Chronological listing of 10 selected architectural works in the San Francisco Bay Area (1906-1908).
1906-07, Financial District, Monadnock Building,
685 Market St., San Francisco.
Meyer and O'Brien.
Interrupted by the earthquake and rebuilt afterward, the building was renovated in 1986-88. The entrance lobby has outstanding trompe l'oeil murals by the Evans and Brown Co. featuring famous people from the city's past who are identified on a handout available at the security desk. Do visit the sculpture garden in the interior court (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 24).
The Monadnock Building was under construction prior to the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. After the earthquake struck, the United States Army entered and made an unsuccessful attempt to dynamite it; thwarting their plan to create a fire break intended to save the old Palace Hotel. Having survived the earthquake, dynamiting, and fire, this building was completed in 1907. After spending many years as a headquarters location for national railroads, the building was thoroughly renovated by 1986; becoming the mostly art and law oriented office building that it is today. The murals and sculpture garden originate with that renovation.
The theme of this mural, by the Evans and Brown Company, is "San Francisco Renaissance." It is painted in the Renaissance Baroque style trompe l'oeil (which means to fool the eye) and chosen because the facade of this building was inspired by that period. That is why all these San Francisco and California Characters are dressed in such costumes.
The children, Max and Chloe, are the son and daughter of Don Baker, a former Eastdil Realty developer who engaged the services of artists Mark Evans and Charlie Brown during the building's renovation in 1985.
On the opposite wall we have just four figures with names. The boy on the far left and the lady on the far right playing the mandolin are nameless or generic.
1906; 1936, East Bay, North Gate Hall (orig. Architecture Building),
Euclid and Hearst Ave., Berkeley.
John Galen Howard; Walter Steilberg.
The first building for the first department of architecture west of the Rockies, it was called the Ark (Howard was Noah) and was built as a temporary structure, hence its simple brown-shingled form and residential scale. The building grew around a pleasant courtyard. Uphill is the old Drawing Building, 1914, also by Howard (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 210).
1907, Financial District, Bank of California,
400 California St., San Francisco.
Bliss and Favile.
The banking temple at its best, with a beautifully detailed Corinthian order for the colonnade. Inside, the banking hall is a great cage with a coffered ceiling. Next door, the 1967 tower's fretted floor spandrels pick up the rhythm of the fluted columns. The ground floor cornice of copper stamped with a curvilinear pattern holds its own agains the Classical riches of its neighbor (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 30).
Further east, at 400 California, is what is regarded as the city's finest banking temple, the Bank of California (55) (1907) by Bliss and Faville. It sits on the site of William Ralston's original Bank of California building (see illustration on page 33) (Wiley 2000: 170).
The finest banking temple in a city of banking temples. Modeled after McKim, Mead, and White's knickerbocker Trust Building in New York (now demolished). The Architectural Record wrote of the design in 1906 that it "promises to be one of the most imposing edifices in the United States devoted to banking purposes." The building is of steel frame construction with a carved granite exterior. In composition, it is a modified temple without a pediment, and its ornamentation is derived from classical antiquity. The building is treated on three sides with a giant Corinthian order highlighted with exquisitely carved capitals. The interior is a single great space with columns around the perimeter, a coffered ceiling, and a marble sculptural group by Arthur Putnam. In 1967 a sensitive modern tower by Anshen and Allen was joined to the Bank's west side, opening onto the roof of the old Bank building. A (Corbett and Hall 1979: 196).
Events of the months that followed [the 1906 earthquake and fire] fully bore out that prophecy ["They will rebuild a finer and better city than ever on the site of the old one!" -D. O. Mills]. During the remainder of 1906 and all through 1907, the task of clearing away the wreckage and of carrying out in steel and stone the vision of a new and greater city proceeded at a pace that everywhere won admiration. Rebuilding was active in every part of the burned district, but nowhere was the transformation more complete than in the area centering about the bank's old headquarters at California and Sansome Streets. As the Year 1907 closed, a writer thus described the changes there:
The man who dared to say during April 1906 that the great fire was a blessing in disguise ... was looked upon as an extreme optimist. But he is having his innings now. In no part of the town can he point more convincingly to proof of his prophecy than in the district along Sansome.... Before the fire, this was a picturesque part of town, but it was old and tumble-down. The old style rope elevator was in evidence, the mail chute was unknown, and there were grates instead of steam heaters. Now all ... are being replaced by modern class A buildings of steel and stone.Construction of the "handsome new building" was then in full swing. By Midsummer of 1908, the big structure was virtually completed. While workmen applied finishing touches to the interior and installed the fixtures and equipment, the bank prepared to leave the temporary quarters it had occupied for two eventful years, and to take possession of its new home.
The move was made during the early part of September 1908, the transfer beginning at the close of business on Saturday, September 5, and continuing over the weekend. Late Sunday night, securities and coin to the amount of $54,000,000 were moved down California Street from Leidesdorff to Sansome, and deposited in the new vaults. Monday was devoted to completing the transfer of records and equipment and to preparations for the reopening the next morning. The San Francisco Call of September 9 stated: "The Bank of California opened its new building yesterday and from ten o'clock until long after banking hours the building was thronged with visitors." (Hunter 1950: 57-58).
1907, Financial District, Royal Globe Insurance Company,
201 Sansome St., San Francisco.
Howells and Stokes.
An exemplary Edwardian building. The entrance composition and ornamental detail of the base and attic sections provide a visual feast. The company had a similar building in the east with the same cladding (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 30).
One of the richest of all downtown designs in its use of color, materials, and ornamentation; it also is an important building at a major corner and an integral part of the Pine and Sansome streetscapes. The building is in a three part vertical compostion. Its 18th century English ornament is executed in white marble, red brick, and green and white terra cotta. The base, identical to a contemporary company building in New York, includes an extremely fine carved marble clock over the entrance with a lion and a unicorn. Doors in the elevator lobby are from a 17th century Italian palazzo. The recent replacement of a heavy upper level cornice molding with a copper substitute was an ingeniuous solution worthy of the generation of architects who designed the post-fire downtown with less interest in literalness than in effect. When the copper weathers to green it will pick up the existing green terra cotta highlights and amplify the rich play of colors which distinguishes this building. All these original exterior materials were brought from the East Coast.
The building is a steel frame structure with reinforced concrete floors and brick curtain walls. The walls were "earthquake proofed" by means of a mesh of iron rods which wrapped around the building and served as a nearly continuous reinforcement of the brick curtain walls. This system was deisgned by the New York architects and their engineers, Purdy and Henderson A (Corbett and Hall 1979: 216).
1907, Russian Hill, Wright house,
950 Lombard St., San Francisco.
1907, Russian Hill, Engine No. 31 Fire House,
1088 Green St., San Francisco.
This firehouse was built in 1907 and housed the celebrated Engine Company No. 31. Abandoned by the Fire Department in 1952, it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph K. Davies in 1957 and preserved as a memorial and colorful example of turn of the century firehouse architecture (Plaque placed by the California Historical Society, April 1967).
Newton Tharp designed Engine House No. 31 (17) (1908), one of the last firehouses built to house horse-drawn equipment, at 1088 Green in a combination of Tudor Revival and Craftsman styles to fit in with local residences. Philanthropist Louise Davies, after whom Symphony Hall is named, bought the firehouse, restored it, opened the ground floor to neighborhood organizations, and gave the building to the National Trust for Historic Preservation (Wiley 2000: 259).
1907, Presidio Heights, 3779 Clay St. house,
3779 Clay St., San Francisco.
Stone and Smith.
A quirky corner-lot house that combines elements of the Craftsman and the Mission Revival styles (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 103).
1907, North Waterfront, Fuller Company Glass Warehouse
50 Green St., San Francisco.
Willis Polk, George Alexander Wright.
One of the most architecturally interesting of the waterfront buildings is 50 Green Street, built for the Fuller Paint Company in 1907. Here the theme of large first-floor arches is carried almost to a logical conclusion, giving the building a very light appearance. Most fortunately this fine building has been carefully remodeled to provide space for a number of businesses (Olmsted and Watkins 1969: 65).
The Fuller Company Glass Warehouse in the Classical Revival style was added to the National Register of Historical Places (Building #01001101) in 2001, with Willis Polk and George Alexander Wright credited as the architects. Historically, the building functioned as a manufacturing facility and warehouse; today it provides office space for various business firms.
1908-10, East Bay, Julia Morgan Center (orig. St. John's Presbyterian Church and Sunday School),
2640 College Ave., Berkeley
Designed to fit into this early neighborhood of brown-shingled houses, the building does not appear nearly as large as it is. The barnlike character of the interior was deliberate; its frankly expressed structural framework was enriched with handsome Craftsman lighting fixtures. Built at the same time as Maybeck's nearby [First] Church [of Christ, Scientist], it cost a quarter as much. The building is now used as a theater (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 213).
A straightforward yet sophisticated meeting hall church from the architect's Craftsman period (Gebhard, Winter and Sandweiss 1985: 276).
St. John's Presbyterian Church, designed in 1910 and probably Morgan's best-known building after San Simeon, is a piece of lightly sheathed engineering, a glorious combination of barn and bungalow, utility and grace. The bare-bone budget allowed few frills, and the drama of the interior derives from the careful arrangement and display of structural elements: every functioning member is visible and every visible member functions. Even the Craftsman/constructivist lighting fixtures of the Social Hall seem extensions of the structural system. The nave roof is raised above the rest of the building, providing a clerestory which runs around all four sides of the space, creating a cage of light above the heads of worshippers (the clerestory above the altar end of the church has since been filled in). Lighting is handled quite subtly throughout the building, and it is chiefly this element that creates, in the passage from social hall to sanctuary, a transition from cheerful radiance to mystery.
Much of the credit for the accomplishment at St. John's, particularly the interior, belongs to Walter Steilberg, a resourceful designer/engineer who was Morgan's structure man for many years. Morgan's primary concern, characteristically, was that the exterior not be obtrusive; that the church fit quietly into the residential neighborhood which is its setting. Consequently both scale and imagery are residential; except for the cross perched on top of the primary roof structure, the building could be a rather extensive bungalow. The original intention was not to have even this reference to the building's religious function; instead, there is a cross outlined in the window dividers of the central section of the front clerestory. While this may have seemed adequate identification to Morgan, it did not seem so to the congregation, at whose continued insistence the rooftop cross was eventually added (Beach 1988: 73-76).
Julia Morgan's wooden St. John's Presbyterian Church (2640 College Avenue, Berkeley, 1908 and 1910) followed the Bay Region tradition of domestically scaled churches; it appeared modest from the outside, its mass low to the ground beneath wide spreading gables. Yet the interior vertical lines and uncarved open beams again suggested the rural, open-timbered barn (Freudenheim and Sussman 1974: 87).
In 1908 a commission came to the Morgan office from a newly organized Presbyterian group in Berkeley. One of its leaders was Professor Cliffton Price, a classicist for whom Morgan built a Crafts-style spartment building and for who she would design another larger and more urbane apartment building four years later. The Presbyterian group had a large double lot on College Avenue, not far sourth of the campus. They first wanted a simple and economical building for a Sunday school, with a main church to follow in the next year or so, to be called Saint John's Presbyterian Church. Ira Wilson Hoover's name appears on the 1908 building permit for the Sunday school, but by the time the church was under way in 1910 he had left Morgan's office, and Walter Steilberg joined her on the project.
The Sunday school is a small, single-wall frame structure with a side entrance recessed on the north side of a bay; the modified Tudor arch lines of the large five-part window parallel the rooflines of both the bay and the basic structure. A parlor with fireplace was originally at the rear, and the bay area was labeled "Infant Class." When it came time to design the church, the congregation was without adequate funds. Morgan, mindful of Maybeck's conviction that drawbacks could be transformed into opportunities, focused her skills on designing a minimal structure as sanctuary. Her early training at the Ecole had led her to examine and to love Romanesque architecture, which was also minimal. Saint John's may appear to derive from the California barn tradition, but in fact it relates more closely to the Romanesque and to the Tudor English style, to which the British Arts and Crafts movement looked back so fondly.
Saint John's is an extraordinary small building of large significance. It was designed to be a modest addition to a residential block, low to the ground and with its gable linked by a glazed corridor to the Sunday school. Like the music of Bach, the building reveals a play of repetition and variation. The angles of the roof and bargeboards, the timbers beneath the clerestory windows, and the gable over the main entrance parallel the modified Tudor form of the main church doorway and of the Sunday school roofs and window. The horizontality of the upper cross members of the window frames is carried across the face of church and Sunday school. Verticals also play a role in this harmony: narrow sections of wall punctuate the clerestory windows, which have a modified Gothic form that reinforces the subdued verticality. This verticality is continued by the bands of long, narrow windows below. The rich complexity evolving from such simple forms is powerful testimony to the architect's geometric imagination.
The interior of Saint John's was originally lighted from all four sides by a diffused glow through clerestory windows of smoked glass common to industrial buildings; one end has since been blocked in. The sloping floor and simple wood pews give visual access from everywhere in the building, but the visitor's eyes are inevitably drawn to the overhead beams and supports. All hardware is exposed. The warm, rich color of the wood reflects the changing light and takes away any sense of cool austerity that such economy of material and design might have created. Although the natural lighting is perfectly suited to the space, artificial light was also provided by the Morgan office in the form of wood and iron "electroliers," with bare bulbs pointed down. The acoustics are remarkable, which has helped to make the church an admirable performing-arts center since the expanded congregation built a large modern church down the street in 1970.
A variety of spatial treatments leads a visitor from the main interior of the curch through a narrow redwood-paneled and glazed passage to the open-timbered hall of the former Sunday school building and the lower-ceilinged offices at either end of it. The hall is lit by wood fixtures holding bare bulbs set into cross-shaped electroliers. Early light bulbs gave a softer light than their glaring contemporary counterparts, but it is not difficult even now to imagine the effectiveness of the original light.
Saint John's interior can be compared with Morgan's earlier First Baptist of Oakland, as both derive from the Crafts style. Both use native redwood, both are geometric, both are original in composition and in execution. But the effect of the two is quite different. The Oakland church is impressive and moving in the sweeping curves of its pews and supports, while Saint John's has a kind of harmony that looks simpler but is in fact more sophisticated. The ingenious play between the inside and outside and the relation of details to the whole at Saint John's have rarely been equaled in American urban architecture (Boutelle 1988: 69-70,72).
1908, c.1910, Financial District, Adam Grant Building,
114 Sansome St., San Francisco.
Howard and Galloway.
To the left of 130 Bush [Heineman Building] is the Adam Grant Building (19) by Howard and Galloway, which started out as a six-story building with a dry goods wholesaler and manufacturer as its main tenant. In 1926 the owners added eight more stories, and the building was converted to office use (Wiley 2000: 162).
A very handsome steel frame office building with a skeletal, almost "Chicago school" facade, and an important link in the extremely fine group of major buildings along the north side of Bush Street. The building was built in two stages, the lowest six floors at least two years earlier than the rest, but evidently designed as one. The building went through several preliminary design stages as the Murphy Grant Building, none of them as restrained, unorthodox, or successful as the version that was built.
In composition, it is a three part vertical block with differentiated end bays. Its upper zone consists of a giant order over a transitional story with re-entrant corners. Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation is very restrained in deference to the struuctural expression of the facade and its handsome brick cladding. The original ornamented entrance has been remodeled but the rest of the ground floor treatment is intact A (Corbett and Hall 1979: 215).
Abbreviationsadd = Additions; nm = No Mention; rem = Remodelled; rest = Restoration