Tag Archives: building ad

Cultural Imperatives and the Riviera Hotel


“Cultural Imperatives” (2003)

(324/12) 420 Jones Street; Avon Hotel, Riviera Hotel (1982). Stores and hotel with thirty-eight rooms and seventeen baths. 4B stories; brick structure; molded brick around windows, galvanized iron cornice; two-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; vestibule: decorative frame, mosaic floor, cornice molding; lobby: wood paneling, decorative iron elevator; corner blade sign with neon removed; alterations: security gate, storefronts. Owner: Mrs. Barbara Neff of Seattle (1907), Conard House (1983). Architects: Crim and Scott. 1907.

The Riveira (sic!) Hotel is the brown building with white trim in the background of this photograph, one of my favorite images. Approaching the hotel from the entrance side on Jones Street, I was searching for an engaging perspective when I heard a clangorous but muffled sound of drums and gongs being pounded in erratic syncopation, much like Chinese lion dance music. I was irresistibly drawn around the corner onto Ellis Street to the music’s source, an odd little building that had often piqued my curiosity.

A drab, one-story storefront had been transformed by a porte-cochere that imitated traditional Chinese architecture. From a distance the illusion was fairly convincing. Closer scrutiny revealed a sagging patchwork of the cheapest and strangest materials. Blue barrel tiles were contrived of aluminum soft drink cans covered by sheets of some indeterminate material, and the peeling, red-painted plywood was clearly interior grade. Above the entrance, golden Chinese pictographs affirmed a cultural animus, but the facade was otherwise inscrutable and any clues to the building’s function were concealed behind curtained windows. Adding to the mystery was the ritualistic music now emanating from within. Compelled to photograph the peculiar structure, I thereby found the way to frame the Riviera. A short time after I captured this image, the little building was leveled by a bulldozer. The lot has remained empty ever since.

Sunday Morning_Riviera Hotel.

“Sunday Morning – Riviera Hotel” (2012)

(323/6) 415 Jones Street; Mendel Apartments. Apartment building with seventy two-room units. Original owner: Dr. Louise C. Mendel. Architects: Frederick H. Meyer, 1912; addition Grace Jewett, 1919.

(324/12) 420 Jones Street; Riviera Hotel.

(324/11) 380–386 Ellis Street; empty lot.

Leave a comment

Filed under Tenderloin

Running Roughshod Over History

As anyone who has ever watched Antiques Roadshow can attest, the surest way to utterly destroy an antique’s value is to “restore” it, to make it look like new. Sadly, this is exactly what Randy Shaw has done with several of the Tenderloin’s lovely old, faded building ads, defacing their intrinsic beauty and nullifying their historicity. Nice work, Mr. Shaw. There is a big difference between old building ads and contemporary murals, a difference you clearly don’t comprehend. If you don’t want to take my word for it, I strongly suggest you consult knowledgable art historians before running off half-cocked and ruining any more neighborhood treasures.

Funded by a thirty-five thousand dollar Community Challenge grant overseen by Shaw’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which manages the City’s master lease SROs—arguably some of the worst-run residential hotels in San Francisco—the restoration was carried out by Mission District muralists Precita Eyes. Adept at Byzantine maneuvering of both neighborhood and City Hall politics to serve his own ends, Shaw wants to attract affluent tourists to the neighborhood and is currently planning a Tenderloin history museum.


“Intersect” (2006)

The building ads seen here have thus far been untouched. Let us hope they remain so.


Filed under Tenderloin