city planning process and using density bonuses where historic resources are involved.

UPDATE: Supervisors approve redevelopment of medical library

MORE: “Will all new housing be exempt from environmental review?

Calvary moved to Fillmore from Union Square

Calvary Presbyterian Church held its first service at Fillmore & Jackson in 1902.

By WOODY LABOUNTY
SF Heritage

The story: the imposing Calvary Presbyterian Church on the corner of Fillmore and Jackson streets — which seems like an ancient temple that has stood on its plot for time immemorial — was moved there from Union Square.

Let’s play detective and take a before-and-after look.

Read more: “One Million Bricks

A night at the Eclipse

IT WILL BE a night from the past, still relevant today. On Thursday, January 11, Sheba Piano Lounge will present “The Fillmore Eclipse,” a one-night evening of immersive theater that brings to life a familiar neighborhood story.

It’s a recreation of a 1950’s underground jazz club, called the Eclipse, at a time when Fillmore Street was alive with music but threatened by redevelopment. In the Eclipse, modeled after the legendary Jimbo’s Bop City, the music runs all night, but there is also a sense of impending doom for the club and the neighborhood. Actors mix among the audience and tell the story of the club, the music and emerging ideas about how to save the neighborhood — ideas that still shape the Fillmore today. 

To learn more, visit “The Fillmore Eclipse.”

It’s still his square

A bench in Alamo Square now honors a beloved neighbor.

JUST ABOUT THIS time of year, for decades, Joe Pecora would be throwing open the doors of his beautifully maintained Victorian home near Alamo Square for his annual Christmas pot luck. The house would be brimming with friends and neighbors and decorated from top to bottom with his collection of antique ornaments and Christmas cards.

Joe died in 2020. But he is remembered as the author of “The Storied Houses of Alamo Square” and a true friend of the neighborhood. Now he has a permanent presence in Alamo Square. Friends came together at the park in high style on Sunday afternoon, December 10, to dedicate a new bench in his honor.

Read more: “A photo report from Ron Henggeler

Joe Pecora’s book debuted in 2014 where it should have: at Alamo Square.

On a clear day

Photograph by Karl G. Smith III

AT THE TOP of the Fillmore hill on a beautiful December day.

Feinstein always made time for Convent girls

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein with 8th graders from Convent School on Broadway.

By CLAIRE FAHY
The New York Times

Dianne Feinstein was laid to rest last week with a funeral service on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, a fitting backdrop for a woman who was as much a symbol of the city as the Golden Gate Bridge is.

It certainly felt that way when I was growing up in San Francisco. I went to the same high school she did, the private all-girls Convent of the Sacred Heart.

Read more: “Saying goodbye to a San Francisco icon
Dianne Feinstein ’51 at Convent School

SF loses a piece of its history

Photograph of John Gaul at the Haas-Lilienthal House by Ramon del Rosario

JOHN GAUL, 97, a fixture on Fillmore Street and in San Francisco historical circles for decades, died on July 25, 2023, at his longtime home at John F. Kennedy Towers.

He leaves a considerable legacy of celebrating and perpetuating the history of the city he loved. He was a docent at three of San Francisco’s most historical places: the Palace of Fine Arts, the Haas-Lilienthal House and the Swedenborgian Church. He led tours and helped train docents for all three, and was also active in SF Heritage, the San Francisco Historical Society and the Victorian Alliance. 

Always impeccably dressed and relentlessly positive, he helped spearhead the designation of the Swedenborgian Church on Lyon Street — birthplace of the Arts & Crafts Movement in the U.S. — as a National Historical Landmark. He remained active in the church, phoning in a poem or limerick or other “wise words” during services even after he was no longer able to attend. And he worked ahead: His recorded “rhythms,” as he called them, will continue to be heard during Sunday morning services through the end of the year.

John Melvin Gaul was born on November 9, 1925, the son of Carl Joseph Gaul and Olive Mae La Brash, and raised in Tacoma, Washington. His parents and a brother, Carl Gaul, preceded him in death. 

He is survived by his cat, Apollo, who has been adopted into a new home. Late in life Gaul became a spokesman for Give Me Shelter, a pet adoption agency that helped him find companionship after others turned him away because of advancing age and limited finances. He also became a supporter and poster boy for Meals on Wheels, whose delivery trucks for a time sported his bowler-hatted visage.

A memorial service will be held at the San Francisco Swedenborgian Church at Lyon & Washington Streets at 2 p.m. on September 9, 2023.

John Gaul leads a tour of the Swedenborgian Church.

The murals at Jimbo’s

Harry Smith with one of his murals at Jimbo’s Bop City, circa 1950.

IT’S NOT EVERY DAY that a photo from the neighborhood is published in The New York Times. But today is that day. Alongside a review of Cosmic Scholar, a new biography of anthropologist/artist/filmmaker/mystic/music collector Harry Smith, is a photograph of Smith before one of the murals in the legendary Fillmore jazz club Jimbo’s Bop City.

Wikipedia confirmed: “The painter and filmmaker Harry Everett Smith painted the walls with abstract motifs and created a light show that ran to the music of Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk.” The entry added: “Admission was only $1, and musicians came in for free, but Jimbo Edwards always chose who he let in and who he did not: “We don’t allow no squares in Bop City. If you don’t understand what we doin’, then leave and don’t come back.”

MORE: The Art of Harry Smith at the Whitney