“Sentinel” (2005)

(348/6) 100-120 McAllister Street, Temple Methodist Church and William Taylor Hotel (1927), Empire Hotel (1936), McAllister Tower (1981); church and palace hotel with 609 rooms and 391 baths; 28B stories; steel frame structure with brick walls; articulated steel frame with recessed copper spandrels; set-back skyscraper; Gothic ornamentation; vestibule: iron marquee; lobby: pier order with decorative ceiling, balcony with iron railing; alterations: some aluminum windows, doorway. Architects: Miller and Pflueger and Lewis P. Hobart. 1927.

(322/1) 601-609 O’Farrell Street, Farrelworth Apartments. Architect: H.C. Baumann. 1918.

About a year after I captured the above image, I had the pleasure of gazing down at the City from atop the tower at 100 McAllister Street, a remarkable building that appears in a number of my Tenderloin and South of Market photographs.

“Encroaching Fog” (2004)

Built by the Methodist Church, the building first opened in 1927 as the luxury William Taylor Hotel and Temple Methodist Church; in 1936 the building was sold and reopened as the Empire Hotel. While its status as the tallest hotel west of the Mississippi was short-lived, at a height of twenty-eight stories it remained by far the tallest building in the Tenderloin until the encroachment of the 493 foot Hilton San Francisco Tower I in 1971.

Summer Fog

“Summer Fog” (2004)

The McAllister Tower’s purchase in 1981 by UC Hastings College of the Law should ensure that this neighborhood landmark, still undergoing long-term restoration, will be well cared for long into the future.


“UC Hastings and McAllister Tower” (2008)


(left) Postcard, c. 1927. (center) W. Taylor dining room, c. 1927. (right) Engraving, c. 1857. The apocalyptic gaze and breathtaking beard belong to Methodist minister William Taylor, from the frontispiece to his book Seven Years Street Preaching in San Francisco. Taylor was working in and around Baltimore, Maryland, specializing in street preaching, when he was sent by the Methodist Church as a missionary evangelist to California in 1849. For the next seven years he worked the streets of San Francisco, earning a reputation as “the pioneer scourge of moral slackers” for his fire-and-brimstone sermonizing. The Reverend Taylor later became Bishop Taylor, and it is he for whom the McAllister Tower was originally named.


“Lobby – McAllister Tower” (2008)


“Mezzanine – McAllister Tower”


“Gymnasium – McAllister Tower” (2008)

UC Hastings CFO David Seward kindly took me on a personal tour of the tower including the observation deck, where I was able to walk about in the open air twenty-seven stories above the street, with the Tenderloin, Civic Center and South of Market spread out before me. Our time was limited, so I was able to take only a few photographs. If you examine them closely, you can see the spatial relationships between many of the buildings I’ve singled out in my other photographs.


“Downtown” (2008)

Since 1968, the year I moved to San Francisco, the beautiful Beaux Arts-inspired architecture that once defined the City’s downtown skyline has been occulted, if not replaced, by towering and impersonal skyscrapers of glass and steel.


“Nob Hill” (2008)

To the north toward Nob Hill appears some of the lovely and inviting city that arose from the ashes of the 1906 fire; where the skyline still shows the graceful rise and fall of San Francisco’s hills.


“Boundary Lines” (2008)

In the upper left is the Flood Building at Powell and Market, which for many years was considered the eastern boundary of the Tenderloin. The diagonal swath of Market Street separates the Tenderloin on the left from South of Market on the right.


“Hive” (2008)

Gazing into the heart of the Tenderloin, we see the largest and densest concentration of intact residential hotels and apartments in the City; possibly in the entire country. Clearly seen from this perspective is the uniformity of architectural style. Nearly all the buildings have details that were drawn from Renaissance and Baroque sources, manifesting the influence of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the City Beautiful Movement on the various architects responsible for the district’s reconstruction.


“Intersection” (2008)

In the midst of century-old buildings rises the new Curran House at 145 Taylor Street.


“Ad Art” (2008)

A few doors down Turk Street from Jones is the old El Rosa Hotel (now the Helen), with its beautiful old painted advertisement for 7-Up.

1 Comment

Filed under Local Characters, Tenderloin

One response to “Sentinel

  1. ac

    great work! i’m interested in securing permission to use one of your photographs. can you, please, write to the provided email?

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