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Heritage 50: Moving Days

Jan14th

San Francisco Heritage is celebrating its 50th anniversary all through 2021. Each week we will share a short chapter of our history. Read the first post, “The Bench,” to learn about Heritage’s founding.

by Christopher VerPlanck
Victorians saved on cold November mornings in 1974—with one tight fit.

Heritage’s first project was assisting the Landmarks Board in its long-running fight to save some of the remaining Victorians in the Redevelopment Agency’s A-2 Project Area in the Western Addition. In late 1971, Heritage and the Landmarks Board identified the best buildings left in the A-2, and began negotiating with the Agency to save them. The Agency agreed and set aside 19 Victorians, offering them up for sale for nominal sums. Unfortunately, 13 of these had to be relocated, reducing the potential pool of buyers. Only two sold. Another was inadvertently demolished. With time running out, the remaining 12 seemed doomed.

Victorian buildings on the move west on Ellis Street just past Webster Street in November 1974. The three-unit building closest to camera originally stood at 214-218 Elm Street and relocated to become present-day 1331-1335 Scott Street.

Trying to buy time, Charles Page and Heritage board member Mrs. Ernest Ophuls entered minimum bids on the remaining houses. Heritage then began searching for buyers and arranging for potential relocation sites within the Western Addition. Heritage’s efforts received a boost after the Agency obtained a grant of $150,000 to pay for the moving expenses. Heritage board member Larry Bacon then set up an attractive rehabilitation package from the Bank of America. With the financing and moving logistics lined up, a prospective owner only had to pull together about $20,000.

By the autumn of 1974, Heritage had found buyers for all 12 houses. The long-awaited move took place over three weekends in November 1974. Under stormy skies that continually threatened rain, crews began moving the houses. Most had been on the block where Opera Plaza is located. Eight, including 736-38 Franklin Street, ended up in a single cluster along Beideman Place—a narrow alley bisecting the block bounded by Scott, Divisadero, Eddy, and O’Farrell streets.

Relocated Victorians on teh west side of Scott Street between Eddy and Ellis Streets. (Judith Lynch photograph; OpenSFHistory/wnp25.11436)

Moving the houses was not easy. Telephone and electrical wires and Muni overheads had to be moved, light standards turned aside, and traffic redirected. One of the most challenging was an elaborate Victorian that until 1974 stood at 773 Turk Street. Designed by the Newsom Brothers, the two-story Eastlake house was moved to 1735 Webster Street, only to find out that the house would not quite fit into its lot. The moving crew ingeniously used 2x4s to shoehorn it into place. For many years this house was featured on Heritage’s letterhead.

The former 773 Turk Street did not fit into its appointed site on Webster Street even though several inches had been cut from its side bay prior to the move. After shaving off several more inches, workers literally shoehorned the house into place using a 2×4 to squeeze it past the adjoining house.


Sources: Sources: Randolph Delehanty, “Victorians in Transition,” (San Francisco: unpublished wall text prepared for a photography exhibit by Craig Buchanan and E. Andrew McKinney documenting the move, n.d.); Heritage Newsletter Volume 1, Number 1 (March 1973), 1.; Heritage Newsletter, Volume I, Number 2 (Summer 1973), 2; Don Andreini, “It was the Start of Something Big,” Heritage Newsletter, Volume XXIV, Number 1 (January/February 1996), 6.

Landmark Tuesdays: Gran Oriente Filipino Hotel

Jan12th

The Gran Oriente Filipino Hotel in 1996, by Aileen Lainez

A Filipina/o landmark in South Park: Constructed in 1907, The Gran Oriente Filipino Hotel is a three-story-over-basement rooming house in South Park, a residential enclave in the central portion of San Francisco’s South of Market district (the park retains its original, 550-foot-long, oblong shape from when it was built In 1854 by tycoon George Gordon as an exclusive residential enclave). The building was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 2019.

A view of South Park in December 2020. The Gran Oriente Filipino Hotel can be seen under construction in the background (Heritage photo).

Construction underway on the Gran Oriente Hotel, December 2020 (Heritage photo).

Gran Oriente Filipino, a Masonic organization founded by Filipino Merchant Marines in the early 1920s, began renting the property in 1935. Passage of the Luce-Cellar Act in 1946 allowed Filipina/os who had arrived in the US prior to 1934 to naturalize and consequently to purchase property in California. The lodge occupied the building for over eight decades, providing a space to live, socialize, and celebrate Filipina/o culture in the wake of significant national and international political and demographic changes and local neighborhood gentrification.

South Park Street, c.1920, when the park was a Japanese enclave. Omiya Hotel (Gran Oriente Filipino Hotel) on far right (From the archives of the Japanese Community Center of Northern California).

The stucco-clad building with metal gate entrance appears largely as it did when the lodge leased the property in 1935, and conveys its function as an early 20th century, mid-tier rooming house through its modest design and the arrangement of the primary and service entrances and fenestration.

Gran Oriente Filipino members and their families taken just outside the building, c.1965 (From the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library).

With the demise of Manilatown in the late 1970s and the closure of the dozens of Filipina/o residential hotels in San Francisco, the Gran Oriente Filipino Hotel continues to serve as a significant source of inspiration and cultural legacy for the Filipina/o community in South Park and beyond, and stands as a testament to the strong bonds of community the organization forged in the face of racism and discrimination. Since the mid-1930s, it has provided a critical source of affordable housing, during a time when Filipinos were excluded from white organizations and neighborhoods in San Francisco. Working with Filipina/o community leaders, nonprofit housing developer Mission Housing purchased the building in 2018. It will be co-owned with a Filipina/o organization and remain a source of 100% affordable rental housing.

SOMA Pilipinas banners in South Park.

Read the full landmark designation report for the Gran Oriente Filipino Hotel here.

Heritage 50: The Bench

Jan7th

San Francisco Heritage is celebrating its 50th anniversary all through 2021. Each week we will share a short chapter of our history.

From a brown-bag-lunch conversation came the idea to start a movement.

St. Mary’s Square, where the idea for founding San Francisco Heritage was born.

In 1970, Charles Hall Page was working as a young planner at the architectural firm of HKS near St. Mary’s Square in San Francisco’s Chinatown. He had left the city to earn his Master’s Degree in City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, and had just returned to see his hometown in the midst of transformation. Familiar old buildings were being demolished for new boxes without any regard for neighborhood context or urban design standards. Worse, the Western Addition resembled a war zone with ongoing demolition by the Redevelopment Agency of hundreds of nineteenth-century Victorian houses and flats.

Page often spent his lunch hour with his childhood friend, attorney Harry Miller. The two would meet on a bench in St. Mary’s Square with their brown-bag lunches. On one foggy day in 1970, Miller brought up the continuing destruction of Victorians he saw near the Civic Center. “Charlie, this is not right. I feel we need to speak up about this.”

A couple of years earlier, Page had attended the conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Savannah, Georgia. The impressive work to preserve historic properties he saw being done in Savannah, as well as in Charleston in South Carolina and in Annapolis, Maryland, had stuck with him. Now it sparked an idea.

Charles Hall Page in 1976. (Heritage Archives)

Page proposed a nonprofit preservation organization for his hometown San Francisco, akin to the Historic Savannah Foundation. Miller said he was onboard. The Articles of Incorporation for what was originally called The Foundation for San Francisco’s Architectural Heritage were signed on June 11, 1971.

At first, Charles Hall Page ran the organization from his desk at HKS. Along with Page and Miller, a cohort of friends and colleagues—Lawrence Bacon, Bruce Anderson, John Skov—were recruited to serve as the first Board of Directors, and within months the board expanded with Austin Hills, Edward Conner, Herbert McLaughlin, and Stewart Morton. Linda Jo Fitz, Heritage’s first paid employee, remembered that first board as being made up of former high school classmates of Page and Miller, and that the charismatic Page “went to the parents of all those people and raised money.” In 2018, Page admitted to an interviewer that it could be said “youth and naïveté played a big role in the preservation of San Francisco.”

In presenting on Heritage’s history for its 40th anniversary, architectural historian Christopher VerPlanck noted: “The early Heritage board consisted of some of the city’s best and brightest young men, representing a cross-section of disciplines, including urban planning, law, finance, and real estate. Most were natives and many from well-to-do families with good social standing. These connections would be crucial in getting the organization funded and off the ground, because […] what they proposed was actually quite radical. These men staked their reputations on the success of the organization, and they had the contacts to make it happen.”

Heritage’s first project was to dive into the Redevelopment Agency’s A-2 Project Area in the Western Addition and save some of the remaining Victorians.


Sources: Charles Hall Page, email correspondence with Christopher VerPlanck (August 22, 2011); Harry Miller interview, December 20, 2018; Page & Turnbull Oral History, 1973–2013; “Charlie Page and SF Heritage: An Interview,” AIA California website, circa 1999?

Dr. Rock approved by the HPC to join the Legacy Business Registry

Jan6th

dr rock poses for a photo in his dental office

Dr. Gonzalez, aka “Dr. Rock,” in his dental office at 2720 24th Street. Photo by Calle 24.

Congratulations to 24th Street Dental (also (also Dr. Bernardo D. Gonzalez III Dentistry), which today was recommended to join the #SFLegacyBiz Registry by the Historic Preservation Commission!

Located at 2720 24th Street in the heart of the Mission District, 24th Street Dental is more than an important bilingual dental practice; it’s a significant place for San Francisco’s Latin Rock history. Its proprietor, Dr. Gonzalez, aka “Dr. Rock,” is a fixture of the city’s local music scene. He served as manager of the pioneering Latin Rock group Malo, and organized the annual benefit “Voices of Latin Rock” for ten years. He opened his successful dental practice in 1985 in the same location where his father sold shoes a quarter century earlier.

Dr. Rock displays memorabilia from his career in Latin Rock on the walls of his dental office, including a guitar presented to him by Carlos Santana.

For the last three decades, Dr. Rock’s work has extended beyond his dental office, serving as the organizer of local cultural festivals such as Cinco De Mayo, Día De Los Muertos, and Carnaval, and in leadership positions with the 24th Street Merchants Association and Mission Economic Cultural Association (MECA).

Working with Gabriella Lozano of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, Kerri Young of SF Heritage helped complete and submit the legacy business application for Dr. Rock’s dental practice, documenting his community service in the Mission and his wider contributions to Latin Rock history in the city.

Read our full profile on Dr. Rock in the April-June 2020 issue of Heritage News (p.3).