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Emporium Dome Celebrates 100

Six fires between 1849 and 1851 destroyed large parts of rapidly growing San Francisco. Clearly fires were a significant hazard for a town filled with structures made of wood. Local attorney (and future Chief of Staff of Lincolns armies) Henry Wager Halleck felt that public confidence needed to be bolstered by building a structure that would be impenetrable to fire or flood. A civil engineer trained at West Point military academy, Halleck was very able to guide the development of San Franciscos first fireproof building, the Montgomery Block, located at 628 Montgomery Street at Washington Street. A new style of architecture for office buildings inspired by the …..

Kezar Pavilion – An Ongoing Legend

I remember one of my first visits to the legendary Kezar Pavilion. It was the early 90s, and I mustve been around 8 years old. My father took my two brothers and me to the Pavilion for a Pro-Am summer basketball game. The fans were going crazy, the game was great, but amidst all of this I remember one moment quite clearly. After the game my older brother came running back to the rest of us. I got to shake hands with Tim Hardaway! a Golden State Warriors legend from the glorious TMC* days of the late 80s and early 90s. I was full of jealousy. But this was the kind of place Kezar was: an intimate sports venue where a kid could get close and personal with his …..

San Francisco Tunnel History and MiscellanySan Francisco Tunnel History and Miscellany

San Francisco is a city of hills (over 50 by one San Francisco Chronicle count), and consequent-ly a city with many tunnels. There is a tunnel running from Aquatic Park under the Fort Mason bluff, built in 1914 and now abandoned, which was constructed to haul materials for building the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE). The tracks ran from South of Market along the Embarcadero into the Presidio for the State Belt Line Railroad. The tunnel was closed in the 1970s. PPIE construction began in 1912 in an area called Harbor View, known today as the Marina District. Around this time the Civic League of the Improvement Clubs of San Francisco created a Tunnel Committee to p…..

Katrina Cottages and SF Earthquake Cottages

Katrina Cottages and SF Earthquake Cottages

On the Gulf Coast, an entrepreneur has manufactured Katrina cottages to sell to hurricane victims as a permanent alternative to FEMA trailers in which many are still housed. How do these Katrina cottages compare to the San Francisco earthquake shacks, provided as alternatives to tents a hundred years ago? The new cottages range in size from 308 to 1,175 square feet compared to earthquake shacks that were 140 to 252 square feetbut todays cottages are meant to be permanent housing, whereas the earthquake shacks were built as temporary refugee camps. However, just as ultimately many of these shacks later served as the basis for larger structures, the Katrina cottages are designed as Gro…..

One of Hollywoods early theater impresarios created his first theaters in San Francisco. Sid Grauman (1879-1950) is best known for Graumans Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. This lavish 1927 movie palace is famous for its celebrity handprintsalso footprints, hoofprints, knees, and legsthe in the cement in front of the building. Grauman was also one of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Born on St. Patricks Day to Jewish parents, he was named Sidney Patrick Grauman. I owe my tremendous success to the Man Upstairs, Grauman frequently said, but having a name that got the Jews and the Irish behind me was what cinched things. He was born in Indiana i…..

The Fairmont Hotel Celebrates 100

She is a Grand Dame, the jewel in the crown of Nob Hill. She is the Fairmont Hotel, and she is turning 100 this month. When Silver King James Fair purchased the hillside at Mason and California Streets back in the late 1800s, his intent was to build the largest mansion in the neighborhood. However, when he died in 1894 this lot was still undeveloped. It remained so until 1902 when his daughters Tessie Fair Oelrichs and Virginia Fair commissioned the architectural firm of Reid & Reid to develop plans for a large hotel with the look of an Italian Renaissance Palace. By 1906, the Fairmont Hotel, 600 rooms, seven stories high, made of gray granite, cream marble, and terracotta stone, st…..

Craftsman Building on S. Van Ness Avenue

Craftsman Building on S. Van Ness Avenue

An unusual American example of Craftsman design principles applied to housing for the urban working class stands at South Van Ness Avenue and 26th Street. Built by the T.B. Potter Realty Company in 1905, it is a clinker brick and shingle building consisting of 16 attached cottages. Curiosity about this structure led Bathsehba Malsheen to delve into its history and ultimately to gain San Francisco landmark status for the structure. The units originally contained Craftsman detail such as coffered redwood ceilings and leaded glass cabinets. And each unit has a small private courtyard in the back. The mystery is why there is no other example of this style of building in San Franciscan Ameri…..

San Franciscos Le Petit Trianon

San Francisco has several representations of European landmarks, including Marie Antoinettes Le Petit Trianon. The original building at Versailles Palace in France was built between 1763 and 1768 for Louis XVs favorite mistress, Madame de Pompadour (Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson). Unfortunately for her, she died before the estate was completed. Louis then gave it to his next favorite mistress, Madame du Barry (Jeanne Bcu). When Louis XVI became monarch, he gave the estate to his wife, Marie Antoinette, who used it as a retreat from palace life. The architecture was called the Greek style, a transition between the Rococo of the early 18th century and the Neoclassical of the later part …..

Adolph Sutro is obviously one of the towering figures of San Francisco history, and his legacy is indelibly enshrined in our landscape and several important institutions. The Sutro Library, located at San Francisco State University since 1982, houses approximately 40% (about 100,000 volumes) of the original legendary massive Sutro collection, salvaged from the fire-proofed Montgomery Block after the destruction of 1906. Stored in warehouses on Battery Street, the balance of the collection was destroyed. Sutro had initially planned to build a library at Sutro Heights, then decided to use half the acreage subsequently given to the University of California, on Mount Parnassus (now Mount Sut…..

Lighthouses Around San Francisco Bay

Lighthouses Around San Francisco Bay

Our friends from other locations think of this area as sunny California. But if you live around San Francisco Bay, you know about the fog. And there are other dangers for ships, including strong gales, rocks, and shoals. Lighthouses were built here since Gold Rush times to warn ships of the dangers. I spoke with City Guide Patricia Duff, who works for the United States Coast Guard in their Lighthouse Divestiture program. As Patricia told me, the lighthouses were operated by the U. S. Lighthouse Service until 1939, when the Coast Guard took control. By the 1970s, most lighthouses were automated, mariners were using GPS systems, and the keepers were not needed at these sites. The keepers qu…..

While traipsing around the Tenderloin, researching another project, your editor sighted a very interesting Moorish style building at 650 Geary Steet. GuideLines put out a call to see if anyone knew the history of this building. Thank you to all who responded including Bob Bowen, Don Andreini, Peter Field, Gary Holloway, Ulla Kaprielian, and Ernie Ng. The building, San Francisco Landmark 195, is today the location of the Alcazar Theater. It was built in 1917 at a cost of $150,000 as the Islam Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. The Shriners, a mens social and charitable organization of the Freemasons, used the building until 1970. The building was designed by Scott…..

Tom Maguire: A Colorful Character in SFs Theatrical Past

Tom Maguire: A Colorful Character in SFs Theatrical Past

In her book The San Francisco Stage: From Gold Rush to Golden Spike, 1849-1869, Misha Berson remarks on the beginnings of theatrical life in San Francisco: Theater was only getting its start in the Atlantic states when San Francisco was founded during the Gold Rush. Thus, the far frontier city began its theatrical life as an equal among equals as far as theatrical experience was concerned. Given San Franciscos importance in the development of the theater in the United States, it is interesting to examine the background and life of one of those who produced and directed on those early stages. Tom Maguire ran San Franciscos first legitimate house for serious actors, the Jenny Lind. Th…..

Its roofline an architectural confection of fanciful domes and graceful galleries, the Old Vedanta Temple at the corner of Webster and Filbert Streets is a vibrant landmark of the Cow Hollow neighborhood. The spirited architecture of this building, however, has a firm spiritual foundation. The structure is said to be the first Hindu Temple in the Western Hemisphere. From 1905 until the community outgrew the space and dedicated the New Vedanta Temple in 1959 at Fillmore and Vallejo Streets, just a few blocks away, the Old Temple served as the home for what became the Vedanta Society of Northern California. An early pamphlet published by the Society noted that the Temple may be consider…..

Where Was the Valencia Hotel?

Little did I know when I entered Cherins Appliance store on Valencia Street that I would find answers to a question I hadnt been able to solve. Luckily, Michael Cherin waited on me. During our conversation I asked him if he know where the Valencia Hotel had been. He said, Right here, but then for validation he asked his grandfather, Lou Cherin, who is the family historian. Lou said no, the Valencia Hotel was across the street. Built in 1898, the Valencia Hotel was a four-story wood frame structure with a brick foundation. The Mission district was originally a marshland with creeks and shallow lakes. Landfill began in the 1860s, and in 1888 four hundred acres of solid ground had been…..

Eureka Benevolent Society and Henry Mauser in San Francisco

Eureka Benevolent Society and Henry Mauser in San Francisco

When the ground started shaking at 5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18, 1906, the three-story frame building at 436 OFarrell, which housed the administrative offices of the Eureka Benevolent Society, was empty of workers, so no lives were lost at the site. However, after the fire raged throughout so much of San Francisco on that inauspicious day and the two that followed, only portions of the front and rear exterior walls remained standing. Having to start over was nothing new for the members of the Eureka, first organized in 1850 to provide financial assistance to Israelites landing here, broken in health or destitute of means. Founder August Helbing, only 25 years old when he convince…..

Landmarks Versus National Historic Places

Landmarks Versus National Historic Places

Did you know that the Mission Dolores is both a San Francisco Landmark and a California Historical Landmark, and also holds a place on the National Register of Historic Places? And do you know the difference in these designations? Many buildings on our tour routes display plaques indicating landmark status, but the process for achieving each form of recognition is different.National Historic Places and LandmarksThe National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) includes over 80,000 listings, of which over 2,400 are designated as National Historic Landmarks. Landmarks are designated by the Secretary of the Interior for their national significance. Historic places are nomi…..

Hollywood Stars Visit San Franciscos Chinatown

Hollywood Stars Visit San Franciscos Chinatown

In 1947, near the end of an unhappy five-year marriage, Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth sat in a dark theater and tensely watched a Chinese opera production. Only four years earlier, Hollywoods Boy Wonder had married The Love Goddess, but whatever happiness they had once enjoyed was short-lived. They had come to San Franciscos Chinatown not for the theater, but to make a film of their own, Lady from Shanghai. In the movie, Orson Welless character gets caught up in a murder scheme, and he confronts Rita Hayworths character in a pivotal scene that takes place during the Chinese opera performance. If youve seen the movie, youll likely remember that the climactic last scene takes …..

1. What father and son both played roles in the San Francisco theater scene?

2. American Conservatory Theater originated in what city?

3. At what hotel did Enrico Caruso stay when he was in San Francisco in April 1906?

Castro Movie Makeover: Glimpses of the Castro from 30 Years Ago

Castro Movie Makeover: Glimpses of the Castro from 30 Years Ago

Guides for the Castro: Tales of the Village tour have been able to observe the ongoing retrofit to the Castro as its appearance from 30 years ago is brought to life. The time warp is all part of the Gus Van Sant film entitled Milk. The biopic on the life of the first openly gay man elected to office in the United States stars Sean Penn as Harvey Milk and Josh Brolin as Dan White. Filming began on January 22, 2008, and is slated to continue until March 15th. For those of us who walk the Castro and, through our stories, evoke the images of decades ago, these are exciting times! Construction workers have altered the Castro Theatre marquee to use the color palette from the late seventies. The…..

Wayside Chapel of St Francis

The Citys smallest and largest churches once stood side-by-side atop Nob Hill. Perched in the shadow of Grace Cathedral, the Wayside Chapel of St. Francis opened on May 28, 1945. When the Episcopal Bishop wanted a chapel where people could come 24 hours a day to pray for their loved ones at war, the bishops chaplain suggested they convert a tiny construction shed on the California Street side of the still-unfinished cathedral. Built in 1932, the wooden structure had been used as the fund-raising office for the cathedral building campaign, and subsequently as Dinwiddie Constructions on-site office. And thus in the waning years of World War II, generous donors helped to convert it i…..

The Palace was an emporium dedicated to the palates of the cosmos. It probably had food from Saturn. It was the FAO Schwarz of the stomach. Thus author Gus Lee describes the Crystal Palace Market of his youth in China Boy, the fictionalized account of his boyhood that was San Franciscos choice for this falls One City/One Book shared reading experience. His description is no exaggeration. During its 36-year run, the 71,000-square-foot market imported goods from at least 37 countries to provide the most varied offerings in the country. Its 65 shops included four dairy stands selling 36,000 eggs daily , four poultry stands, six butcher shops, three fish markets, and seven fruit…..

Albion Castle San Franciscans, their Beers, and the Story of One Brewery

Albion Castle San Franciscans, their Beers, and the Story of One Brewery

Nineteen-year-old John Burnell, already an experienced brewer trained in London, came to San Francisco in 1868. He bought a parcel of land with large flowing springs in an area where brothers Robert and Philip Hunter managed real estate transactions for the new city an area known today as Hunters Point. Here in the 1870s Burnell established the Albion Porter & Ale Brewery. The building he erected, featuring a three-story tower reminiscent of a Norman castle from Burnells native England, has always been known as the Albion Castle. The Castle was recently in the news when it was auctioned off for $2.1 million. The building has walls two to three feet thick and was built with stone t…..

The SF Chronicle Building Restored

San Franciscos first skyscraper, whose original faade has been hidden for more than 40 years, is presently undergoing restoration. Located at 690 Market Street at the corner of Kearny and 3rd Streets, the structure was originally the Chronicle Building, but has been known in recent years by its tenant, Washington Mutual. It was the Chronicles home until 1924 and shares the important newspaper corner intersection with the Hearst and former Call buildings. The buildings 1889 brick and stone faade was covered with white enamel sheets in a 1962 modernization, but at least some of the original material was preserved underneath. Interestingly, although it is historically known as the Ch…..

San Francisco Armory in the Mission

San Francisco Armory in the Mission

City Guides offers three different tours in the Mission. None venture remotely near the hulking ugly pseudo-Moorish Armory building at 1800 Mission Street. With clinker brick exteriors, four octagonal towers, and 200,000 square feet of space, this forbidding structure was built in 1912-14 as an arsenal for the US National Guard, replacing one in the Western Addition destroyed in 1906. Its ultimate cost, including land, was $500,000. Besides its official function as a military training and storage facility, it was used frequently for sporting events and prizefights. Said to be the largest building of architectural importance in the Mission, it has the largest unsupported enclosed volu…..

Ella Castelhun – A Lesser Known Woman Architect

Ella Castelhun – A Lesser Known Woman Architect

In 1901, the State of California adopted a law that required all practicing architects to be licensed, either demonstrating their experience in the field of architecture or passing an exam and fulfilling requirements in education and experience. Julia Morgan was the first woman to appear on the roster of licensed architects, receiving license number B344 in 1904. The second woman licensed to practice architecture in California was Ella Castelhun, who received license B358 in 1905. In contrast to Morgan, she remains little known. Unfortunately, her file is not available at the State of California Architects Board. The last record of her architectural career is her inclusion in the 1920 r…..

The Russian Connection in San Francisco

The Russian Connection in San Francisco

We all know about Fort Ross in 1830, Sebastopol, the Russian River, and Russian Hill, where artifacts of buried Russian sailors have been found. Perhaps we also know that the founding of the Presidio may have been inspired by Charles III of Spain because of concern about Russian incursions from the north. A few of us know about the Russian exploration of San Francisco Bay in 1812, when the Russian-employed botanist von Chamisso first described the California poppy, took a specimen back to St. Petersburg, and enshrined it in the Russian Museum, where it still resides as the type specimen, the original. Most of us have heard the romanticized love story of Count Rezanov and Concepcion Arg…..

San Francisco Coffee Roasters

Coffee is one of the most exported commodities in the world. It originated in Yemen and by the 1400s trading brought it to Africa, Arabia, and the Mediterranean. After achieving popularity in Europe in the 1600s, the Wine of Araby traveled to America, where by the end of that century it overtook beer as the favorite breakfast drink. During the Mexican-American War in 1846, it was a ration for soldiers. Traders spread coffee to other hot climate growing areas, including the East and West Indies. And just like the Gold Rush immigrants traveling to California, green coffee beans also came by ship. San Francisco became a center for coffee roasting businesses, with coffee a main part of t…..

San Francisco Emporium Rooftop Holiday Tradition

San Francisco Emporium Rooftop Holiday Tradition

A ferris wheel, merry-go-round, train, and visit with Santa Claus and his elves all these treats and more awaited visitors to the rooftop holiday carnival presented every Christmas by the Emporium on Market Street. Once upon a time this venerable department store also boasted an indoor ice rink and an auditorium for lectures and concerts by The Emporium Orchestra. The last Christmas carnival was held in 1995, the Emporiums 100th anniversary year and the year the store closed. A reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle interviewed visitors and quoted an Emporium employee who boasted, Our Santa is the best Santa in the Bay Area. (In fact, there were two Santas, separated by screens…..

The San Francisco Ferry Building Clock

The San Francisco Ferry Building Clock

Ferry Building Guides were recently treated to a talk by Dorian Clair, a specialist in antique clocks who in 2000 began working on the Ferry Buildings famous timepiece. Today the Ferry Building still boasts its original Special 4 clock made by the Boston clock maker E. Howard in 1898. It is the largest dialed, wind-up, mechanical clock in the world. Before the 06 quake, this top-of-the-line clock lost only two seconds a week. Although the clock is now powered by an electric motor installed by Dorian, the old weight and pendulum system is still in place and could be hooked up in a few hours. This systems one-ton weight, which dropped 48 feet in 8 days when it powered the clock, now…..

Art Deco in San Franciscos Downtown

Art Deco in San Franciscos Downtown

One day in the spring of 2003, fellow City Guide Bob Bowen and I visited the lobby of the Telephone Building on New Montgomery Street. We were on a trial walk for a revived Downtown Deco Tour, which a few of us had decided to bring back to life after conducting Art Deco Marina for several years. A security guard working for SBC, which then owned the building, kindly allowed us into the inner sanctum. We stood in the wide lobby of San Franciscos first real high-rise, with its dark marble walls, occasionally accented by shiny metal trim. A glorious multi-colored ceiling in the pattern of a Chinese quilt brightened the space, and various animal forms seemed to float overhead. Above the elev…..

Yerba Buena Lane: San Franciscos Newest Street

Yerba Buena Lane: San Franciscos Newest Street

Although open since 2002, the pedestrian-only thoroughfare named Yerba Buena Lane is finally coming into its own. With the recent opening of the Contemporary Jewish Museum and Jessie Square, many people are now taking notice of this lively and interesting area for the first time. Yerba Buena Lane allows pedestrians to flow from the Union Square area north of Market Street to the museums and public landscapes of Yerba Buena Gardens south of Market (SoMa), without a long detour down to Third or Fourth Street. At 550 feet long, it is designed to provide a convenient corridor for over 5 million people annually, fulfilling a vision of urban planners over 50 years in the making. Historical…..

Archbishops Mansion in San FranciscoArchbishops Mansion in San Francisco

The handsome French Second Empire structure was built in 1904 for San Franciscos second Archbishop, Patrick Riordan (1841-1914). A major architectural asset and anchor to the Alamo Square Historic District, it was at the turn of the century an important symbol of the Catholic Churchs prominence in San Franciscos religious, social and cultural life. The Mansions architect was Frank Shea, who worked on several projects for the Catholic Archdiocese, including St. Vincent de Paul on Steiner Street and Holy Cross on Eddy Street. Archbishop Patrick Riordan played an important role in San Francisco history. Arriving in 1882, he set about building churches, schools, and hospitals. The Arc…..

Emporium Dome Celebrates 100

Editors Note: The October 2004 GuideLines featured a story on the Emporium dome when it was hoisted on a perch for a year during construction of the Westfield Centre. The following article revisits the story with some new information and permission from the Bancroft Library to publish another photo.September 2008 was the 100th birthday of the dome in the Westfield Centre. In 1896 a cooperative of merchants rented space at the Parrot Building at 835 Market Street and called their venture the Emporium. As its signature feature, the building contained a magnificent dome. The Parrot Building was designed by Albert Pissis, who also designed the James Flood Building across t…..

Court of Appeals and Old Main Post Office Building

Court of Appeals and Old Main Post Office Building

Penny Bradshaw had the wonderful idea for the Class of 2008 to keep in touch on a regular basis by meeting for lunch once a month to discuss and share experiences, and Tuesday, October 7th, was scheduled for our first date. When I discovered that the United States Court of Appeals and Old Main Post Office were offering a docent tour that day (and had a caf on site!), seven of us met on the steps of this most beautiful example of an American Renaissance / Beaux Arts classical style building and took the tour given by Ms. Ellie Foster, docent since 97, who had previously volunteered at various museums in Washington, D.C. This building has a special meaning for me since it was here, …..

The Call Building of San Francisco

San Franciscos Call Building shared the spotlight with the Ferry Building as the citys most notable landmark at the turn of the twentieth century. San Franciscos first skyscraper, it was depicted by Thomas Kinkaid in his nostalgic painting San Francisco Market Street, and it stands as a point of reference in locating other structures in historic photographs. We can credit the very public feud between two leading San Francisco families for the construction of this grand building. Claus Spreckels dominated the sugar industry from the 1860s until 1905, when the new C&H co-op broke his monopoly. After gaining control of Hawaiian cane sugar production through his ownership of the Hawaii…..

The Old Mint Building in San Francisco

The Old Mint Building in San Francisco

City Guide Larry See recently joined the San Francisco Museum & Historical Societys members-only tour of the Old Mint and shares this report:Built in 1874, at one time the Old Mint held about one-third of all of the gold in the nation. It sits on bedrock just ten feet below the surface. The foundation is four feet thick, with two-inch reinforcing iron bars interlaced all though it. The walls are a combination of very thick sandstone on the outside with granite and brick in the interior. Huge heavy iron shutters protect the window

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