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Jones Below Ellis


“Jones Below Ellis” (2007 Survey)

(333/1) 401-421 Ellis Street; Gashwiler Apartments, St. George Apartments. Apartment building with eighteen two-, three-, and four-room units. 4B stories; brick structure with galvanized iron cornice; keystones, bracketed lintels; two-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; vestibule: square column order with decorative tile at entry, mosaic floor, paneled walls and ceiling, wood and glass doorway; lobby: stair landing; storefronts: Moderne corner bar (“Jonell”) with vitrolite between tile-faced storefronts; bronze plaques flank door with “St. George 2-3-4 Room Apartments”; partial alterations to storefronts. Original owner: Laura Lowell Gashwiler. Architect: Julius E. Krafft. 1907.

(333/2) 345 Jones Street; apartment hotel with thirty one-, two- and three-room units. 5B stories; reinforced concrete structure; stucco facade, five-story bay windows, galvanized iron cornice, three-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; vestibule: Moderne entry frame. Alterations: security gate. Original owner: Mrs. J. Baldwin. Architect: O’Brien Brothers. 1912.

(333/4) 335-341 Jones Street; stores. 1-story; reinforced concrete structure. Alterations: facade stripped of all ornament. Original owner: Robert Ibersen. Architect: T. Paterson Ross. 1919.

(333/5) 333 Jones Street; garage. 2-stories; reinforced concrete structure; stucco facade, castellated parapet; two-part commercial composition; alterations: steel roll-up doors. Designer and owner unknown. l930.

(333/6) 302-316 Eddy Street; Herald Hotel. Mid-priced hotel with 159 rooms and 106 baths. 7B stories; steel frame structure and brick walls with terra cotta trim; second floor window surrounds, belt courses, three-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; vestibule with coffered ceiling; lobby: desk and lounge space with pilaster order and coffered ceiling; iron and glass marquee with “Hotel Herald”. Alterations: entry, storefronts replaced in style of 1910s. Owners: Laura Hirschfeld 1910, Citizens Housing Corporation and RHC Communities 2004. Architect: Alfred Henry Jacobs 1910, Schwartz & Rothschild 2004. 1910.

The storefront at 335 Jones Street (identifiable in this photo by the blank, pink-colored blade sign) was formerly the Black Rose, a transgender bar that featured live impersonations of famous female singers. A friend of mine, Nikki Harris, used to perform there as Ella Fitzgerald. The St. George Apartments were originally named for Laura Lowell Gashwiler, widow of a gold mining millionaire and one of the first kindergarten teachers in the United States.

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“Incandescent” (2006)

(317/7) 450 O’Farrell Street; Fifth Church of Christ Scientist. 2B stories; steel and reinforced concrete structure; stucco facade, Greek Tuscan order with decorative panels, vents with clathery, cornice, stained glass side windows; temple composition; Greek classical ornamentation; vestibule: marble steps, bronze doors with decorative friezes and clathery; signs: “Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist” at each end, marble cornerstone with “1923”. Alterations: chain link fence across front. Architect: Carl Werner. 1923.

(317/9) 474-480 O’Farrell Street; stores. 1 story; brick structure; stucco facade; one-part commercial composition; storefronts: tile bulkheads, display windows, transoms. Alterations: security gates, cornice removed, paint, minor alterations to storefronts. Original owner: Proctor Realty Company. Architect: Charles Peter Weeks. 1913.

(317/10A) 500-524 Jones Street; Hotel Proctor (1907), Miles Hotel (1909), Sequoia Hotel (1923), Pacific Bay Inn (1984). Mid-priced hotel with eighty-nine rooms and forty-two baths. 7B stories; brick structure; five-story pavilions with brick quoins and galvanized iron pediments, galvanized iron cornice, rusticated base; three-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; vestibule: decorative entry frame with remodeled vestibule; lobby: iron stair railing; neon blade sign at corner: “Hotel Pacific Bay Inn”. Alterations: storefronts, entry vestibule. Original owner: John W. Proctor, real estate. Architects: Welsh and Carey. 1907.

(318/7) 502-530 O’Farrell Street; Hotel Shawmut, Marymount Hotel (1913); Coast Hotel (2007). Stores and mid-priced hotel with 140 rooms and eighty-three baths. 6B stories; brick structure; terra cotta trim, rusticated second level with decorative brick bands and arches, iron balconies and cornice; three-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; vestibule: bracketed marquee; storefronts: some with decorative iron muntins. Alterations: security grilles, vestibule, corner storefront. Original owner: Mrs. Alice Pease, widow Nelson L. Pease of Central Pacific Railroad. Architect: L.B. Dutton. 1912.

This image exemplifies why I love San Francisco so much. Fiery sunsets set my mind and emotions ablaze, making life’s problems seem mere trifles; elevating me to some higher plane of awareness by making me conscious of what a tiny cog I am in the vast machinery of the Universe.

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Building Ads and Wall Paintings

Warfield Hotel

“Hotel Warfield” (2003)

(340/12) 108-120 Taylor Street; St. Ann Hotel, Hotel Lennox, Bard Hotel, Notel Winfield, Hotel Warfield (1923). Stores and rooming house with seventy-three rooms and thirty-seven baths. 4B stories; brick structure; belt courses, cornice, flat arches with lintels; three-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; vestibule: Ionic order frames entry; storefronts: arched transoms intact; alterations: storefronts, security gate, vestibule. Well-known old Tenderloin bar 21 Club here at 98 Turk Street. Original owners: Aaron and Henry M. Englander, drayage and warehouse. Architects: Ross and Burgren. 1907.

Old signs and painted advertisements had a simple and engaging way of communicating. The parking sign invites one in, its lovely curved arrow pointing the way, and the Par-T-Pak ad for mixers is direct and to the point. Regrettably, the parking sign no longer exists.

Update, 22 Nov 11: “Running Roughshod Over History”


“Rooms” (2003)

(339/5) 124-126 Turk Street; Hotel Portola, Marathon Hotel, Lowell Hotel, Argue Hotel, Camelot Hotel. Rooming house with fifty-seven rooms and thirty-two baths; 6B stories; faded painted sign on upper west wall for “. . . Hotel Portola . . . Rooms . . .”. Alterations: windows replaced with aluminum and all ornament and finishes except decorative iron fire escape on facade altered since 1983. Architect: Albert Farr. 1907.

Another piece of vanished urban landscape is this century-old sign advertising rooms at the Hotel Portola (now the Camelot), which could be seen across a parking lot on Taylor Street between the Taylor Street Center and the Franciscan Towers. Two years after I took this picture, the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation built the eight-story Curran House on the site of the parking lot. Though no longer visible from the street, the rear wall of the Camelot and the side of the Drake Hotel now form the back of a courtyard for the Curran.


“Curran Courtyard” (2007)


“Under Lowering Skies” (2003)

(339/9) 162-166 Turk Street; El Rosa Hotel, Helen Hotel (1985). Rooming house with 30 rooms and 3 baths; 3B stories: brick structure; lobby: stair landing with blue and gold tile floor and simple moldings; painted signs on west side wall include “El Rosa Hotel . . . Transient Rooms”. Alterations: facade stripped. Original owner: O.F. von Rhein. Architect: C.A. Meussdorffer. 1906.


“Advertisement” (2003)

162-166 Turk Street; Helen Hotel.

Old painted advertisements are a part of the central city landscape that I especially love, both for their visual impact and their historical significance.


“Shawmut” (2003)

(318/7) 502-530 O’Farrell Street; Hotel Shawmut, Marymount Hotel (1913), Coast Hotel (2007). 1912.

If you look up from Jones Street at the back of what is now the Coast Hotel, you’ll find this lovely fading relic of a time gone by. Shawmut is the original Native American name for the neck of land on which the city of Boston, Massachusetts was founded. Anglicized, the word has also come to mean spring. The Shawmut was so named because many of its rooms have private baths, something of a luxury at the time the hotel was built.


“Zubelda” (2007)

(693/6) 900-914 Geary Street; Hotel Toronto, Wesley Hotel, Leahi Hotel, California Hotel. Stores and rooming house with forty-one rooms and eight baths; 3B stories; brick structure; stucco facade, window moldings, galvanized iron cornice; 2-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; storefront: prism glass transom over storefront on Larkin; signs: blade sign with neon removed on Larkin Street. Alterations: security gate, remodeled storefronts and vestibule, aluminum sash. Original owner and architect unknown. 1909.

While working on the 2007 survey, I photographed another painted advertisement, one that has weathered the ravages of time quite well when you consider that it’s a hundred years old. There are many more building ads in the Tenderloin than the ones shown here, and many are covered by photographs in my other posts (refer to “building ad” tag).


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The Parlor Houses of Jessie Hayman

“Her bottom was something to watch.”

Born 1867 in New Orleans, Annie May Wyant showed up in San Francisco sometime in the early 1890s. By 1895, using Jessie Mellon as her house name, she was boarding in Mrs. Nina Hayman’s “lodging house” at 225 Ellis Street, an address that later would become one of the best known in the annals of San Francisco prostitution. Opened in the late 1870s by Dolly Adams — former “Water Queen” of the Bella Union Theater — the Ellis Street establishment was taken over by Mrs. Hayman following Dolly’s retirement from madamship in the 1880s. Near the end of 1898, Nina Hayman retired to marry a wealthy San Francisco lumber dealer. As the house favorite, young Jessie took on her mentor’s name and business, and it was as Jessie Hayman or “Diamond Jessie” that she became famous.

Jessie’s full story has been told with great warmth and wit by Curt Gentry in his book The Madams of San Francisco.¹ Suffice for me to say that she was strict yet fair and generous with her girls, and her parlor houses were the most lavish and fashionable in the district. She was tall and elegant, a shapely redhead and a lover of diamonds whose charms (and prices) were legendary in her own time, as illustrated by the following anecdote.

In the late 1890s, photographer Arnold Genthe introduced Jessie to a Grand Duke of the Imperial Russian Empire, who wanted to take her back to Russia with him. When Jessie politely declined, the Grand Duke commissioned Genthe to make a life-size enlargement of her portrait. At a Newport luncheon honoring the Grand Duke the day before he returned to Russia, His Royal Highness proposed a toast.

To the most beautiful woman I have met in your country. She shall be nameless. Even if she were not many miles away, she would not have been included in this gathering. I ask you all to drink her health.

Thus it was that ladies of unquestioned virtue,* the cream of American society, raised their glasses and drank to a demimondaine, for a request from a Grand Duke was a command.

*or so we must suppose

The ultimate fate of the portrait is unknown. Perhaps it was destroyed by Bolshevik Red Guards during the 1917 October Revolution; or maybe, along with other detritus of the fallen empire, it was hidden in a cellar only to be forgotten and left to molder in darkness. No matter what actually happened to the enlargement, we know the negative was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, and thus the only known photograph of Diamond Jessie is as good as forever lost.

Dawn Over Taylor Street

“Dawn Over Taylor Street” (2003)

(340/14) 136–142 Taylor Street; Dunphy Building. Stores and offices/lofts. 4B stories; brick structure; decorative window frames including third level arches, bracketed cornice and pediment; two-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; vestibule: tile floor, sign painted on north wall: “United Railways Telegraph Schools”; alterations: ground floor, storefronts, aluminum windows, vestibule. Original owner: P. Dunphy. Architect: E.A. Bozio. 1906.

Several months after the the 225 Ellis establishment was destroyed by the 1906 fire, Jessie moved with her girls into the top two floors of the newly-constructed Dunphy Building. There they stayed until the fall of 1907, when she acquired a new lodging house on Mason Street and furnished it as a deluxe bagnio.


“Famous Polo’s” (2004)

(341/7) 34-48 Mason Street; The Glenwood (1906); parlor house (1907); Polo’s Restaurant (1952). Storefront and loft. 3B stories; brick structure; decorative brickwork including rusticated piers, galvanized iron cornice; two-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; vertical neon blade sign. Alterations: ground floor remodeled. Architects: Meyers and Ward. 1906.

From 1907 till 1912, when she moved her girls and furnishings to Eddy Street, the Glenwood was Jessie’s parlor house. Much later it would become Polo’s Stadium Club, for many years one of San Francisco’s most popular meeting spots for fine food and drink.


“Crystal Hotel” (2011)

(331/7) 128-132 Eddy Street; The Gotham Lodgings, parlor house, Belva Hotel, Crystal Hotel. Rooming house with forty-seven rooms and twenty-eight baths. 4B stories; brick structure; rusticated second level, upper level with decorative panels, bands, window surrounds, galvanized iron cornice; two-part vertical block; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation. Alterations: ground level completely remodeled, lobby remodeled. Original owners: Daniel O’Neil, contractor, and Cora M. Twombly. Architect Charles R. Wilson. 1908.

130 Eddy was the last of Diamond Jessie’s brothels, from 1912 until her retirement in 1917. The first floor was leased out as a saloon, the parlors and madam’s suite were on the second floor, and the girls’ suites, dining room and kitchen were on the upper floors. With the help of Jessie’s backing, one of her girls later became a leading Hollywood madam under the name Beverly Davis. In her autobiography Call House Madam,² Ms. Davis devotes several chapters to her mentor that include a description of the Eddy Street brothel.

Jessie’s prices were staggering. She had a champagne cellar with wines from all parts of the world. Whoever furnished the house knew his Place Pigalle stuff. There was the red room, the gold room, the Turkish room, the French room, the blue room. oriental couches and shaded lamps, plush parlors one after the other with deep carpets on the floor. The bedrooms upstairs were done in the best style. It reflected ‘tone’ for a parlor house all the way through.

When she died in 1923, Jessie’s net worth in diamonds and Tenderloin real estate was one hundred thousand dollars, the equivalent in 2009 dollars of well over one point two million.


“Joy of Life” (2003)

Crystal Hotel, 128-132 Eddy Street.

One of my germinal photographs, the Crystal Hotel viewed from Mason Street is also one of my favorites. It captures the essence of the Tenderloin as a many-layered source of fascination. I was captivated by these walls long before I had a camera to photograph them. The faded advertisements afforded a glimpse of the past, but the peculiar, limpet-like annex was a real enigma. Could it have been a meat locker for the brothel’s kitchen? No one seemed to know. Near the end of 2005, an acquaintance told me of a former tenant who had used the tiny space as an extra bedroom by cramming a folding camp bed into it. Alas, this anecdote is all I have gleaned. The little annex and lovely ghost signs are now largely hidden, eclipsed by a new housing development, thus bringing to a close this page in Tenderloin history.

Joy Eclipsed

“Joy Eclipsed” (2011)

1. 1964, Doubleday and Company.
2. 1942, Martin Tudordale Corporation

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