San Francisco Celebrates Two Years After Grants
By Margaret Foster | Online Only | Dec. 8, 2008
Eight historic San Francisco buildings have been restored in the past two years, and it's all thanks to a two-year-old program called Partners in Preservation.
In July 2006, American Express pledged $1 million in grants to 13 San Francisco historic sites, and launched a five-year, $5 million program with the National Trust for Historic Preservation designed to benefit historic sites and get the public involved in their local history.
That September, San Francisco residents cast votes at special kiosks, and online. Of the 13 contendors awarded grants, eight initiated restoration projects that are now complete. Five more projects are still under construction. American Express has invited the public to comment on the finished products at partnersinpreservation.org\sanfrancisco.
"After two years of hard work, and through the generosity of our partner American Express, we can celebrate the steps taken by the sites and community to help secure the fugure of these significant places," says David J. Brown, executive vice president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The changes in the 13 sites range from dramatic to subtle, says Anthony Veerkamp, program officer at the National Trust's Western Office. "You’ll find some places with an instant 'wow' factor—places like Maybeck’s First Church, the Haas Lilienthal House, or the Pigeon Point Lighthouse can't fail to impress. Other sites—places like Tomales Town Hall, the Japantown YWCA, and the LGBT Center’s Fallon Building are places that gain significance through the unique stories they tell, and the important roles the play in their communities," he says. "Starting this week, visitors, users, and passers-by no longer need to be told to look beyond the [Fallon] building's peeling paint-or gap-toothed ornamentation in search of the building's inner beauty."
These American Express Partners in Preservation grant award projects were completed this year:
- Fallon Building (LGBT Center), San Francisco: Built in the 1880's, the Queen Anne Victorian forms part of the LGBT Center and is the first building heading out Market Street from downtown to survive the Great Fire of 1906. More than 8,000 people come to the center each month for one of the 400 workshops, meetings or seminars held there. This location was granted $50,000 for exterior repair and repainting.
- First Church of Christ, Scientist, Berkeley: The church, a masterwork designed by famed architect Bernard Maybeck, received a remarkable outpouring of public support during the Partners in Preservation Bay Area initiative. The Friends of First Church received the Popular Vote award and received an $118,000 grant to complete a seismic upgrade of the Sunday School. The church holds free architectural tours on the first Sunday of every month and special group tours by arrangement. More than 3,000 people have visited the beautiful 250-seat Sunday School.
- Haas-Lilienthal House, San Francisco: Constructed in 1886 for William Haas, the house represents one of the finest remaining single family Victorian era residences in the Van Ness/Franklin Street corridor and is only one of several houses that remained after the 1906 earthquake and fire. The Haas-Lilienthal House is the only historic house museum open to the public on a regularly scheduled basis. This location was granted $75,000 for seismic strengthening and roof repair.
- Japanese YWCA Building, San Francisco: Built in 1932 by famed architect Julia Morgan, she considered the building an homage to Japanese architecture. The building contains an authentic Noh theater stage and decorative wood panels (ranma) by noted Japanese American artist Chiura Obata. San Francisco's Japantown is one of the last three remaining in California. The Japanese YWCA building is the only prewar community building built by and for the women of the Japanese American community. It was granted $62,000 for exterior repair and repainting.
- Pigeon Point Lighthouse Station, Pescadero: Considered one of the most beautiful lighthouse structures on the Pacific Coast, the lighthouse was built in 1872 as a beacon for mariners coming to San Francisco. Designed by French architect Phineas F. Marston, it is an excellent example of classic mid-19th century American lighthouse architecture and is perhaps one of the oldest lighthouses remaining on the West Coast. The lighthouse contains one of the most well-preserved first-order Fresnel lenses and serves as a stunning landmark for the millions of people traveling along Highway 1 each year. The lighthouse was granted $54,000 for window restoration.
- Spreckels Temple of Music (Golden Gate Park Band Shell), San Francisco: The band shell was constructed in 1900 as part of the redevelopment of Golden Gate Park that occurred following the 1894 Mid-Winter Fair. Designed by the Ecole-des-Beaux-Arts trained Reid Brothers, the Spreckels Temple of Music has hosted musicians from John Phillips Sousa to Luciano Pavarotti to the Grateful Dead. Free public concerts will resume at the band shell, as well as special events. It was granted $75,000 for exterior restoration, conservation and waterproofing.
- Tilden Park Carousel, Berkeley: Built in 1911, it is one of only two Herschell-Spillman Menagerie edition carousels of its kind still in operation. The carousel is comprised of dozens of stallions, hippocampus/"sea serpent", storks, zebras, goats, reindeer, frogs, cats, dogs, boars, roosters, lions, tigers, and two giraffes all hand-carved from poplar by immigrant wood carvers. The carousel still plays music from the large Bruder band organ built by B.A.B. Organ Co. of Brooklyn, NY around the turn of the 20th Century. Approximately 150,000 visitors enjoy the carousel each year. It received a grant of $97,000 for floor and Bruder band organ restoration.
- Tomales Town Hall, Tomales: The Tomales Town Hall building, known it its early years as the Public Hall was built in 1874 and served as a dance hall, community center and site of many school programs. One of the oldest continuously used public halls in California, the Town Hall, has played a significant role in Tomales's past and continues to be a center of community life today. Tomales Town Hall was granted $50,000 for foundation and exterior repairs.
The Following American Express Partners in Preservation grant award projects will be completed in early 2009:
- Angel Island Immigration Station, Angel Island: Built in 1906, the Immigration Station, a 15-acre site, was the principal West Coast port of entry for a million immigrants to the U.S. Between 1910-1940, it served as the "Guardian of the Western Gate," enforcing the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese laborers from entering the United States and denied them naturalization. The Detention Barracks is the most significant surviving building, housing approximately 175,000 Chinese immigrants and immigrants from other nations who were awaiting processing. This location was granted $84,000 for WWII mess hall roof structure repair.
- Casa Grande, New Almaden: Casa Grande was built in 1855 in the Federal Revival style as the residence for the manager of the New Almaden Quicksilver Mine. The mines were highly important during the California Gold Rush, since quicksilver (mercury) was used to extract gold from ore. Casa Grande is currently used as an interpretive Mining Museum, staff offices and archives storage. It received a grant of $75,000 for interior and exterior restoration.
- Cleveland Cascade Park, Oakland: The Cascade was landscaped in 1923, on the northeast shore of Lake Merritt as an Italianate influenced cascading water feature with colored lights. The fountain fell into disrepair circa WWII and was buried until 2004 when the community excavated and revealed the fountain. The Cleveland Cascade is an open space area and available to the public at anytime. The fountain was granted $50,000 for cascade reconstruction and restoration.
- Fox Oakland Theater, Oakland: Built in 1928, the Fox Oakland Theater is one of the most impressive works of Art Deco architecture in the country. Designed by San Francisco architectural firm of Weeks & Day, the Fox was used as a live performance theater and first run movie house whose stage was graced by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. The Theatre will be a live performance venue by night and by day will provide a permanent home for Oakland's distinctive, tuition-free charter school dedicated to artistic and academic excellence, Oakland School for the Arts. The theater received a grant of $75,000 for restoration of the Art Deco ticket booth.
- Richmond Municipal Natatorium (The Plunge), Richmond: Constructed in 1926, the Richmond Natatorium was built as a "state of the art" two-story building with an indoor warm water swimming pool, a fountain, observation balconies, and an open truss ceiling reminiscent of the Sutro Baths in San Francisco. The Plunge played a central role in Richmond life until the facility was finally forced to close in 1997 due to seismic safety concerns and mounting deferred maintenance costs. This symbol of community and civic engagement for the Richmond area was granted $75,000 for seismic retrofitting, renovation and restoration.
For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.