Guardians of History • The Nob Hill Gazette
While the city is at the peak of innovation, San Francisco Heritage preserves the monuments of its past.
SRun by a group of architects (mostly volunteers), curators and history buffs, San Francisco Heritage is like an urban Indiana Jones, racing against time to save the city’s treasures from destruction and destruction. ‘oversight. But unlike “Indy,” who fought spiders, rocks, and Nazis, the “scarecrows” Heritage girds its hat against are zealous developers and civic unrest. Fortunately, fundraising efforts continue to support the nonprofit’s preservation efforts that protect the unique architectural and cultural history of our beautiful city, and on June 12, Heritage celebrates its 50th anniversary at the Evening 2021. This hybrid fundraiser takes place online and in person at the Fort Mason Center for the Arts, where a drive-through features film clips, dinner and live performances.
Heritage was founded in 1971 by the architect Charles Hall Page, a native of San Francisco who founded Page & Turnbull, a renowned architectural firm dedicated to historic preservation, and his longtime friend the lawyer Harry miller. The idea for Heritage originated on a bench in St. Mary’s Square, where Page and Miller often shared lunches and the exasperation of architectural crimes. SF’s redevelopment agency was demolishing elaborate 19th-century Victorian swathes in the Western Addition. The City considers the district devastated and defends its actions of urban renewal. Today, the evisceration of Fillmore’s lower section is now seen as extremely misguided and ultimately racist in its displacement of thousands of American black and Japanese blue-collar families.
Page and Miller’s vision for heritage would influence planning codes and save hundreds of historic buildings – from the harbor and the Civic Center, to North Beach to the Mission and along Westside Avenues. However, the Heritage Crusades are not set in amber. Aside from historical walking tours, educational programs and scholarly publications, this nonprofit is also an advocacy organization, publishing conservation reports and co-authoring laws such as the J proposition, which voters adopted in 2015, creating the Legacy Business Preservation Fund – the first of its kind in the country. Working with the Mayor’s Office for Small Business, some of these gems – at least 30 years old but not eligible for landmark designation – include Dog Eared Books, Bimbo’s 365 Club, Picture Machine Tattoo, Caffe Trieste , Hockey Haven and Bix Restaurant.
“Our first Heritage programs attracted about 30 people who watched a slide show,” notes the Interim President and CEO of Heritage Woody labounty, another native of San Francisco – through the Richmond District and Sacred Heart High School – who co-founded the Western Neighborhoods Project. “Instagram is now one of our most powerful programs, engaging hundreds more online. “
Last fall, Heritage launched its first Artist-in-Residence program with the North Beach artist Jeremy Poisson. Like the Registry program, which was invented by Mike Buhler, the dynamic former leader of Heritage who now runs Fort Mason Center.
During the pandemic, Heritage took care of creating new cultural districts, such as the American Indian Cultural District in the mission. He also advocated for Legacy businesses, seen as the biggest heritage preservation crisis in 2020. “They’re all at risk,” says LaBounty. “We helped them lobby the city for emergency aid and bolster the benefits of the registry so they can stay alive and survive after the pandemic. And we stood up for businesses and neighborhoods off the radar. The Heritage in the Neighborhoods mid-pandemic program successfully marked the Royal Baking Company building in the Excelsior and has now partnered with Parkside Heritage to mark the 1892 Trocadero Inn in Stern Grove. Most recently, Heritage joined a coalition to mark Noe Valley Lyon-Martin House, a long-time home for late LGBTQIA activists. Phyllis lyon and Del Martin, the first same-sex couple to marry in 2004 in a city hall ceremony chaired by the then mayor. Gavin Newsom.
Heritage has a knack for historic homes: the organization is headquartered in Haas-Lilienthal House, the exquisite 1886 Queen Anne Victorian mansion on Franklin Street. On the death in 1972 of Alice Haas Lilienthal, a dean of the city’s eminent Jewish community, the mansion was donated to Heritage. But there was a catch: This Golden Age Grand Lady, who was on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, required more than $ 4 million in structural upgrades to continue as a museum and venue. rental of licensed events.
“My mother, Madeleine Haas Russell, who, when her parents died young, lived in the house with her aunt and uncle Alice and Sam lilienthal, had wonderful memories of growing up there, ”recalls the philanthropist Alice Russell – Shapiro, who was co-chair of the Haas-Lilienthal fundraising campaign. “But none of Aunt Alice’s descendants wanted the burden of caring for a white Victorian elephant.” Although Haas Russell, a great-niece of the King of Blue Jeans Levi Strauss, was not a direct descendant of the Haas-Lilienthal lineage, she established an endowment to maintain the house. And Russell-Shapiro and his cousin John rothmann continue their admiration and support for heritage stewardship.
In 2018, Heritage was bequeathed by the late Doolan-Larson Building, also known as Doolan-Larson Residence and Storefronts. Norman Doolan, a fourth-generation San Franciscan who loved music and who, according to Heritage, “after a series of career failures,” became a prolific rental property owner. His home, a 1903 Colonial Revival style building on the corner of Haight and Ashbury, was the epicenter of the 1960s counter-culture revolution (ironically, Doolan was no fan of the hippie scene). Heritage has partnered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Haight Street Art Center to reinvent the Doolan Building as a space to experience this counter-culture through art and programming. But first, artist-in-residence Fish tested the three-story, 7,500-square-foot home. “I moved to Doolan in September, which was a weird time to be in such a big place, just me and my cat,” Fish notes. “With COVID, studio tours or exhibitions that we had planned have been scrapped. But if you must be stuck inside a house, Doolan is an amazing place to be stuck. There, he created Living in the Past, a series of prints and drawings inspired by the cultural history of the Haights. “Doolan was an amazing place to work on my art,” says Fish. “When Mike Buhler and the director of the Haight Art Center Peter McQuaid Planned this residence, I was worried because I love music and the Club Deluxe is right outside my bedroom window. But with an 8 p.m. lockdown curfew, Haight Street was a ghost town. I was alone, but productive.
During COVID, Fish also worked from his North Beach studio, creating specialized artwork for sale to benefit hospitality workers pummeled by the citywide shutdown. Fish admits it would have been easier to shut down, sit inside and wait for the pandemic to end. But so many neighbors, who feel like her roommates, have lost jobs, businesses and livelihoods. “I feel a debt of gratitude and obligation to support collapsing businesses – by serving windows or building parklets,” says Fish. “That’s why Heritage is so successful, reminding us of the places we love. “