Category Archives: Mid-Market

Mid-Market 2014, Part Five


Contained within the Mid-Market area is the Market Street Theatre and Loft District, a National Register district listed in 1986. First identified in 1977 by Michael Corbett in Splendid Survivors, the district spans 982 to 1112 Market Street on the northwest side, including One Jones Street and 1-35 Taylor Street, and 973 to 1105 Market Street on the southeast side. Comprising the district are eight loft buildings, four office buildings, five theaters and two theater sites, two hotels, a bank, a fraternal lodge, nine small commercial buildings, and two fine intersections. Twenty of the buildings are contributors, the rest are intrusions. Constructed for the most part between 1900 and 1926, the buildings manifest a singular visual harmony, known as the Commercial Style, with two- or three-part vertical composition, Renaissance-Baroque or other historicist ornamentation, and prominent cornices. The architecture looks much like the rest of San Francisco’s post-fire downtown because the same architects and property owners were responsible.

The district’s true beginning took place in 1889, when Albert Pissis published his designs for the Hibernia Bank, the City’s earliest surviving Beaux-Arts building, in California Architect and Building News. Highly admired in the 1890s, widely copied after the Fire, the Hibernia Bank was the progenitor of San Francisco’s Beaux-Arts classicism. Perhaps more than any other structure, the Hibernia Bank was enormously influential in San Francisco’s rebuilding. Four of the district’s contributing buildings, the Hibernia Bank (1889-1892) and the Wilson (1900), Hale Brothers (1900) and Grant (1902) buildings, are in varying degree survivors of the 1906 earthquake and fire. These four facades share the design qualities of the district and all of post-fire downtown, showing that foresight and preparation for San Francisco’s post-fire City Beautiful-inspired architecture were developed in the six to sixteen years beforehand. Of the district’s twenty contributing buildings, twelve were constructed between 1906 and 1913. Between 1920 and 1926, four more buildings were added, three of them theaters: the Golden Gate (1922), Loew’s Warfield (1922), and the Egyptian (1924).

Theater & Lofts

“Theater and Lofts” (2014)

Pictured here are Weinstein’s Department Store (blue facade, an intrusion), Sterling Furniture Company, Kaplan’s (another intrusion), the Ede Building, Globe Building, and the Egyptian Theatre. The two-story building of relatively modern appearance, known only as Kaplan’s Surplus in recent years, is all that remains of the 1908 Forrest Building, a fine seven-story loft building heavily damaged in a six-alarm arson fire that also damaged the Sterling Building next door on 04 January 1979. While the Sterling Building was repaired, Kaplan’s, the owner-occupant of the Forrest Building both before and after the fire, sadly decided to demolish and not restore, leaving only a pathetic two-story remnant. Now that Kaplan’s has closed up shop forever, the building will be razed and replaced by market rate, high-rise condominiums.

Forrest Bldg_Humbert

“Forrest Building Restored” (2014, Mike Humbert)

My friend Mike Humbert, who is as engrossed with Market Street’s history as I, with great patience created this image showing the Forrest Building, unabbreviated, on present day Market Street. Michael Corbett likened the original facade to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Luxfer Project.

Imperial Theatre

“Imperial Theatre” (2014)

Due to extensive alterations over the years, the Imperial Theatre numbers among the district’s intrusions and therefore lacks the protections afforded to buildings with historic status. Predictably, the building’s owners have decided to raze and not restore because high-rise condominiums will be far more profitable. Or so they hope. Sooner or later, the tech bubble will burst and with it the housing bubble. In the meantime, San Francisco is erasing its history at an unprecedented rate.

Federal Hotel

“Federal Hotel” (2014)

Grant Building

“Grant Building” (2014)


“Prager’s Department Store” (2014)


Filed under Mid-Market

City of the Future Present

Saint Ann's Valley

“Saint Ann’s Valley” (2012)

The future we have created is far more horrid than any nightmare scenario we dreamed in the last century. In recent years, life in San Francisco has become radicalized in the most unpleasant ways. For all the City’s braggadocio, it no longer supports or even cares about the people who for many years made it such a special place. San Francisco has embraced corporatism and rejected culture, becoming in the process a city of the living dead.

I can no longer sell prints to save my soul. All my gear is collateral for a loan, thus changes to the central city have gone undocumented for months. One by one, my sponsors have discontinued their monthly subscriptions without explanation. Chief among them was a software company on Market Street. The amount of their subscription was pocket change to anyone who works there. For me, it meant sustenance for a week. Once rent is paid, I am forced to choose between necessities and generally elect to pay monthly bills for phone and internet services, utilities and medication instead of buying food, all the while sinking ever deeper into a financial hole.

Market and Golden Gate

“Market and Golden Gate” (2014) “Let There Be” marks the Eastern Outfitting Company building, restored 2013-2014 by Zendesk, Inc.

Struggling for miserable survival in the midst of plenty is not a life. It is constant torment and a harrowing, drawn-out demise. Intermittent lip service to the plight of artists is background noise, an irritant, nothing more. Else-wise, the silence has been deafening. Played out, worn down by age and failing health, limited resources depleted, it seems as though all my work has been for nothing. Those who may have wondered about my posts becoming so sporadic now know the reason.

Razing Saint Francis

“Razing Saint Francis” (2013)

If it so happens that you are enjoying the spectacle of my crack-up, please be sure to let me know. Even morbid appreciation is gratifying. Conversely, I will thank you to keep empty, bleeding-heart reassurances to yourselves. Hollow words serve only to annoy.


Filed under Messages, Mid-Market, Sixth Street, Tenderloin

Tenderloin Museum

According to the curators and directors of the Tenderloin Museum, a certain person who has devoted years of his life to documenting San Francisco’s central city and Tenderloin simply does not exist. I hope you will pardon my lack of enthusiasm over the museum’s opening today. Ignored if not outright rejected by the neighborhood into which I have poured all my love, I am right now feeling angry and crushed. Considering all I have endured and ultimately overcome in this life, I will most likely get over it . . . some day.

UPDATE (18 July 2015): I am over it. The work at hand is far more important to me.

St. Boniface Spire

“St. Boniface Spire” (2014)


Filed under Events, Messages, Mid-Market

Mid-Market 2014, Parts 3 and 4

The fair and wondrous city that embraced me half a century ago has been transfigured. In the space of just a few years, so much of San Francisco’s urban fabric has been effaced that I barely recognize it anymore. My documentation of what has been and will be so carelessly thrown away and forgotten is necessarily limited and leaves much of the City unaccounted-for, although it is representative of what is happening to San Francisco as a whole. As San Francisco is transformed, so too is my relationship with the City. My daily life is infused with sadness, a wistful kind of sorrow, the melancholy of lost hopes and forgotten dreams.


“Matrix” (2014)


“Gateway” (2014)


“Rooftop” (2014)


“Stacks” (2014)

6th Street Hotels

“6th Street Hotels” (2014)

SoMa and Beyond

“SoMa and Beyond” (2014)


Filed under Mid-Market, Sixth Street, Tenderloin