The Big Scoop on Landmark #260

Michael de Young was the patriarch of one of the most powerful and influential families in San Francisco. He arrived to San Francisco during the Civil War years in 1854 from St. Louis with his mother Cornelia “Amelia” and brother Charles. De Young’s father, Miechel, was said too have died of a stroke during their journey.

In 1865, Michael and Charles entered the publishing business as teenagers by borrowing a $20 gold piece from their landlord. They used the money to buy an old desk, several fonts of used type, some newsprint, and then tucked themselves away in the corner of their landlord's Clay Street print shop. The brothers started with a free theater program sheet called The Daily Dramatic Chronicle, which debuted on January 16, 1865. The four-page Daily Dramatic conveyed itself to be "a daily record of affairs -- local, critical, and theatrical," but was seen as a gossip sheet. The two teenagers handed out the Daily Dramatic at hotels, theaters, restaurants, and saloons, and by the end of their first week they had payed their landlord back. According to the de Young’s, the Daily Dramatic Chronicle would be “the best advertising medium on the Pacific Coast.”

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By the end of their first month, the de Young's had increased the circulation of their fledgling effort to over 2,000 copies. It was an encouraging start, but that successful first month would be soon forgotten when the de Young’s broke free from their role as upstarts and scored an even more remarkable coup.

Abraham Lincoln President of the United States 
assassinated by John Wilkes Booth

Word of the president's death appeared in the de Young’s first "extra" edition, hitting the streets several hours before the city's other daily journals reported on the national tragedy. The de Young’s had quickly legitimized their position as news reporters, marking the first pivotal step in their bid to become aggressive, competitive journalists. By the 1870s their paper was so influential and widely read that the de Young’s could make or break a politician, policy, business deal, or any other matter of importance in Northern California. We now know this paper as the San Francisco Chronicle.

Over the following years, Michael De Young and his wife Katherine had five children:

  • Charles de Young (1881–1913)

  • Helen de Young (1883–1969), who married George T. Cameron (1873–1955)

  • Constance Marie de Young (1885–1968), who married Joseph Oliver Tobin (1878–1978)

  • Kathleen Yvonne de Young (1888–1954), who married Ferdinand Thieriot (1883–1920)

  • Phyllis D. de Young (1892–1988), who married Nion Robert Tucker (1885–1950)


In 1911, Michael H. de Young purchased two lots on the south side of California Street between Gough and Octavia Streets, directly adjacent to his own estate. He gave the deeds to two of his daughters, Helen, wife of George E. Cameron, and Constance, wife of Joseph O. Tobin, an executive at Hibernia Bank and member of one of San Francisco's oldest and wealthiest families. Michael also offered to build homes on these lots for the couples and their young families. For a few years nothing happened as both the Tobin and Cameron families chose to live in the affluent town of Hillsborough, south of San Francisco. But in 1913, Michael’s wife Katherine succumbed to cancer and the couple’s only son, Charley, died in a fishing accident. These family tragedies prompted de Young’s daughters to reconsider their father’s earlier offer.

The M.H. and Katherine de Young estate at 1919 California Street

The M.H. and Katherine de Young estate at 1919 California Street

In 1915, de Young commissioned prominent architect Willis Polk to design a Tudor Gothic Revival style home on the lot adjacent the family estate. The original plan was to build two “mirror image” houses next to each other with a large half archway at the side of each house meant to complement, and complete, the neighboring home.

The “Tobin House” was first to be constructed and included a steeply pitched, slate-clad roof with projecting stuccoed chimneys topped with decorative copper chimney pots. A large, two-story bay window, with tall arched casement windows and small panes of leaded glass, dominates the eastern side of the front facade and is capped with Neo-Gothic inspired decorative panels. The half arch, formed with molded bands, leads into the a recessed side passage. The understated front door, east of the half arch, is accented with a lion’s head. With good fortune, Polk’s original intent of unpainted stucco, resembling stone to match the California Street lamp posts in front of the de Young mansion, has stood the test of time.

Ultimately, Helen de Young had plans other than to build a complementary home next to her happily ensconced sister, Constance. Thus, the second half of the mirror image house was never built leaving an abruptly ending archway where it meets the next building. The original de Young mansion met the wrecking ball in the 1940s, but not before portions of The Thin Man (1936), starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, were filmed there.

Today, 1969 California presents itself better than ever as it stands out among surrounding homes. The owners of this private residence have lovingly restored the interiors to keep the integrity and beauty of its original architecture. Willis and M. H. would be proud.

Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher - SFMoMA

The LOFTY HEIGHTS Interview

Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher

Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher

C A E N L U C I E R: As a girl who knew exactly what she wanted to do at a young age, talk about your current state of mind as SFMOMA’s Helen Hilton Raiser Curator of Architecture and Design.

Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher: At a young age, I saw museum exhibitions as one way to address a gap in arts education and introduce important ideas, new forms and processes seen in architecture and design, and revisit history with a broad audience. I still have those goals as well as an interest in engaging in public dialogue with designers, museum visitors and colleagues. It’s more important than ever to listen, share and take action.

CL: How have you seen the Snoetta designed new museum substantiate the position of  SFMOMA on the national and international museum scene?

JDF: I’ve noticed that tremendous additions to SFMOMA’s collection, including the Fisher Collection loan, which were acquired during the building’s closure, broadened SFMOMA’s audience and engagement significantly.

CL: Is there a favorite work that you enjoy visiting in the museum?

JDF: It is always a treat to walk through the Dan Graham sculpture on the small outdoor balcony on the 4th floor overlooking the Yerba Buena Garden.

CL: In what direction do you see the Architecture and Design department at SFMOMA growing in the years ahead.

JDF: Now that the department and collection is well-established and going on thirty years at SFMOMA, we’ll continue to focus on works that generate new ideas and dialogues, while also turning our attention to visionary contemporary works from the Bay Area and beyond. 

CLICK TWICE   TO WATCH VIDEO  OF SFMOMA A+D COLLECTION

CLICK TWICE TO WATCH VIDEO OF SFMOMA A+D COLLECTION

CL: Your new show, Sea Ranch: Architecture, Environment, and Idealism, just opened. How did the idea develop from your initial proposal to a public exhibition.

JDF: SFMOMA’s Architecture + Design gallery has very high walls, and much of the original 1960s designs for The Sea Ranch are small hand-drawings. My colleague and co-curator on the exhibition, Joseph Becker and I decided to recreate a full-scale version of one of the earliest Condominium units to fill the central space, and surround it with drawings and photographs on the gallery walls. Since The Sea Ranch is a bit far, it was important that visitors have an opportunity to experience the interior configuration of the architecture. 

CL: What was your most exciting find during your research for the show?

JDF: There were so many exciting finds! Every day I have a new favorite. Constance Beeson’s 1966 film of a Halprin Workshop showing The Sea Ranch site and people experiencing nature with intent and intensity was as exciting as finding architect Joseph Esherick’s initial Hedgerow house studies. We looked at thousands of drawings and photographs, and narrowed it down to just under one hundred works on view—each one is a gem.

CL: It has been many years since your department published a book in conjunction with a show.  What did you learn from the process.

JDF: While the essay writing is arduous it is so rewarding, and feels like a luxury to be able to spend time considering a subject or period. A book is a more private experience than an exhibition, but can be revisited repeatedly. For me, it is a pleasure to return to an exhibition catalog and remember seeing each work depicted

CL: FOG Fair is this week.  What do you enjoy most about the fair?

JDF: I love speaking to so many people about exciting design for four days straight.

CL: How has FOG Art + Design supported your department’s efforts?

JDF: The FOG Forum supports SFMOMA’s Architecture + Design collection building.

JDF IN DISCUSSION  WITH   BOBBIE STAUFFACHER SOLOMON AT FOG FAIR 2019

JDF IN DISCUSSION WITH BOBBIE STAUFFACHER SOLOMON AT FOG FAIR 2019

CL: What are some of you favorite museums?

JDF: The Zumthor-designed Kolumba Museum in Cologne, Germany, the new Fondazione Prada in Milan by Koolhaas and the Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Mexico City, . . .

CL: Any favorite architects and designers?

JDF: The ones that keep surprising and challenging me!

JDF ON PANEL  WITH JONY IVE

JDF ON PANEL WITH JONY IVE

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C A E N L U C I E R thanks Jennifer for taking the time to work on this piece with us.

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Iconic Coca Cola Sign

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San Francisco History

Standing 112 feet above Bryant Street atop a three-story building in San Francisco's South of Market area, the Coca Cola billboard has been a landmark for drivers going to and from the Bay Bridge since 1937 -- One year after the bridge opened to traffic.

The Spencerian script of the logo with its glowing background in a shade known as Coca-Cola Red was originally illuminated with neon. It alternately twinkled and shone for the better part of seven decades, but in 2010 it began showing its age.

Seventy-feet long and 30 feet high, the new sign is about the same size as its predecessor, but the look at night is crisper and the colors seem more vibrant.

The work to remove the original lighting system and reface the billboard with 4,800 CFLs for the white lettering and strip LEDs for the background took crews working day and night. The billboard was dark for only four days.

When I return from a long trip, I can always count on one of my favorite signs to light up and welcome me back to San Francisco. I am sure for years to come.......

The Survival of Landmark #7

Audiffred Building

Landmark #7
1-21 Mission Street

In the late 1800’s, Hippolite d'Audiffret ("Audiffred"), a Frenchman who had been living in Mexico, reportedly walked to San Francisco from Veracruz due to the increasing French nationals unpopularity with native Mexican country men and women. Upon his arrival in the city, Hippolite d'Audiffret built a profitable business selling charcoal in Chinatown. The Audiffred Building was constructed for him in 1889 to presumably house his business. Over the years this corner building had many tales of survival that added to the fabric of its legacy. This history and it’s unusual architectural style led to the Audiffred Building being designated Landmark #7. To this day, it is one of the few surviving buildings on the waterfront.

1906
San Francisco had the busiest waterfront on the west coast with a harbor filled with ships, bustling commerce, and shops serving every maritime need. At the turn of the 19th century, the Audiffred Building’s first floor retail spaces were rented to a restaurant and three saloons. The Bulkhead Saloon was one of these tenants.

In an attempt to stop the fires following the 1906 earthquake, the San Francisco Fire Department wanted to create a firebreak between the burning city and the wharfs. They blasted every other building with dynamite except the Ferry Building. As the tale is told, the fireman spared the Audiffred Building because they received an offer they couldn’t refuse. The very wise bartender at the Bulkhead saloon bribed the firemen with a keg of whiskey and a cart full of wine if they would spare the building. Needless to say, the building was saved.

“The very wise bartender at the Bulkhead Saloon bribed the firemen with a keg of whiskey and a cart full of wine if they would spare the building. Needless to say, the building was saved.”

1934
The Audiffred Building served as headquarters for the 1934 West Coast Waterfront strike that lasted eighty-three days when longshoreman in every west coast port walked out. The strike peaked with “Bloody Thursday,” a day when sailors Howard Sperry and Nick Bordoise were shot dead by police outside. A monument commemorates this tragedy at the corner of Steuart and Mission streets.

1934 West Coast Waterfront Strike , As A Monument, Dedicated To Events Or People, As An Exhibit of Art

1934 West Coast Waterfront Strike, As A Monument, Dedicated To Events Or People, As An Exhibit of Art

1946 - 1955
With the decline of San Francisco's waterfront in the mid-twentieth century, the Seven Seas Club for homeless sailors moved into the building in 1946. Bohemian artists and writers including Elmer BischoffHoward HackFrank LobdellHassel Smith, Martin Snipper, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti occupied lofts and studios on the two upper floors. The living spaces had no electricity and were condemned in 1955 as unsafe for living quarters.

1978
A fire from a gas main break gutted the building in 1978 leaving it scheduled for demolition. The building was saved by public demand. The Audiffred Building became the City of San Francisco's Landmark #7 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in May 1981.

1983 – 1984
A domed penthouse was added in the reconstruction after the fire. The building was subsequently bought by real estate developer Dustan Mills. In 1983–1984 it was refurbished and repurposed into office space by William E. Cullen.

1991
It was restored over a two-year period, and then in 1991, after the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway, the handsome building again saw the light of day.

1993 - Present
Since 1993, the Audiffred Building has housed Boulevard restaurant.