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Southern Pacific Hospital: City Landmark #192


by Woody LaBounty

Mercy Terrace, the former Southern Pacific Hospital at 1400 Fell Street, is City Landmark #192.

On July 15, 1909, the Southern Pacific Railroad Hospital formally opened on the northwest corner of Fell and Baker Streets and was hailed as “the finest of its size in the world.”1 The medical center complex, with powerhouse building, annex, and social hall behind the three-winged main building, is remarkably intact today. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is also designated as San Francisco City Landmark #192.

Working on railroads was a particularly hazardous occupation and when injuries occurred they often were severe and suffered in remote locations. Companies initially contracted with local physicians along lines or had their own “railroad surgeons” on staff at stations to handle the medical needs of employees, passengers, and in practice any injury or illness deemed railway-related. (Read more about railroad surgeons.)

Accident insurance was only invented in the 1850s, and workers’ compensation, medical expense insurance policies, Medicaid, and Medicare wouldn’t come until the twentieth century. As a business decision, railroads established de facto medical plans funded by employee payroll contributions and company subsidies.

View to Southern Pacific Hospital under construction from Golden Gate Park panhandle, 1908. (OpenSFHistory / wnp27.0018.jpg)

In 1869, the Central Pacific Railroad built the first railroad hospital in Sacramento to treat long-term illnesses and serious injuries. Other railroad companies followed. A corporation operating its own hospital sounds expensive, but the daily cost per hospital patient compared to contracting out to physicians was less than half. Hospital funding also came from employee dues, charitable contributions, and monthly subsidies from the company itself. Railroads with hospital systems were subject to fewer injury–related lawsuits, and the facilities were seen as a way to increase public goodwill for an industry frequently vilified.

The Southern Pacific Railroad, a monopolistic corporation that dominated industry and politics into the early twentieth century, took over the Central Pacific Railroad and moved its hospital from Sacramento to 14th and Mission Streets in San Francisco. Southern Pacific would go on to establish a number of other railroad hospitals across the West.

Southern Pacific Hospital after eastern annex added, 1940. (Marilyn Blaisdell Collection; OpenSFHistory / wnp37.02742.jpg)

When the Mission Street hospital was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, a large parcel at Fell and Baker Streets across from the Golden Gate Park panhandle was acquired for its replacement. The real estate purchase of 2.5 acres in a respected residential section was considered one of the largest real estate deals in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

The new Southern Pacific Hospital had 450 beds and opened as the largest private non-governmental medical institution in the city. Architect Daniel J. Patterson designed an imposing Neo-Classical main building with three wings and steep center entry stairs. The powerhouse, nurse’s quarters, and social hall (constructed later) line up behind the main building along Hayes Street. An eastern extension of the hospital on the Baker Street side was added in 1930.

Page & Turnbull, which prepared the campus’ National Register nomination, described the design elements and their related significance: “Southern Pacific Company Hospital is important as a unified architectural grouping. Each of the buildings relates to the others on the site, possessing the same classically-derived rusticated base and crisply modeled monumental portico, quoins, cornice, and window surrounds. The symmetrical massing and proportions of the main hospital structure lend a dignity to the streetscape.”2

Such dignity is welcome on Fell Street, a major artery from downtown to the Richmond and Sunset Districts. Hundreds, if not thousands, of automobiles fly past daily.

Facade detail of the former Southern Pacific Hospital, 1970s. (Judith Lynch photograph, OpenSFHistory/wnp.25.10124)

Healthcare in the United States saw major changes in the twentieth century and paternalistic company-run hospital systems began being phased out. The Southern Pacific Hospital Department transitioned into a group health plan in 1963. The Fell Street medical center became the Harkness Community Hospital, although also still treated Southern Pacific employees.

After the hospital closed under financial duress in 1974, the campus sat empty for almost a decade before Mercy Housing readapted it for senior housing in 1982-83. The $12.5 project created 158 units. A lottery on September 6, 1983, determined the first residents to move in at an average rent of $150 a month.

In 1989, the Southern Pacific Hospital campus, a rare intact medical complex from the early twentieth century, was both added to the National Register of Historic Places (89000319) and designated a City Landmark.

More information

The History of Southern Pacific Hospital. A nice 2014 article by Nuala Sawyer (Hoodline)

Memories of the Southern Pacific Hospital (TrainOrders.com)

Architect Daniel J. Patterson (Wikipedia)


1. “Magnificent New Hospital is Now Ready for the Reception and Care of Patients,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 16, 1909, pg. 16.

2. Elizabeth Krase, Page & Turnbull Inc., “Southern Pacific Company Hospital Historic District,” National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, October 31, 1988.

Haas-Lilienthal Virtual House Tour: Part III


We invite you to continue exploring the Haas-Lilienthal House through our new virtual tour segments. Each segment is based on an audio tour created by Allison Dufty, digital storyteller, and made possible by a grant from the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation. It draws from archival and recent interviews with Haas-Lilienthal House family members, San Francisco Heritage staff, and other experts.

Watch Part III below. This segment focuses on the first parlor, the most formal room of the house, as well as the Haas family celebrations that took place there (Easter instead of Passover, Christmas instead of Hanukkah…). If you missed Part Iview it here, and Part II is here. Stay tuned as we bring you more areas of the house in the weeks to come (closed captioning is available)!

Heritage Hikes Virtual Resource: Open Your Eyes!


A example of a worksheet handed out to students on a Heritage Hikes tour a the Haas-Lilienthal House, from sf_excelsior_415 on Instagram.

The Heritage Hikes program is a fun and interactive educational initiative, run by San Francisco Heritage since 1988. The aim of the program is for third-graders to discover local history through Victorian architecture and home life, and ties into the third grade curriculum of local history study. For teachers, Heritage provides an ‘Architrunk’ (now available in a digital format) that includes a teacher guide, architectural illustrations, a DVD and other teaching materials in order to prepare students for their visit. Typically, these in-class activities then compliment a student-focused Haas-Lilienthal House tour and architectural treasure hunt.

Heritage Hikes is currently suspended due to the closures necessitated by COVID-19. Program lead and House Docent Coordinator Pam Larson has created a virtual resource for teachers to utilize during this time (access below). This slideshow of photographs helps students become familiar with the extensive details that characterize Victorian homes, from shingles and gables to finials and sunbursts. The slideshow concludes with a virtual walkthrough of the Haas-Lilienthal House, which highlights specific room details for students.

While this resource was created with teachers and students in mind, it is free for anyone to use. Use this resource to illuminate your shelter-in-place walks, and try to spot the architectural details on houses in your neighborhood!

Teachers may want to access this pdf, which includes supplementary information on Victorian Architecture.

Click the image below to access the slideshow resource:

Heritage Hikes is free to San Francisco’s public schools, $5 per student for private schools. To inquire about the program, email Pam Larson at plarson@sfheritage.org and visit https://www.haas-lilienthalhouse.org/heritage-hikes.

Photos included in Open Your Eyes include photographs taken by Judith Lynch, educator and writer of San Francisco Victorian architecture. Many of her photos can be found on OpenHistorySF.

Four Legacy Businesses Recently Approved by the HPC


The Legacy Business Registry intends to honor and preserve “longstanding community-serving businesses that are recognized as valuable cultural assets to San Francisco by the Office of Small Business.” Heritage is proud to have helped provide the inspiration for this city-led program with its 2013 initiative Legacy Bars and Restaurants. Recent 2020 inductees to the Registry, which now has over 240 businesses, include Adobe Books and Arts Cooperative, Inc., Courtney’s Produce, and Dianda’s Italian American Pastry Company.

On April 15th, the following four businesses were unanimously approved by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) to join San Francisco’s Legacy Business Registry. They will likely be approved by the Small Business Commission at a final hearing in the weeks ahead:

  • 715 Harrison Street, City Nights
  • 1414 Ocean Avenue, Korean Martial Arts Center
  • 25 Van Ness Avenue, The New Conservatory Theatre
  • 285 South Van Ness Avenue, Royal Motor Sales

We are sharing some of the highlights from the Planning Department’s Legacy Business Case Report (from last year), with much of the information sourced from their original applications.

City Nights


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Venue: 715 Harrison St aka City Nights #mcevents #mirrorcorpevents

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City Nights is the Bay Area’s only 18 and over nightclub, founded on September 11, 1985 by Brit Hahn, a 25-year old San Francisco native. Ray Bobbitt joined Brit at City Nights in 1989 and is currently the Operating Partner of the business. City Nights is one of the longest running, large capacity nightclubs in the country. It is known for its diversity, and it serves all ages of people from 18 to 100 years old.

Hahn and Bobbitt have cultivated City Nights into a long-running and successful nightclub that has entertained well over 6 million people from all over the world. City Nights is responsible for creating and facilitating multiple reoccurring nightclub “formats” or event nights that have served many sectors of the community. The venue has featured some of the world’s largest entertainers including Grace Jones, Lady GaGa, Prince, Justin Bieber and MC Hammer to name a few. The DJ booth started the careers of multiple internationally known and culturally iconic DJs such as Doc Martin, Theo Mitzuhara, Sway, Cameron Paul, Michael Erickson, Billy Vidal, David Garcia, The Latin Prince Sergio Rodriguez, and many more. Many of City Nights’ resident DJs have previously served, and currently serve, as program directors of the Bay Area’s largest radio stations, including KMEL 106.1, KYLD 94.9, and KMVQ 99.7. The close relationship with local radio stations makes City Nights one of the leading vehicles in reaching the Bay Area’s younger generation. City Nights has worked very hard with new residential neighbors to help them understand the value of entertainment in the neighborhood, while staying in alignment with each other’s needs.

The business is located on the south side of Harrison Street between 3rd and 4th streets in the South of Market neighborhood. It is closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 mandates:


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Korean Martial Arts Center

Korean Martial Arts Center is a martial arts studio founded by Merrill W. Jung and located in the Ingleside neighborhood since 1983. It is considered one of the neighborhood’s community-serving institutions where people – from local children to highly skilled martial artists – learn and perfect their skills. KMAC offers training in the following martial arts: taekwondo, Hapkido, judo, Yongmudo, karate, kung fu, Filipino stick fighting, tai chi and Wing Chun. Many students of KMAC have gone on to be successful martial artists. Students have gone to the junior Olympics. Some have gone to Korea with KMAC’s owners for annual competitions and regularly sponsor students to compete. It is one of the oldest family-run businesses in Ingleside.

Jung was born in Isleton, California, and moved to San Francisco as a child. He attended Garfield Elementary School, Francisco Junior High School, Washington High School, City College of San Francisco, and San Francisco State University. He worked for the San Mateo Probation Department and retired in 2005. His parents taught martial arts, specifically kung fu. Jung attended a Mormon Church and began to formally study judo there. In 1966, Jung began 18-year stint teaching at the Embarcadero YMCA where he taught judo, kung fu and other martial arts.


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Good Morning World. Here’s Master Mar talking to the students about life and how you should have a different perspective in life and not just be in your own world. There should be no I in team. Everybody has a roll that builds up to yours and the teams accomplishment. Stay committed, be patient and always be humble no matter what the situation is. Always give thanks to those around you that cares about you. 🥋🙏 . . . . #flexible #strong #humble #koreanmartialartscenter #kmac #sanfrancisco #1414oceanavenue #taekwondo #tkd #7thdegreeblackbelt #kukkiwon #honor #values #academics #family #lifeskills #commitment #success #inspiration #discipline #spirit #love #brothers #sisters #since1983 #grandmaster #taekwondokids #taekwondobonding #martial__worldwide

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Andrew SE Erickson, who studied under Jung at the YMCA in the late 1960s, was instrumental in setting up the initial space. In 2018, he was admitted to the U.S. Taekwondo Grandmaster Society. In 2010, he became an International Sin Moo Hapkido 10th Dan, he received a World Sin Moo Hapkido Certificate of Appointment and he received an appointment from the Kukkiwon World Headquarters. In 2008, he became a certified 8th Dan Black Belt in Moo Duk Kwan Taekwondo. In 2007, he was admitted to the World Taekwondo Federation in Korea. 10th dan black belt Grandmaster is the highest level of black belt achievable.

In 2012, Jung’s nephew Thomas Mar and his wife Teresa Hoang-Mar began managing KMAC. Mar is a San Francisco native who focused on Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. He does most of the instruction at KMAC. He is a trained instructor in taekwondo with sixth degree black belt, certification from Kukiwon, a seventh degree in Simoo Apkido, a fourth degree black belt in Yongmudo Legacy Business Registry Multiple Cases March 18, 2019 Hearing Multiple Locations 6 and a brown belt in judo. Hoang-Mar is trained in ballroom dancing. She is KMAC’s administrator, handling billing, licensing, website, etc.

The business is located on the north side of Ocean Avenue between Granada and Miramar avenues in the Ingleside neighborhood. As of April 4th, 2020, KMAC posted a note on their website noting that they will remain closed until at least May 3rd due to the COVID-19 closures. They are considering virtual classes and are looking for feedback from the community to see if this is something people would like!

The New Conservatory Theatre

The New Conservatory Theatre is located in what was once a Masonic Temple, near Van Ness and Market St. [Masonic Temple at Oak and Van Ness] Aug. 11, 1964. San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

New Conservatory Theatre Center is the premiere queer and allied theater in San Francisco, at the forefront of LGBTQ+ activist theater and progressive arts education since 1981. NCTC is a creative hub for the queer community, an incubator for new work and emerging artists and a center for innovative arts education and outreach for youth. NCTC was originally located at The First Unitarian Church at 1187 Franklin Street. Ed Decker was the organization’s Founding Artistic Director. The rapid growth of the organization created the need for a larger space, prompting a search for a more permanent location.

In 1985, NCTC moved into its current theatrical home at the Lower Lobby of 25 Van Ness Avenue, consisting of three theaters. The theater spaces had originally served as commercial production studios, however the structure and equipment met NCTC’s needs for theatrical production. When the City of San Francisco first acquired the building in the early 1990s, one of their high priorities was to eliminate the theaters. It was after much advocacy and the strong support of Supervisor Roberta Achtenberg that the theaters remained.

The Conservatory was set to present the World Premier of “The Book of Mountains and Seas”, written by Yilong Liu and directed by Becca Wolff.  Due to COVID-19, it only got one performance on stage on March 6th before closing. Read more about this play about friendship, grief, and cultural and generational divides. 

During NCTC’s tenure there, they have renovated and improved all three theater spaces, installing brand new comfortable seating, electrical systems, sound systems and control booths. In 2016, they undertook an extensive remodel of the lobby, expanding the space and upgrading the bar and patron seating areas. The facilities at 25 Van Ness Avenue serve as both a home and a landmark for the LGBTQ+ community, students and theater patrons.

The business is located on the west side of Van Ness Avenue between Hickory and Oak streets in the Western Addition neighborhood. As of March 31, 2020, NCTC decided, with much regret, to cancel the remainder of its current season. NCTC’s Conservatory has transitioned all Saturday classes to online learning via Zoom, with Offsite and After School classes are on hold until further notice. There are multiple ways to give and help support NCTC during the COVID closures, which you can find here.

Royal Motor Sales

Exterior of Royal Motor Sales at 280 South Van Ness. (Google Street View.)

Royal Motor Sales was founded by Walter Anderson in 1947 and was incorporated in June 1956. Headquartered at 280 South Van Ness Avenue, the business sells and services Audi, Mazda, Volkswagen and Volvo vehicles. Walter Anderson grew up an orphan and came to San Francisco as a teenager looking for work on the Golden Gate Bridge. He did not end up working on the bridge but instead found work at a local body shop and started his career in the automotive business.

Royal Motor Sales originally started as a used car business and repair shop at 280 South Van Ness Avenue. In 1956, Walter acquired a Volvo franchise at the 280 South Van Ness Avenue location. The Volvo service and parts operations, some years later, moved to 1525 Howard Street. Walter Anderson operated the business until 1979 when his son-in-law, Michael Hansen, took over day to day operations. Michael continues to be active in the business and is currently the President.

Royal Motor Sales has been operating in San Francisco in the Mission District for well over half a century. Today, the Audi showroom is located at 300 South Van Ness Avenue, the Volvo showroom is at 285 South Van Ness Avenue and the Volkswagen and Mazda showrooms are at 280 South Van Ness Avenue. The body shop continues to be operated at 156 14th Street, and service and parts are at 1525 Howard Street. Royal Motors does not have any businesses outside San Francisco.

The business is located on the east side of South Van Ness Avenue between Erie and 14th streets in the Mission neighborhood. Here is an excerpt of a recent message from CEO Andy Hansen regarding COVID-19:

The recent shelter in place determined auto repair as an essential service and as such we will be here to service your vehicle so those who need transportation can continue. Sales Operations will be temporarily closed during the shelter in place order until further notice. We will remain open virtually and will be available to answer your inquiries and questions. We are here to serve all of your automotive needs during this time.