Friday, January 4, 2008

San Francisco Hotel Project3

Edgeworth


EDGEWORTH HOTEL - 770 O'FARRELL ST.
1914. Architect: W.J. Cuthbertson. 3 stories, brick facade, aluminum sash.

Whenever I see this building my mind is flooded with memories of my distant past. I grew up in a mid-western city, in a white-collar neighborhood on the east side of town. The west side, known as the Hilltop, was predominantly blue-collar. My mother's parents, Grandma and Grandpa Tobin, lived on the Hilltop, in a large, working-class house of dark red brick with white-painted trim, on a street lined with huge, old elm trees. Other streets in that part of town were lined with apartment buildings and rooming houses that looked very much like the Edgeworth, except that many of them had storefronts on the ground floor. One such storefront, on Sullivant Ave., was a tavern known as the tap room, as it only served beer.

The proprietor of this establishment was my other grandma, Bertha Ellinger. She would sometimes take care of me for a day or two when my parents wanted some time off. If Grandma E. had to work while I was staying with her, she would just take me along. A bottle of "pop" from the cooler, potato chips, and a Swiss cheese sandwich on rye bread with French's yellow mustard would keep me occupied for a little while as she tended the bar. On hot, summer days it was always dark and cool in the tap room.

Bertha's clientele, all of them blue-collar workers, were friendly with me and would sometimes tease me because I was quiet. Grandma E's stern, Germanic nature did not inspire frivolity.

Strange, how these long-lost memories are brought into sudden, sharp focus by the Edgeworth, a hotel more than 2,000 miles and half a century away from my childhood.

6th Street Beautification


STREET-LEVEL 6th STREET
The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency has been trying for years to beautify 6th Street. Their efforts have primarily consisted of widening the sidewalks, installing new street lights, planting $10,000. palm trees at the intersections of 6th & Mission and 6th & Howard Streets and hanging banners from the new street lights that proclaim 6th Street is being beautified. Urban Solutions, a non-profit arm of the Redevelopment Agency, has been busy repainting 6th Street building facades and replacing historic neon signs with cheap canvas awnings. I offer here some recent street-level views of 6th Street so that you may judge for yourself just how successful these expensive beautification programs have been.

6th & Jessie


6th & Mission


Club Six


6th Street in Winter


Beer, Liquor, Wine — Jesus Cares

A New View



DOWNTOWN SAN FRANCISCO from 7th & BRANNAN STREETS
16 October 2006, I moved into a beautiful, new studio apartment about six blocks away from the 6th St. hotel I had lived in for nearly six years. It took a couple of months for me to become acclimated to my new living situation. Twelve years earlier life lost meaning for me and I entered a dark night of the soul, living on the streets for six years as a homeless junkie. Narrowly escaping death, I reclaimed my stake in life during a ten week stay in hospital. Over the following six years I gradually reinvented myself. This photographic series played a major role in the process of recovery and reinvention. The buildings I photographed have become a permanent part of my psyche, just as the people who live and work in them have become a permanent part of my life.

The views from my new rooftop are very different from what I saw while standing atop the roof of my old hotel. While awe-inspiring in their own way, they have no soul. This is the legacy of downtown development and urban renewal.

October Fog


SARATOGA APTS. - 1008 LARKIN ST., LAUREL APTS. - 970 POST ST.
Late one afternoon in October, I took a walk through the Tenderloin with fellow photographer Theo Rigby, who was taking photos for a feature article about residential hotels. I had the honor of being his subject while I photographed shining, golden vistas of old buildings transmogrified by the setting sun (see Incandescent).

We covered a lot of ground that day. As the sun sank below the horizon we found ourselves roaming the Tendernob, a problematic borderland between the Tenderloin and Nob Hill. I was babbling about my fascination with Classical-revival fabrications of galvanized iron, terra cotta, stucco and brick when, as if on cue, we came across two buildings that perfectly delineated what I was trying to describe.

6th & Natoma


ST. CLOUD HOTEL - 170 6TH STREET
The building on the far left is the St. Cloud Hotel, a wood frame rooming house with a storefront occupied by the San Francisco Mission, now City Team Ministries, a respite for the City's dregs that has been in operation for over 107 years. The yellow building behind the St. Cloud is part of the Dudley Hotel, a renovated SRO that now operates as non-profit housing.

Chronicle


CHRONICLE HOTEL - 936 MISSION ST.
The Chronicle Hotel is located a couple of doors away from the Alkain and across Mission Street from its namesake, the San Francisco Chronicle. If awards were given for old residential hotel signs in San Francisco, the Chronicle Hotel would win hands-down for "Most Illegible".

Incandescent


COAST HOTEL - 516 O'FARRELL ST., PACIFIC BAY INN - 520 JONES ST., FIFTH CHURCH OF CHRIST, SCIENTIST - 450 O'FARRELL ST.
Fifth Church of Christ Scientist. 1923. Architect: Carl Werner. 2 stories, steel and reinforced concrete structure, stucco facade, Greek Tuscan order with decorative panels, vents with clathery, cornice, stained glass side windows; temple composition; Greek classical ornamentation. Vestibule: marble steps, bronze doors with decorative friezes and clathery. Signs: “Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist” at each end, marble cornerstone with “1923”. Alterations: chain link fence across front.

This image exemplifies why I love San Francisco so much. Fiery sunsets such as this set my mind and emotions ablaze, making life's problems seem mere trifles; elevating me to some higher plane of awareness by making me conscious of what a tiny cog I am in the vast machinery of the Universe.

Golden Gate Theater


GOLDEN GATE THEATER - 1 TAYLOR ST.
1922. Architect: G. Albert Landsburgh (also designed Warfield Theater & S. F. Opera House). 8 stories, dome, arcaded top story, brick & fine terra cotta facade, wrought iron balconets, entry & marquee altered, storefronts boarded shut.

The Golden Gate Theater stands at one of the busiest entries to the Tenderloin. Featuring vaudeville, the theater first opened its doors in 1922. Over the years, theatergoers saw everything from the Marx Brothers to Cinerama. Most recently, it has been a venue for Broadway shows, including Rent; the film version of which was shot less than a block away on 6th Street.

The building's owner, one of the wealthiest men in San Francisco, has kept its office space at 25 Taylor St. vacant for over a decade and closed down its retail spaces on Golden Gate Ave. The terracotta and wrought iron details of this Art Deco palace have suffered greatly from neglect and the five-story neon signs haven't worked in ages. In the bright light of day, the building's exterior looks tawdry and run-down, and at street level, except for the theater entrance, it appears to be abandoned.

A New Day


HAMLIN, K & H and ALLEN HOTELS - 385, 395 & 411 EDDY ST.
The brickwork of the K & H (St. George) Hotel is exceptionally beautiful, with its suggestion of a columned arcade. The cornice is of an unusual design that compliments the columns and arches perfectly. The intersection of Eddy and Leavenworth is to me one of the most photogenic locales in the Tenderloin, so the buildings surrounding it appear in a number of my images.

Early Morning - Eddy Street


JEFFERSON, FAIRFAX & KINNEY HOTELS - 440, 420 & 410 EDDY ST.; HOTEL VERONA - 317 LEAVENWORTH ST.; CADILLAC HOTEL - 380 EDDY ST.
My favorite stretch of Eddy St., photographed at my favorite time of day.

Jefferson


HOTEL JEFFERSON - 440 EDDY ST.
(formerly Hotel Ormond) 1906. Architect: M.J. Lyon. 5 stories, brick, terracotta & granite facade.

The Jefferson was the first SRO to be purchased and renovated by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and converted to supportive housing. Especially at night, the hotel looks like the setting for an old Alfred Hitchcock film.

Reflection #2


LAWRENCE & HILLSDALE HOTELS - 48 & 51 6th ST.
I was standing in the middle of Jessie Alley just off of 6th Street when I took this photograph of the Lawrence and Hillsdale hotels. On the street level of the Lawrence is a very trendy nightclub called Club Six. Before it became Club Six, the ground floor was a decades-old bar named Frisco, a name that I loved for its glaring perversity.

At one time, calling San Francisco "Frisco" would have curdled the blood of a native San Franciscan, or anyone who had lived here long enough to feel a native's sense of pride for the City of Saint Francis. Alas, that pride in place seems to have all but entirely vanished, having been replaced by the morès of the culture of greed.

Dawn - Hotel Alder


HOTEL ALDER - 175 6TH STREET
Renovation of the Alder was completed mid-2006 and the hotel is once again open for business. The hotel's neon sign was also refurbished. It is the only neon sign remaining on 6th Street, thanks largely to the Six on Sixth plan, a loan program for property and business owners that is, in effect, run by the Redevelopment Agency through the non-profit Urban Solutions.

In an attempt to modernize the street, the program director encouraged loan applicants to replace their historic but decayed neon signs with inexpensive canvas awnings. The result was a disaster. The canvas awnings subvert the visual and historical integrity of the neighborhood, which could have been enhanced in a most striking way by restoring the neon signs.

Page


PAGE HOTEL - 161 LEAVENWORTH STREET
(formerly Page Apartments) 1907. Architect: Martens & Coffey. 4 stories, brick facade, base painted.

The Page Hotel sits at the intersection of Leavenworth and Turk Streets, one of the Tenderloin's riskier locations, especially after dark. Drug dealers abound and battles of their ongoing turf wars are occasionally fought here. On the other side of Turk Street, visible to the right, is the

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