The Tenderloin

WORK IN PROGRESS (Also refer to blog posts for detailed information about individual buildings.)

Uptown Tenderloin Historic District

Map of the Uptown Tenderloin Historic District (National Register of Historic Places listing #08001407, 02 May 2009), with markers referenced to the numbered blocks, individual buildings, and historic sites depicted in this segment (work in progress).

A Brief Introduction

The architectural data in this section was first researched over twenty-five years ago by the late Anne Bloomfield, and more recently—in depth and with meticulous attention to detail—by Michael Corbett, with whom I worked in 2007-8 on a survey of the Tenderloin for the National Register of Historic Places district nomination. Historical details have been drawn from my own research and personal experience, as well as the painstaking research of friend and fellow historian Peter Field, who each spring and fall gives free historical walking tours of the Tenderloin, which I highly recommend to all.


Peter Field and Mark Ellinger, January 2011. At the Castro Theater on the opening night of “Noir City 9.” (Photo by Mike Humbert)

Prior to the establishment of the Uptown Tenderloin Historic District in 2009, the Tenderloin was never an officially adopted district but rather an informal and popular area designation, having no precise boundaries. A complex area linked to well-defined districts on every side, its eastern and northern boundaries in particular were impossible to pin down, and the common name for the area—Tenderloin—did not appeal to the real estate or hotel industries, or to middle class residents. Largely developed as a respectable residential area, it was home to socially ambitious people before the 1906 fire; afterward it was rebuilt for retail and office workers. Yet for over a century it has been best known as the Tenderloin, a center of both legal entertainment businesses including theaters, restaurants, bars and clubs, and illegal businesses for the accommodation of vice—prostitution, gambling, prohibition era drinking, and drugs.


“Tenderloin Chronicles – Ellis and Larkin” Snapped on one of countless photographic excursions through the Tenderloin, this shadow portrait of myself includes what was once Tessie Wall’s parlor house, seen here as a bright orange building in the upper right.

Early Development

In the years just prior to the California Gold Rush, the vicinity of what would later be known as the Tenderloin was an undeveloped area with low sand dunes rising along the southern flank of Nob Hill. When the United States began its conquest of California in 1846, Lieutenant Washington Allon Bartlett, USN was first appointed and then elected as the alcalde* of the trading hamlet of Yerba Buena. Believing that marrying the town’s name to that of the San Francisco Bay would give them a commercial advantage, its merchants and tradesmen prevailed upon Bartlett and on 30 January 1847 he issued a proclamation that officially changed the name of Yerba Buena to San Francisco.


Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

View of San Francisco, formerly Yerba Buena, in 1846-7, before the discovery of gold. The eastern slope of Nob Hill rises above Yerba Buena Cove and Montgomery Street on the waterfront in this early engraving, published after the village of Yerba Buena was officially renamed San Francisco. In the distance are “Los Pechos de la Choco”—otherwise known as Twin Peaks—and the solitary pinnacle of Lone Mountain.

The town’s growth prompted Bartlett’s successor as alcade, Edwin Bryant, to hire an Irishman named Jasper O’Farrell to survey the town and extend its limits. O’Farrell’s 1847 survey projected a grid of streets onto open land covering an area of some 800 acres bounded by the waterfront, Francisco, Post and Leavenworth Streets, thereby setting the stage for further development. Most of the future Uptown Tenderloin was included in William M. Eddy’s 1849 survey that extended O’Farrell’s projections west to Larkin, and the remainder of the district was within the 1858 extension of Eddy’s survey to Divisadero.

Official Map, 1847
Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Official map of San Francisco, 12 August 1850. This plan for the City’s streets was drawn from William Eddy’s projections, a month before California was admitted to the Union.

Early development of the district took place in the low area between Turk and Ellis Streets that stretches east from Jones Street to around Fourth and Market, then known as St. Ann’s Valley. In 1853 there were fewer than twenty buildings in the entire area. Six years later roughly a quarter of the lots in St. Ann’s Valley and along adjacent streets had buildings on them. By 1865 every street in the district was lined with nearly continuous rows of wood buildings, mostly row houses and flats and some single family houses set back from the street, and the inhabitants were mainly the socially ambitious—the bourgeoisie or middle class.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Map of San Francisco, 1853. Developed blocks are shaded; outlined in red is the approximate extent of St. Ann’s Valley.

Market & Mason, 1865
Source: Bancroft Library, Jesse B. Cooke Collection

St. Ann’s Valley, 1865. In this view looking north across a freshly graded Market Street, the declivity of St. Ann’s Valley is readily apparent. Visible on the right is the foot of Mason Street.

The Tivoli Opera House

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Tivoli Opera House, circa 1878.

In 1877 Joseph Kreling was a young man who thought that San Francisco needed music. Determined to fill that need, he a gave concerts in a former mansion near the foot of Eddy Street by performers that included a ladies’ orchestra from Vienna. When the craze for Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore swept across America, Alice Oates and company performed it in San Francisco, and soon afterward other comic opera companies appeared on the horizon. Kreling hired various members of these companies and with them founded his own opera company in 1879. A short block from the Tivoli was the newly-opened Baldwin Hotel, full of travelers and businessmen in need of entertainment, and partly through them the Tivoli’s popularity and renown soon became far-flung. For nearly thirty years, except in observance of Kreling’s death, the Tivoli Opera House never closed its doors.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Tivoli Café, 1905. The Tivoli Café was on Eddy Street near the corner of Anna Lane (now Cyril Magnin Way). The building partly visible on the left was the Tivoli Opera House until the end of 1903, when the company moved into its new opera house, the refashioned Panorama Buiilding at Eddy and Mason.


Postcard, 1903.

When director W.H. Leahy took charge of the house in 1890, he began producing Italian opera four months of the year with companies he recruited from small opera houses in Italy. In 1903 he built a new Tivoli Opera House around the old Panorama Building on the southwest corner of Mason and Eddy, where now stands the Ambassador Hotel. While traveling in Mexico late the same year, Leahy heard soprano Luisa Tetrazzini singing with an itinerant Italian opera company in Mexico City. Leahy engaged the entire company and in 1904 they opened the new opera house in Rigoletto. Singing the part of Gilda despite a cold, Mme.Tetrazzini became an immediate sensation. For the next two years her many performances at the Tivoli packed the house to overflowing and Luisa Tetrazzini became a star of international repute.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Market and Mason, 1905. To the right, behind sculptor Douglas Tilden’s Native Sons Monument, are the tower and east facade of the Tivoli Opera House at the corner of Mason and Eddy (note the sign advertising “Miss Timidity”). Across Eddy Street from the opera house is the mansard-roofed Golden State Hotel above Spider Kelly’s saloon, and behind it is the Techau Tavern. That the Native Sons Monument was originally located in the Tenderloin is piquantly ironic when viewed in the light of a popular ditty that ran thus:

The miners came in forty-nine
The whores in fifty-one;
And when they got together
They produced the native son.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Ruins of the Tivoli Opera House, 1906. Two years after it opened, the new opera house was destroyed by the Great Earthquake and Fire.

Source: California Digital Newspaper Collection

San Francisco Call, 13 March 1913. W.H. Leahy brought back Luisa Tetrazzini (pictured near the center of the photo spread) to reprise her role as Gilda when he opened a brand-new Tivoli at 70 Eddy Street, near the site of the first Tivoli Opera House.

Source: California Digital Newspaper Collection

San Francisco Call, 13 March 1913. The new Tivoli’s opening night performance was attended by the creme de la creme of San Francisco society.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Tivoli Opera House, 1949. Following construction of the War Memorial Opera House as part of the new post-fire Civic Center, and as popular entertainment changed from musicals and vaudeville to motion pictures, the Tivoli’s popularity faded and attempts to revive the splendor of the old opera house failed. The Tivoli had its final season in 1949, and in 1951 the building was demolished and replaced by a parking garage.

Tivoli Opera House, 1951
Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Tivoli Opera House, 1951. Stripped of equipment and furnishings, its walls already broken by demolition crews, the opera house awaited the wrecking ball when the entrance and marquee were captured in this wistful farewell portrait.

Birth of the Tenderloin

After a Comstock silver lode bonanza made him a multimillionaire, in 1878 Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin opened a luxury hotel and theater bearing his name on the northeast corner of Powell and Market. In the area nearby were restaurants and saloons where gambling took place, and around 1885 dance halls and parlor houses began to appear in the district. Where the money flows, there also vice goes; and thus from around 1880 through the 1890s, the area roughly encompassed by Market Street, Union Square, City Hall, and Van Ness Avenue—distinctly uptown from the Barbary Coast near the waterfront—developed as a center of entertainment and vice that was subsequently characterized as “tenderloin,” a term that originated in New York.

Source: Bancroft Library, Jesse B. Cook Collection

Baldwin Hotel, 1879. Here photographed a year after it opened, the Baldwin was a luxury hotel, the equivalent in its time of the present-day Hilton Hotel complex between Ellis and O’Farrell Streets.

In a history by Herbert Asbury, the coining of “tenderloin” is ascribed to the New York Police Department’s Captain Alexander Williams, who in 1879 was reportedly transferred to the 29th Precinct that had jurisdiction over an area called Satan’s Circus. When asked by a friend why he seemed so pleased about his transfer, Williams alluded to extortion payments made to police by the area’s shady and illicit businesses, saying,

I’ve had nothing but chuck steak for a long time, and now I’m going to get a little of the tenderloin.

While the story of its origin is anecdotal, the euphemism was well-chosen and from New York the term’s usage spread across the country to San Francisco; both Chicago and Los Angeles, for example, had their own Tenderloins.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

St. Ann’s Building, 1879. The St. Ann’s Building was on the northwest corner of Eddy, across Powell Street from the Baldwin Hotel. On the ground floor were a billiards parlor, a bank, and a barbershop. An entrance on Eddy Street led downstairs to the Louvre Bar and Restaurant in the basement. When the St. Ann’s Building was destroyed in the 1906 fire, it was replaced by a reincarnation of the Techau Tavern. Near the end of World War I that building was demolished to make way for a branch of A.P. Giannini’s Bank of Italy, designed by Bliss and Faville and completed in 1920.

Map courtesy of Nancy Pratt Melton

Bird’s Eye View Map (detail), 1896. Outlined in red is the area that was characterized as “tenderloin.”

The earliest application of “tenderloin” to San Francisco is not precisely known, but the Tenderloin is described by that name in the 1890s by various historians including Herbert Asbury, who calls the district the Uptown Tenderloin in his book about the Barbary Coast. Lawrence Wonderling penetrates the heart of the district’s mystique when he writes

The Tenderloin was etched into the San Francisco infrastructure long before San Francisco recognized the word. […] For over 100 years the Tenderloin has waxed and waned within . . . (its) outer perimeters. […] It has been structurally destroyed, publicly intimidated, blasphemed and socially quarantined, all of which may have served to alter, but never eliminate, the Tenderloin.

Near the end of the nineteenth century the physical fabric of the area began to change, such that by 1905 there were a few brick buildings and a multi-story hotel or two in almost every block.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Baldwin Hotel Fire, 1898. E.J. Baldwin’s luck turned against him when his hotel was destroyed by a fire on 23 November 1898, and newspapers shortly thereafter began referring to him as “the former millionaire.”


Postcard, Flood Building, 1904. The Flood Building was built on the site of the Baldwin Hotel by the heirs of James C. Flood, whose Consolidated Virginia Mine yielded the largest mineral strike in US history.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Ellis and Taylor, 1905. Small storefronts line the north side of Ellis Street between Taylor and Mason, the block where today stands the Hilton Hotel complex. Partly visible in the background is the Mason Street YMCA.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Ellis and Powell, circa 1905. The view is to the east from Powell Street. The Flood Building is the nearest building on the right, and about mid-block on the left is boxer Jim Corbett’s saloon.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

O’Farrell and Jones, circa 1905. Pictured here is the northeast corner of the intersection, where today stands the Pacific Bay Inn.

O'Farrell b4 fire_06
Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

O’Farrell Street before the fire, 1906. The view is to the east below Leavenworth. To the left are flats above storefronts; on the right is a rooming house next to Victorian row houses with gated fences around small front yards. In the distance is the domed Call Building on Market Street.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

O’Farrell Street east of Van Ness Avenue, 1906.


The 1906 earthquake and fire completely devastated the neighborhood, leaving only a few brick walls and the shell of St. Boniface Church within the future boundaries of the historic district.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

The day everything changed, 18 April 1906. Photographs of the old district are rare and none more eloquently capture the flavor of Old San Francisco than this view of the area once known as St. Ann’s Valley. Wood frame buildings line the north side of Eddy Street; the large building in the left foreground is the Alhambra Theater on the northeast corner of Eddy and Jones, now Boeddeker Park. The Flood Building at Powell and Market is the uppermost building on the right. By the end of the following day the entire district would be devoured by the conflagration, seen here in the background as a towering wall of smoke.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Eddy below Leavenworth, 18 April 1906. On the left is a Baptist church with a false front in Greek Revival style; at the bottom of Eddy Street is the old Market Street Emporium.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Mason Street, 6:25am, 18 April 1906. Smoke from the South of Market fire fills the sky in this dramatic photo, shot from just below Eddy Street fifteen minutes after the ‘quake.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Turk and Taylor, 18 April 1906. “. . . wood buildings, mostly row houses and flats […] (with) a few brick buildings and a multi-story hotel or two in almost every block.”


SF Guide Map, 1907
Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Guide Map (detail), 1907. Inside the red fire zone, the Tenderloin is outlined in light-blue.

In the aftermath of the disaster a new building law was enacted that played a major role in the rebuilding of the Uptown Tenderloin. Until 5 July 1906, when the new building law took effect, new construction was prohibited. Most importantly, the entire district was covered by the newly established “fire limits” requiring fire resistant building materials and methods. All construction had to have brick or reinforced concrete exterior walls; the large number of wood buildings that were in the area before the fire could not be rebuilt as they were.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

The smitten city, 1906. Looking northwest from Mason Street near Eddy, this remarkably detailed post-fire panorama includes much of what is now the Uptown Tenderloin. Until 1906 it was largely a neighborhood of wood buildings interspersed with structures built of unreinforced masonry. Consequently the district’s destruction by fire was particularly complete, as most buildings were entirely reduced to ashes.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Powell and Market, 1906. A few shards were all that remained of the St. Ann’s Building on the corner of Powell and Eddy. The burned-out shell of the Flood Building is on the right.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Jones and Turk, 1906. A twelve story “fire proof” building was reduced to a pile of broken masonry and twisted steel. Partly visible on the left is Hale Brothers on Market Street.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

O’Farrell and Leavenworth, 1906. Many buildings were virtually gone without a trace.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Ruins of the Tivoli Opera House, 1906. The Tivoli Opera House has been mistakenly named by some as the predecessor of the War Memorial Opera House, when in fact that honor belongs to the San Francisco Opera House on Mission Street, also destroyed in the fire; where Enrico Caruso gave what would be his last performance in San Francisco on the night before the ‘quake.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Market and Mason, 1906. Visible to the left of the Native Sons Monument are the ruins of the Poodle Dog Restaurant.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Ruins of the Poodle Dog Restaurant at Eddy and Mason, 1906. The original Poodle Dog was one of the City’s best-known restaurants, where everyone who was anyone in San Francisco could be seen from time to time. Above the public restaurant were private dining rooms, and on the floors above that were private rooms that were used for assignations and other, less mentionable affairs. In 1910 a new Poodle Dog opened at 125 Mason, the site of the Techau Tavern before the fire. The new Poodle Dog had an unmarked driveway to a garage in the rear, from which patrons could take an elevator directly to the private rooms above the restaurant.

The arrangement of private rooms above a downstairs restaurant was characteristic of San Francisco’s French restaurants, especially those in the Uptown Tenderloin. A surviving building of this type is at 851 O’Farrell, first opened in 1908 as Blanco’s Hotel and Restaurant. Next door at 859 O’Farrell was Blanco’s Cafe (now the Great American Music Hall), opened in 1906 by “Blind Boss” Chris Buckley, a saloonkeeper and neighborhood political organizer who became “boss” of San Francisco’s Democratic Party in the 1880s. Until he was deposed by a grand jury in 1898, Buckley made sure the Southern Pacific Railroad got what it wanted and ran the City the way he wanted by controlling a corrupt municipal government in the interest of graft.

Jones Street above O'Farrell, 1906
Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

O’Farrell and Jones, 1906. “Herman S. Hoyt sits on the remains of the two story cottage that was his residence at 512 Jones Street.” A year later, the Hotel Proctor (Pacific Bay Inn) was built on this site.

The requirement for fire resistant buildings substantially increased construction costs, creating economic pressure to build larger buildings that generated more income from rents. Uptown Tenderloin property owners rebuilt on a much larger scale than what had existed before the earthquake. As a result, insurance payments provided only a fraction of the cost of new construction, and thus the Uptown Tenderloin was slower to be rebuilt than most other parts of the City.

Reconstruction – The First Wave



Winton Hotel. 445 O’Farrell Street. Stores and rooming house with 102 rooms and thirty-one baths. Architect: William Helbing. 1907.

The district’s reconstruction was marked by successive waves of activity, and the first wave arrived as soon as the rubble left by the fire had been cleared. Some of the first buildings to go up were constructed with brick bearing walls, which require deep-set windows and segmental relieving arches—what I like to call “SRO windows.” In addition to the load of floors, roof, furniture and people, bearing walls must also support their own ponderous weight; the arched lintels keep the window openings from caving in by laterally distributing the weight of the wall above them.


“Late Afternoon – Lower Eddy” 2007 Survey

Hotel Cecil (1907), Hotel Russell (1911), Hotel Kern (1923), William Penn Hotel (1984). 160 Eddy Street. Hotel with 109 rooms and fifty-four baths, later converted to rooming house. 160 Eddy Street. Owner: City of San Francisco (2007). Architect: Albert Pissis. 1906.

Langham Hotel (1911), Empress Hotel (1923). 144 Eddy Street. Rooming house with ninety-two rooms and sixty-two baths. Architect: Charles R. Wilson. 1907.

Crystal Hotel. Formerly Jesse Hayman’s brothel (1912-1917), the Gotham Lodgings, Belva Hotel. 130 Eddy Street. Rooming house with forty-seven rooms and twenty-eight baths. Architect: Charles R. Wilson. 1908.

Hotel Wade (1923), Mason Hotel (1982), Powell West (1990s), Bijou (2000). 111 Mason. Stores and mid-priced hotel with sixty-five rooms and thirty-nine baths. Architects: Miller and Colmesnil. 1914.

Designed by the architect of the Hibernia Bank Building at 1 Jones Street, the Hotel Cecil (William Penn) is one of a few hotels in the district with storefronts that have remained largely intact (note the transom windows, ironwork, and recessed doorways). Next to it, looking eastward, are the Empress, Crystal and Bijou hotels, with the Parc Wyndham Hotel looming in the background.


“Hotel Hamlin”

(338/18) 385-387 Eddy Street; Hotel Hamlin, Victory Hotel (1982). Mid-priced hotel with eighty-six rooms and fifty-two baths. 6B stories; brick structure; glazed brick facade, with molded and two-color brick tiers of windows; two-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; vestibule: arched entry, marble walls, coffered ceiling; signs: painted “Hotel Hamlin” on upper west side wall. Alterations: marquee removed, security gate. Original owner George Hamlin Fitch; Designer unknown. 1906.

The first new post-fire buildings in the district were mostly concentrated in the area closest to Market Street. Notable exceptions were the Winton Hotel at 445 O’Farrell, the Arlington Hotel at 480 Ellis, the Hotel Proctor (Pacific Bay Inn) at 520 Jones, and several buildings around the intersection of Eddy and Leavenworth, including the Hamlin, Allen, and Cadillac Hotels. Opened in 1906, the Hamlin was the very first hotel to be completed after the fire, followed the same year by the Allen Hotel and the Cadillac in early 1907.

Source: California State Library

Hotel Hamlin, 1906. Next to the already-opened Hamlin is the Lando Building, later converted to a rooming house named the Lando Hotel. Across Leavenworth Street is the nearly-finished Allen Hotel.


Postcard, Hotel Arlington, circa 1907.


Postcard, Hotel Arlington, circa 1907.


“Pacific Bay Inn”

Hotel Proctor (1907), Miles Hotel (1909), Sequoia Hotel (1923), Pacific Bay Inn (1984). 520 Jones Street. Hotel with eighty-nine rooms and forty-two baths. Architects: Welsh and Carey. 1907.

This close-up shows very clearly the Renaissance and Baroque derivations of the building’s ornament.


“Early Morning – Eddy Street” 2007 Survey

Hotel Ormond (1909), Hotel Jefferson (1982). 440 Eddy Street. Architects: Harry J. and William L. Oser. 1906.

Hotel Fairfax. 420 Eddy Street. Rooming house with 56 rooms and 14 baths. Architects: Stone and Smith. 1907.

Hotel Leo (1911), Hotel Kinney (1982). 410 Eddy Street. Rooming house with fifty-seven rooms and thirteen baths. Architect: Emil John. 1907.

Rosslyn Hotel (1911), Burbank Hotel (1929–1933). Hotel Verona (1982). 317 Leavenworth Street. Architects: Julius Krafft and Son. 1910.

Cadillac Hotel. 380 Eddy Street. Hotel with 170 rooms and ninety-one baths in two-, three-, and four-room suites. Architects: Meyer and O’Brien. 1907.

“A New Day – Leavenworth and Eddy” 2007 Survey

Hotel Hamlin. 387 Eddy Street. Hotel with eighty-six rooms and fifty-two baths. Architect unknown. 1906.

K and H Hotel (formerly Lando Hotel, Troy Hotel, Hotel LeBurt, Lester Hotel, Hotel St. George). 395 Eddy Street. Office building converted to rooming house by 1914. Architects: Rousseau and Sons. 1906.

Allen Hotel (formerly Holckele Hotel). 411 Eddy Street. Stores and rooming house with twenty-nine rooms and eight baths. Architect: Julius E. Krafft. 1907.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Cadillac Hotel, 1907.

Sunset - the Cadillac

“Sunset – the Cadillac”

Cadillac Hotel. 380 Eddy Street. Hotel with 170 rooms and ninety-one baths in two-, three-, and four-room suites; dining room converted to boxing gym in 1924. Owner: Andrew A. Louderback, poultry, game, and distilling (1907), Reality House West (1977). Architects: Meyer and O’Brien. 1907.

A spacious lobby with a red marble fireplace, a mezzanine-level gallery, and grand stairways to a former dining room together indicate that the Cadillac was designed to attract tourists as well as permanent residents. (For a detailed history of the Cadillac Hotel, see “Cadillac”.)


Postcard, circa 1907.


“Anamnesis” 2007 Survey

Granada Garage. 256–266 Turk Street. Contractor: Monson Brothers. 1920.

Building under construction. 230–250 Turk Street.

Apartment building. 218 Turk Street. Contractor: Monson Brothers. 1921.

205 Jones Apartments. 205 Jones Street. Architect: Edward E. Young. 1924.

Antonia Manor (formerly Hotel Governor). 180 Turk Street. Architect: Creston H. Jensen. 1925.

Here photographed in mid-construction and completed in early summer 2008, the Salvation Army’s Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center was built with funds that were part of a $1.5 billion bequest made in 2003 by hamburger heiress Joan Kroc. It replaces the Army’s old community center, which many years ago had been the Hotel Von Dorn, one of the buildings erected during the first wave of the district’s reconstruction. In its heyday the Von Dorn was clearly a very charming and cozy hotel.


Tri-fold postcard, circa 1908. Faintly visible behind the Hotel Von Dorn’s steel frame is the Hotel Cadillac on Eddy Street.


Postcard, circa 1915.

The Parlor Houses of Jessie Hayman


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 would later 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 up 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 often 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.

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 the darkness. No matter what actually happened, 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 at 44 Mason 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.

From 1912 until her retirement in 1917, 130 Eddy was the last of Diamond Jessie’s brothels. 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 housing development, thus bringing to a close this page in Tenderloin history.

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

Reconstruction – The Second Wave


“Jones and Ellis” 2007 Survey

Mendel Apartments. 415 Jones Street. Seventy two-room units. Architect: Frederick H. Meyer (1912), addition Grace Jewett (1919). 1912.

Hotel Aldrich. 439 Jones Street. Rooming house with fifty-four rooms and fifteen baths. Architect: Charles Peter Weeks. 1910.

Hotel Garland. 505 O’Farrell Street. Stores and hotel with eighty-five rooms and seventy-three baths. Architects: Hladik and Thayer. 1913.

Hotel Shawmut, Marymount Hotel (1913), Coast Hotel (2007). 516 O’Farrell Street. Stores and hotel with 140 rooms and eighty-three baths. Architect: L.B. Dutton. 1912.

(right) Riveira Hotel. 420 Jones Street. Stores and hotel with thirty-eight rooms and seventeen baths. Architects: Crim and Scott. 1907.

A second wave of construction occurred between 1910 and 1913, when housing was constructed for the builders and later the visitors of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. By 1913, when much of San Francisco was largely rebuilt, many lots in the Uptown Tenderloin remained vacant. Several blocks were more than half empty, and buildings in the district were mostly three- to five-story hotels, many of which housed workers who rebuilt the city. There were also saloons, a new Tivoli Opera House, the Hamman Baths, and “motion picture supplies” (film exchanges) on the ground floors of hotel buildings. Interspersed throughout were more than a few illicit businesses, some of them quite famous in their time, such as the parlor houses of rival Tenderloin madams Tessie Wall and Jessie Hayman, and elegantly infamous French restaurants like Blanco’s on O’Farrell Street and the reincarnated Poodle Dog at 125 Mason, which had elevators to soundproof private rooms where patrons were discreetly served by button-lipped waiters.



Herald Hotel. 308 Eddy Street. Hotel with 159 rooms and 106 baths. Owner: Citizens Housing Corporation and RHC Communities (2004). Architects: Alfred Henry Jacobs (1910), Schwartz and Rothschild (2004). 1910.

Now that it has been restored, the Herald is one of the loveliest buildings in the Tenderloin, appearing much the same as it did a century ago. The large corner storefront was originally a drug store. Ten years after he designed the Herald, architect Alfred Henry Jacobs designed the now-demolished Granada Theater on Market Street (see also “Paramount Theater” in Part II: Mid-Market).


Brochure, Hotel Herald, circa 1910.


“Herald Lobby”


Postcard, circa 1910.



Erleen Hotel, Yale Hotel (1982). 633 Larkin Street. Store and rooming house with twenty-one rooms and five baths. Architect: G. Albert Lansburgh. 1911.

Along with many more famous structures such as the Golden Gate Theater and the Warfield Building, the Yale was designed by native son G. Albert Lansburgh.


“Shawmut Hotel”

Hotel Shawmut, Marymount Hotel (1913), Coast Hotel (2007). 516 O’Farrell Street. Stores and hotel with 140 rooms and eighty-three baths. Architect: L. B. Dutton. 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.


“Ellis and Mason – Saloon and Bathhouse”

Diamond Hotel. 201-225 Ellis Street. First occupants: “cigar store, boot black stand, saloon, and two stores.” Rooming house with twenty-five rooms and eleven baths. Architect: Smith O’Brien. 1910.

Hamman Sultan Baths (originally Burns Hamman Baths). 227-231 Ellis Street. Bath house with salt water plunge. Architect: Smith O’Brien. 1910.

The Diamond Hotel was built on the site of the Haymarket Dance Hall run by Jerome Bassity, the “uncrowned king of the Tenderloin” and one of the more unsavory characters in Tenderloin history. Bassity would lure girls to a place that he co-owned in Sacramento, where they were broken into prostitution and then returned to San Francisco to be “turned out” in a parlor house run by his girlfriend Stella Hayes. When the Diamond Hotel opened, Bassity ran a gambling den in the basement that he slyly named the Thirty-third Assembly District Club. The San Francisco Chronicle was fond of pointing out that whenever the San Francisco Police Department raided neighborhood gambling establishments, they always managed to overlook Bassity’s “club.”

The building to the right of the Diamond Hotel is the Hamman Baths, one of two neighborhood bathhouses with plunges that were filled with saltwater from Ocean Beach, catering to residents of lodgings where water was a once-a-week provision. In the early twentieth century a public bathhouse may have also been cheaper than the extra cost of a bath in a hotel. John Galen Howard, architect of the University of California campus and one of California’s most respected architects, died at the Hamman Baths in 1931. The Lurline Baths, rebuilt in 1915 and demolished in 1936, were at Bush and Larkin.


Postcard, circa 1915.


“Film Exchange Buildings” 2007 Survey

Film exchange. 201-211 Golden Gate Avenue. Architect: Albert Schroepfer (attributed). 1920.

Film exchange. 213 Golden Gate Avenue. Architect: Albert Schroepfer. 1920.

Film exchange. 215-229 Golden Gate Avenue. Architect: Albert Schroepfer (attributed). 1920.

Film exchange. 241-243 Golden Gate Avenue. Architect unknown. 1916.

Film exchange. 247 Golden Gate Avenue. Architect unknown. 1911.

The Ayse Manyas Kenmore Center, sales room and offices. 255 Golden Gate Avenue. Architect: Reid Brothers. 1916.

Beginning with the motion-sequence experiments of Eadweard Muybridge and his invention of the zoöpraxiscope* in 1879, San Francisco has been a center of independent film making, distinguished by innovation in all areas of the film industry. In the early years of the cinema, movie theaters had to buy the films they showed from the studios. A couple of San Franciscans named the Miles Brothers revolutionized film distribution in 1902 by purchasing films from the studios and renting them to theaters, thereby establishing the first centralized film exchange, the equivalent of a lending library for movie theaters.

Many early film exchanges were located in Tenderloin buildings because of their proximity to Market Street cinemas; however, nitrate film† was explosively volatile, so ordinary buildings were dangerous places in which to store movies, especially large quantities of them. Although delayed by political inertia (the ’06 conflagration notwithstanding), by 1911 was born the first of the Tenderloin’s many film exchange buildings: fireproof, reinforced concrete structures specifically designed for storing film.

*Muybridge’s zoöpraxiscope was one of the primary inspirations for Edison and Dickson’s Kinetoscope, the first commercial film exhibition system.

Nitrocellulose was used as a flexible base for motion picture film until 1951, when it was replaced by acetate-based safety film.

To be continued . . .

The following text and photos are unedited material:



Hotel Essex. 684 Ellis Street. Hotel with 128 rooms and seventy-two baths. Architects: Righetti and Headman. 1912.

Though unique amid the surrounding architecture, the Art Nouveau-inspired facade of the Essex was nevertheless crafted to blend in by its designer, James Francis Dunn. The hotel’s neon blade sign is especially fine. Now owned by the Community Housing Partnership, the Essex began undergoing renovation late in 2006.


By the end of April 2008, its renovation was complete. The paint job is unfortunately garish and unbecoming, but the new marquee and restored blade sign are spectacular, although it seems the latter may still have some electrical problems. Even so, the corner of Ellis and Larkin is utterly transformed after dark by the torrid glow of neon.

Ellis below Larkin

2007 Survey

David Apartments (formerly Chevy Chase Apartments). 360 Hyde Street. Forty-six one- and two-room units. Owner and Engineer: William Helbing Company. 1925.

Crescent Apartments. 359 Hyde Sreet. Forty-eight two- and three-room units. Architect: Louis H. Gardner. 1916.

Apartment building with eight six-room units. 615–629 Ellis Street. Architects: Crim and Scott. 1909.

Agate Apartments (formerly Dorothy Apartments). 635 Ellis Street. Eighteen two- and three-room units. Architect: J.G. Kincanon. 1914.

The apartment building first emerged around 1900 and, over the next thirty-five years, gradually gained ascendancy over the hotel to satisfy the need for multiple-unit, “close-in” housing. Paul Groth has identified the essential difference between apartment and hotel as the individual kitchen, versus the central meal service provided by the hotel or from outside the building altogether. Constructed exactly in the period of competition between the two forms of multiple-unit housing, the Uptown Tenderloin Historic District contains buildings of both forms, as well as hybrid apartment-hotels which had more privacy than hotels and provided more services than apartments.

Hyde and Ellis

2007 Survey

Pearsonia Apartments. 401 Hyde Street. Thirty-eight two-room units. Architects: Bauman and Jose. 1924.

Apartment building with eight one- and two-room units. 419 Hyde Street. Contractor: O.E. Carlson. 1922.

Eros Apartments. 425 Hyde Street. Twenty-five two- and three-room units. Contractor: The Helbing Company. 1923.

Clarke Apartments (formerly Myrtle Apartments). 437 Hyde Street. Twelve two-room units. Owner and builder: E.V. Lacey. 1922.

Killilea Apartments. 451 Hyde Street. Seven three-room units. Owners: M.E. and Matthew J. Killilea. Builder: Matthew J. Killilea. 1909.

Apartment building with forty-four two-room units. 455 Hyde Street. Owners: Jacob Steur and Edward V. Lacey. Contractor: Jacob Steur. 1926.

The largest and final wave of construction, cresting between 1922 and 1924, consisted almost entirely of apartment buildings.


Erleen Hotel, Yale Hotel (1982). 633 Larkin Street. Store and rooming house with twenty-one rooms and five baths. Architect: G. Albert Lansburgh. 1911.

The Deco motif that distinguishes the Yale Hotel’s sign is a defining characteristic of several old blade signs scattered throughout the central city.


Cameo Apartments

Cameo Apartments. 485 Eddy Street. Apartment building with seventeen two-room units. Owner: Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (1996). Architects: Rousseau and Rousseau. 1916.

Brown Jug


Brown Jug Saloon. 496 Eddy Street. Corner storefront of the Carmel Apartments. Architect unknown. 1917.

Formerly an Owl (later Rexall) drugstore, the Brown Jug has been in continuous operation since 1941. Owned by Max McIntyre and affably managed by bartenders Charles, Vince, Jo, and Mark, it is one of the neighborhood’s “old school” survivors and a favorite of many long-time Tenderloin residents.


Eddy and Hyde


Princess Pat Apartments. 305-307 Hyde Street. Stores and apartments with thirty-nine two-room units. Architects: Helbing Company. 1925.

Carmel Apartments (formerly Alclyde Apartments). 302 Hyde Street. Apartment building with twenty-two two-room units. Architect unknown. 1917.

Flats. 484-490 Eddy Street. Architect: J.A. Porporato.

Yosemite Apartments (formerly Bonita Apartments). 480 Eddy Street. Thirty-five two-room units. Architect: Edward E. Young. 1924.

Machine shop converted to garage by 1929. 466 Eddy Street. Owner and builder: Louis D. Stoff. 1920.

Elite Garage. 460 Eddy Street. Architect: Norman W. Mohr. 1927.



Klinge Apartments. 450 Eddy Street. Sixteen two- and three-room units. Owner and builder: Francis O’Reilly. 1924.

Ghost Light


Hotel Ormond (1909), Hotel Jefferson (1982). 440 Eddy Street. Architects: Harry J. and William L. Oser. 1906.

One of the City’s first Master Lease hotels, the Jefferson has been managed since 1999 by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. Especially at night, the hotel looks like the setting for an old Alfred Hitchcock film or one of Dashiell Hammett’s stories such as The Maltese Falcon, which takes place in the Tenderloin.

Down Eddy Street


These next two shots are among my earliest photos. Although the marquee and nearly all of the blade signs have had their neon fixtures removed, what you see here is pretty much the way most sidewalks in the lower Tenderloin appeared as recently as thirty or forty years ago.


I love the patchwork quilt of overlapping signs and fire escapes that recede into the distance.

Two Hotels


Hotel Leo (1911), Hotel Kinney (1982). 410 Eddy Street. Rooming house with fifty-seven rooms and thirteen baths. Architect: Emil John. 1907.

Rosslyn Hotel (1911), Burbank Hotel (1929–1933). Hotel Verona (1982). 317 Leavenworth Street. Architects: Julius Krafft and Son. 1910.


Between 1988 and 2002, the year the San Francisco Sprinkler Ordinance was passed, hotel fires had claimed over 1,700 SRO units and several lives. Thousands of tenants lost their property to fire and were displaced for months and even years afterward. When a fire burned out several rooms at the Kinney in 1999, the hotel was shut down and boarded up for seven years, removing fifty-seven units from the housing market. The hotel was finally reopened in midsummer 2006.


Born in Germany and educated at Stuttgart, Julius E. Krafft immigrated to America in 1872, spent a couple of years in Chicago, and moved to San Francisco in 1874. For twelve years he ran the drafting department for T.J. Welsh (Welsh and Carey*), after which he opened his own business. Among the buildings designed by Krafft are the Hotel Verona, Allen Hotel, and St. George Apartments in the Tenderloin, St. Paulus Lutheran Church at 999 Eddy, a Lutheran church in Alameda, and numerous private residences. G. Albert Lansburgh, who later designed the Golden Gate Theatre and many other famous structures, worked for Krafft while studying at UC Berkeley.

*Buildings in the Tenderloin designed by Welsh and Carey are the Rocklin (Western) Hotel, Hotel Proctor (Pacific Bay Inn), and an apartment building at 965 Geary.

Lower Leavenworth

2007 Survey

(left) K and H Hotel. 395 Eddy Street.

McAllister Tower. 100 McAllister Street.

YMCA. 220 Golden Gate Avenue.

Page Hotel. 161 Leavenworth Street.

Hotel Hurley. 201 Leavenworth Street.

Ivanhoe Apartments. 223–229 Leavenworth Street. Stores and apartment building with eight two-room units. Architects: Rousseau and Rousseau. 1915.

Carlton Apartments (1924), Lan Court Apartments (1933). 237 Leavenworth Street. Twenty-three two-room units. Architect: E. H. Denke. 1922.

Morning Side Apartments (formerly Grand Rapids Apartments, Chester Apartments, Lady Florence Apartments). 245 Leavenworth Street. Forty-eight two- and three-room units. Architect: H. Geilfuss. 1910.

Allen Hotel. 411 Eddy Street.

The area that forms the Uptown Tenderloin Historic District was entirely constructed in the years between the earthquake and fire of 1906 and the Great Depression. Social, economic and legal forces together made the most marketable structure a three- to seven-story, multi-unit residential apartment, hotel, or apartment-hotel constructed of brick or reinforced concrete.

View from the Empire Market

2007 Survey

Cadillac Hotel. 380 Eddy Street.

Hotel Elm. 364 Eddy Street.

Lenice Lee Apartments (formerly Eddystone Apartments). 340 Eddy Street. Eighty-nine two- and three-room units. Owner: Indochinese Housing Development Corporation (2007). Architect: Lewis M. Gardner. 1911.

Penwell Apartments. 326 Eddy Street. Twenty-four two-room units. Architect: Andrew H. Knoll. 1923.

Hotel Herald. 308 Eddy Street.

A limited number of architects, builders and clients produced a visually consistent, classically oriented group of buildings that conform to the same vocabulary of ornament and utilize the same decorative materials: brick or stucco facings enhanced with molded galvanized iron, terra-cotta, or cast concrete.


Manila Townhouse Apartments (formerly Estelle Apartments). 335 Eddy Street. Eight apartments over store. Owner and architect unknown. 1916.

Besides the apartment windows, the most compelling features of this building are its signs, both new and old. The Khmer script of the Battambang Market marquee and the antique, shield-shaped metal armature are an interesting juxtaposition of cultures and times. One of the earliest writing systems used in Southeast Asia, Khmer script has evolved over a thousand years and is descended from the ancient Brahmi script of India.

Boeddeker Park


Boeddeker Park is a tiny inner city park in the middle of the Tenderloin. Since its opening and dedication over twenty years ago to the late Father Boeddeker, the Franciscan who established the St. Anthony Foundation, the park has been plagued with crime. The City’s shortsighted, heavy-handed, entirely ineffective solution was to erect a tall, stout fence of steel around the perimeter of the park and down the length of the brick-paved footpath that bisects it, afterward removing all the lovely cast-iron park benches along the footpath, resulting in a landscape that is uninviting and devoid of comfort. One of the nicest remaining fixtures is the clock that stands at the park’s entrance, thankfully outside the fence.

Taylor and Eddy


Hotel Windsor. 238 Eddy Street. Rooming house with 112 rooms and sixty-two baths. Architect: Charles R. Wilson. 1909.

Alexander Residence (formerly Olympic Hotel). 230 Eddy Street. Hotel with 225 rooms and 179 baths, dining room, lounges, and parking garage; water originally from basement well. Architects: Clausen and Amandes (1928), Asian Neighborhood Design (2004).

Hotel Ritz. 216 Eddy Street. Rooming house with 111 rooms and forty baths. Owner: City of San Francisco (1983). Architect: Ralph Warner Hart. 1910.

All three of these hotels have been rehabilitated and converted to supportive housing. Most recent was the Alexander Residence, by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, which has its offices across the street in the Franciscan Towers.

Below are some postcards of the Alexander in its glory days, when it was the Olympic Hotel.



Alcatraz Island is strangely missing and the Oakland side of the Bay Bridge ends before landfall in this heavily retouched picture of San Francisco Bay, circa 1939.



Franciscan Towers


Franciscan Towers (formerly Hotel Clark). 201–229 Eddy Street. Architect: Henry H. Meyers. 1914. Rooming house with 153 rooms and 127 baths, rehabilitated with 105 units by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation. Exterior completely remodeled in Moderne style, circa 1950.


Postcard, circa 1939.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Connie’s Restaurant, 1941.Newscopy: “Two doors at Connie’s bid you welcome. One leads to the waffle shop . . . the other to the cocktail buffet. Jim Weir manages both institutions, which really are one. Connie’s is a favorite dining and drinking rendezvous . . . the address, 225 Eddy Street.”

Lower Taylor

2007 Survey

Warfield Hotel. 118 Taylor Street.

Warfield Theater. Unit block Taylor Street.

(right) Golden Gate Theatre. 1 Taylor Street.

Grand Hotel. 57 Taylor Street. Stores and hotel with 156 rooms and 123 baths. Architect: C. A. Meussdorffer. 1906.

Taylor Street Center (formerly St. Ann Hotel, Hotel Lennox, Bard Hotel, Hotel Winfield). 111 Taylor Street. Architect: A.M. Edelman. 1907.

Curran House. 145 Taylor Street.

Franciscan Towers. 201 Eddy Street.

The ground floor of 111 Taylor Street was at one time Compton’s Cafeteria, site of the 1966 Compton’s Riot, the first documented gay and transgender uprising against the police.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library (Photo: Larry Moon)

111 Taylor Street, 1982. After Compton’s Cafeteria closed, the ground floor was occupied for many years by Frenchy’s K and T, an adult bookstore.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Taylor Street, 1926. The photographer must have climbed a lamp post to shoot this dramatic perspective, looking north on Taylor from near Market Street. On the left is the Grand Hotel; nearest on the right are the Porter and Warfield Hotels. In the late 1970s. after the Porter Hotel and an adjoining row of storefronts and one-arm eateries on Turk Street were torn down, the foundations were filled in and paved over to make a parking lot.


Postcard, Grand Hotel, circa 1907.

Original Joe’s


Original Joe’s Italian Restaurant. 144 Taylor Street.

On 12 October 2007, a $2 million fire burned out this 70 year-old Tenderloin landmark. Although a sign on the front door says, “Closed due to fire, opening soon”, rumor has it that the owner, Marie Duggan, daughter of the original Joe, has been having problems with the insurance company. The restaurant is missed by all in the neighborhood and by many people around the world.


Original Joe’s Italian Restaurant. 144 Taylor Street.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Lower Eddy Street, 1942. This photo was apparently taken from the second floor of the Rosenbaum Building (better known in more recent years as Polly Esther’s or Club 181), across Eddy Street from the Hotel Kern (now the William Penn). The nearest buildings on the left are the Empress, Crystal, and Wade (now the Bijou) hotels. Before the Hallidie Plaza BART station was constructed in the 1970s, Eddy Street actually began at Market and Powell. The building in the upper right corner is the old Emporium on Market Street.



Langham Hotel (1911), Empress Hotel (1923). 134-144 Eddy Street. Rooming house with ninety-two rooms and sixty-two baths. Original owner: Grace Ormart. Architect: Charles R. Wilson. 1907.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Crystal Sandwich Shop, 110 Eddy Street, 1931. Located in a storefront of the Hotel Wade (now the Bijou) the Crystal Sandwich Shop was a Prohibition era speakeasy run by bootleggers Harold McGuire and Dutch White. It was renamed the 110 Club in the late ’30s, when it was acquired by Tenderloin gambler “Bones” Remmer.

Crystal (interior), 1931
Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Crystal Sandwich Shop, 1931.


Bristol Hotel

Bristol Hotel (formerly The Athens lodgings, Hotel Belmont). 48-98 Mason Street. Rooming house with sixty-four rooms with baths. Architect unknown. 1908.

Bristol lobby, 1974.
Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library (Photo: Mary Anne Kramer)

Bristol lobby, 1974.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library (Photo: Alan J. Canterbury)

Chez Paree, 150 Mason Street, 1964. When the row of buildings above the Olympic Hotel was razed, the Chez Paree and its famous sign moved across the street to 139 Mason, into what had been the All Star Strip Club.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library (Photo: Alan J. Canterbury)

All Star Strip Club, 139 Mason Street, 1964. All of the buildings between 115 and 167 Mason have been razed and replaced by Glide Community Housing at 125 and 149 Mason Street.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Mason Street, 1906. At the photo’s center is the burned-out shell of the Fairmont Hotel on top of Nob Hill. Center right are the six story ruins of the Poodle Dog at the northeast corner of Mason and Eddy.


“Mason and Turk” 2007 Survey

Shot from the same perspective as the previous photograph, this is how Mason Street appears today. The sign for the short-lived Crash Club marks the site of Polo’s Restaurant.

Tudor Apartments and Padre Hotel

Tudor & Padre

Tudor Apartments. 225 Jones Street. Twenty two- and three-room units. Designer: August G. Headman. 1923.

Padre Hotel (formerly Crystal Hotel). 241 Jones Street. Hotel with ninety rooms and baths. Architect: Herman C. Baumann. 1928.

When the Tenderloin was extolled for its jazz clubs and night life, the Musicians Union Hall was its wellspring of entertainers. Located just across Jones Street from the union hall, the Padre Hotel was then known as a musicians’ hotel.

Jones and Turk

Jones and Turk
2007 Survey

205 Jones Apartments. 205 Jones Street. Stores and apartment building with fifty two-room units. Architect: Edward E. Young. 1924.

Tudor Apartments (behind trees). 225 Jones Street. 1923.

Padre Hotel. 241 Jones Street. 1928.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Unit block Golden Gate Avenue, 1926. For many years the upper floor of the Golden Gate Avenue Garage (far left) was a chauffeur’s club. On the right are the rear entrance and marquee of the now-demolished Granada Theater (see also “Paramount Theater” in Part II: Mid-Market).

Saint Boniface


St. Boniface Church. 133 Golden Gate Avenue. Architects: Brothers Adrian Weaver and Idelphonse Lethert. 1902, rebuilt 1906. Originally served the German population of San Francisco.

The home of San Francisco’s Order of Franciscan Monks, Saint Boniface Church is next door to the order’s Saint Anthony Foundation and dining room. Established in 1950 to feed the poor by Franciscan Friar Alfred Boeddeker, the Saint Anthony Foundation provides clothing, shelter, and medical and social services for the poor and homeless, and its dining room feeds over 2,500 people every day.


Pulpit and lectern, St. Boniface Church.

Upon entering the new millennium, St. Boniface underwent a three-year, $12 million seismic retrofit and renovation of the church, tower and friary, and constructed a new middle school in the renovated shell of the former administration building. The sumptuous restorations of the church’s historic finishes and fixtures are breathtaking. Unfortunately, because I didn’t have proper equipment when I shot it, this photo falls far short of showing how beautiful they really are.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

St. Boniface, 1906. The original church was tipped with spires, as seen to the left in this photo. In front of City Hall on the right is the domed Hall of Records. Smoke in the background is from the Market Street and Hayes Valley fires.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

St. Boniface after the fire, 1906.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Lower Golden Gate Avenue, 1944. The nearest building on the right is the friary of the Franciscan Fathers; the building to its left was until 1949 a film exchange.

Knights of Columbus, 1941
Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Knights of Columbus, 1941. The beautiful Knights of Columbus building at 150 Golden Gate was demolished in 2007 by its owner, St. Boniface Church.



Earle Hotel. 248 Golden Gate Avenue. Rooming house with twenty-nine rooms and nine baths. Architect: Charles E.J. Rogers. 1913.

What I like most about the Earle is its side wall, which shows the roof lines of now-departed neighboring buildings.

Golden Gate & Larkin, 1925
Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Golden Gate and Larkin, 1925.

Golden Gate & Larkin, 1964
Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library (Photo: Alan J. Canterbury)

Federal Reserve Lounge at Golden Gate and Larkin, 1964.



Balboa Hotel. 120 Hyde Street. Stores and rooming house with forty rooms and three baths. Architect unknown. 1913.

The Balboa Hotel is an unobtrusive building on Hyde Street, near Golden Gate Avenue. The ground floor is taken up by a variety of small businesses: a restaurant, a laundry and a tiny convenience store. The hotel’s facade would be entirely unremarkable if it weren’t for the beautiful stained glass marquee over its entrance.



Oasis Apartments (formerly YMCA Hotel). 351 Turk Street. Hotel with 386 rooms and thirty-seven baths converted to apartments. Architect: Frederick H. Meyer. 1928.

In 2003, a fire that broke out in one of the Oasis’s rooms was extinguished by the automatic room sprinkler before the Fire Department arrived. A long struggle by housing activists to have sprinklers installed in all the rooms of every residential hotel in San Francisco was still underway, making this a newsworthy event. I happened to be walking by the Oasis just as the fire engines arrived, so I was able to watch this little drama unfold. I took pictures and interviewed the battalion chief, and afterward wrote a brief article that I submitted along with the photos to the neighborhood paper. This was the photo the editor chose to accompany the article.


Postcard, circa 1928.


And here is the photo that stumped my friend who for many years had lived across the street from the Oasis without actually seeing the building (refer to my home page).

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Turk below Hyde, 1906. At the photo’s center are the ruins of St. Boniface on Golden Gate Avenue.

Leavenworth above Eddy

2007 Survey

Hotel Verona. 317 Leavenworth Street.

Hotel Klondike (1933). 325 Leavenworth Street. Rooming house with seventeen rooms and three baths. 1907. Architect: John Zimmerman.

Hotel Rocklin (1914-1923), Hotel Black (1933), Western Hotel (1982). 335 Leavenworth Street. Rooming house with forty rooms and seventeen baths. 1907. Architects: Welsh and Carey.

Trinity Apartments. 345 Leavenworth Street. Thirty-one two-room units. 1919. Architect: Edward E. Young.

The reconstructed district’s hotels and apartments appealed to those who wanted or needed to live within walking distance of downtown: people who couldn’t afford or didn’t want to set up independent households, young professionals and young couples not settling in a single city or house, clerical and service employees whose incomes didn’t stretch far enough to permit full apartments or suburban flats, and seasonal workers.

Cultural Imperatives and the Riviera Hotel

Cultural Imperatives

“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.

And now, here is something a bit off the beaten path. 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.



“Mentone” (2003)

(332/12) 387–397 Ellis Street; Hotel Mentone. Hotel with eighty rooms and eighty baths. 6B stories; steel frame structure with Flemish bond brick; galvanized iron cornice and five-story bay windows; two-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; desk lobby with coffered ceiling, decorative elevator frame; storefronts: prism glass transoms survive over two stores, green marble base; neon blade sign at corner (restored); alterations: glass panes removed from marquee and side panels added, vestibule remodeled, storefronts partially altered. Original owner: Board Realty Company. Architects: Smith and Stewart. 1913.

Across Ellis Street from the Riviera Hotel is the Hotel Mentone. I have always found the name “Mentone” somewhat amusing; it stirs up notions of steamy locker rooms and old-fashioned gyms redolent of leather and sweat. A few years after I photographed the hotel, some of its original character was restored by a new paint job, but to be honest, it was the faded beauty shown here that I really loved. Happily, the unique lettering on the marquee and corner blade sign has been preserved, as it hearkens to a time when more San Franciscans lived in residential hotels than in any other type of domicile.

Postcard - Mentone

“Postcard, circa 1915.” Note the glass-paned marquee.

Hotel Mentone

“Hotel Mentone” (2003)

Until 1930, sixty percent of San Franciscans were permanent hotel residents. Between 1975 and 1980, landowners eliminated 6,085 units, almost a fifth of the City’s entire stock of residential hotel units. Today, San Francisco’s residential hotels house nearly 30,000 people.



Hotel Adams (1914-1922), Hotel Lenard (1933), Aarti Cooperative Hotel (1996). 391 Leavenworth Street. Stores and rooming house with fifty-five rooms and fifteen baths. 1906. Architects: Salfield and Kohlberg.

The first building purchased by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (in 1981), the Aarti became a joint project between TNDC and Conard House, a non profit provider of assistance to people with mental health issues. Between the Aarti and the Senator runs a gated cul-de-sac named Cohen Alley that has been transformed into what is called the Tenderloin National Forest, a little oasis of greenery and community art.



Hotel Senator. 519 Ellis Street. Hotel with 114 rooms (1923), converted to eighty-six apartments (1991). 1923. Architects: Baumann and Jose.

The Senator lost its beautiful cornice and the double-hung sash of its graceful bow windows in 1991, when the building was converted from a hotel to apartments.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Hotel Senator, 1924.


The Senator’s restored blade sign is a masterpiece of sign-making art, although I wouldn’t want to live in any of the rooms that are near it.


Postcard, circa 1923.


When the Senator’s blade sign was restored, I anticipated the eventual restoration of the marquee. Several years passed after I took this photograph. The marquee was at last removed, but instead of being restored, it was replaced by a much smaller plywood copy, a poor imitation of the original.

Ellis and Leavenworth

2007 Survey

Waldorf Apartments. 516 Ellis Street. Seventy-six rooms and forty-four baths. 1910. Architect: William Helbing.

Calvin Apartments (1914), August Apartments (1922), Gibson Apartments (1929), Sierra Madre Apartments (1998). 421 Leavenworth Street. Forty-eight two- and three-room units. 1913. Architect: Rousseau and Rousseau.

Farrelworth Apartments. 601 O’Farrell Street.

Ellis below Leavenworth

2007 Survey

Arlington Hotel. 480 Ellis Street. Hotel with 200 rooms and eighty-nine baths, dining room. 1907. Architect: Frank T. Shea. Current owners: The St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Lurie Company.

Klimm Apartments. 460 Ellis Street. Twenty one-, two- and three-room units. 1913. Architects: Salfield and Kohlberg.

Junipero Serra Apartments (formerly Ellis Hotel Apartments). 450 Ellis Street. Thirty two- and three-room units. 1909. Architect: L. M. Gardner.

Bharatiya Mandel Hall (formerly Waitresses Union). 440 Ellis Street. Hall and office building. 1938. Architect: William F. Gunnison.

Janice Mirikitani–Glide Family Youth and Child Care Building (formerly transfer and storage building). 434 Ellis Street. 1926. Architects: O’Brien Brothers. City Art Program mural on east wall “An Art Works SF Production” 2001.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Ellis Street, east from Leavenworth, 1945. The Arlington Hotel is on the left; just left of center is the Hotel Adair (see next image).

Cornice (Reflected Light)


Lassen Apartments (formerly Hotel Adair). 441 Ellis Street. 1915. Architect: J. R. Miller.

One morning, while on a rambling walk in search of subject matter, I let my feet make their own decisions without any conscious directive (I’ll sometimes do this when I’m in need of inspiration). Walking down Jones Street and reaching Ellis, my feet turned right and headed west. My eyes were pointed upward, as they often are, so the first thing I saw on rounding the corner was the sunlight reflected onto this beautiful cornice, revealing details that are normally lost in shadow.



Aldrich Hotel. 439 Jones Street. Rooming house with fifty-four rooms and fifteen baths. 1910. Architect: Charles Peter Weeks.

This is the Aldrich Hotel’s blade sign in 2003.


And here is the same sign three years later, following its restoration. Blade signs are part of what makes the Tenderloin unique, and the preservation of these artifacts heightens a sense of place for residents and visitors alike.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

Jones below Ellis, 1906.

Ellis below Jones

2007 Survey

Field Apartments (formerly Arlin Apartments, Bryar Apartments). 344 Ellis Street. Thirty two-room units. 1909. Contractor: Moses Fisher.

Airporter Terminal, 1982
Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library (Photo: Larry Moon)

Airporter bus terminal, 1982. After the airport bus terminal at Ellis and Mason was torn down in the late ’70s to make room for an expansion of the Hilton Hotel, a new terminal was built on the southwest corner of Ellis and Taylor, opposite Glide Memorial Methodist Church. The tall building behind the terminal is the Olympic Hotel (now the Alexander Residence) on Eddy Street.

Ellis and Taylor


Glide Memorial Methodist Church. 301 Taylor Street. 1930. Architect: James W. Plachek. Cornerstone: “Glide Memorial Evangelistic Center 1930.”

Two doors up Taylor Street from Glide Memorial Church is the Hotel Mark Twain (formerly the Tilden Hotel), where, in 1949, Billie Holiday was arrested during a raid by federal narcotics agents, who claimed they found the singer in possession of opium and a pipe. She was later acquitted, after being defended in court by San Francisco attorney Jake Ehrlich, who had previously defended such famous figures as Sally Stanford and Gene Krupa.

Mason & Ellis YMCA, 1906.
Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

YMCA, Ellis and Mason, 1906. Just three years after the Ellis Street Y was destroyed by the conflagration, its modern steel-frame replacement was completed at 220 Golden Gate Avenue (see also “YMCA” in Part Three: Uptown Tenderloin).

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Casino Theater, circa 1917. Built on the site of the Ellis Street YMCA, the Casino Theater occupied the northeast corner of Ellis and Mason, where now stands the Nikko Hotel. Featuring both vaudeville and motion pictures, the theater first opened on 08 April 1917. Renamed the Downtown Theater in 1942, it closed for the last time on 19 September 1952.

Downtown Terminal, 1959
Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Downtown Terminal, 1959. Built for the bus line that served the SF International Airport, the Downtown Terminal was on the northwest corner of Ellis and Mason. Buses entered on Ellis Street and exited in the rear on Latham Place.



Columbia Hotel. 411 O’Farrell Street. Stores and hotel with 110 rooms and eighty-two baths. 1909. Architects: Sutton and Weeks.

With its yellow-painted facade and mansard roof, and its bright green, five-story-tall Deco corner blade sign, the Columbia was definitely an eye-catcher. It stood out amid the surrounding architecture like a heretic in a crowd of conformists. In 2008, it returned to the fold when it was repainted in a palette of subdued earthen colors. I must admit I liked the Columbia far more when it was heterodox, and so in remembrance I offer this photo.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

O’Farrell and Taylor, 1955. Newscopy: “Photo shows the southeast corner of Taylor and O’Farrell Streets, chosen today as the site of a new downtown air line bus terminal. The terminal will occupy the area covered by the corner hotel, and probably will extend to take in the Bohemian Garage on O’Farrell Street, owned by Larry Barrett.” All of the buildings in this photograph are now gone, and the entire block has been taken over by the enormous Hilton Hotel complex.

Source: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley

O’Farrell east of Jones, 1906.

Pacific Bay Inn


Hotel Proctor (1907), Miles Hotel (1909), Sequoia Hotel (1923), Pacific Bay Inn (1984). 520 Jones Street. Hotel with eighty-nine rooms and forty-two baths. 1907. Architects: Welsh and Carey.

The Pacific Bay Inn often leaves its neon sign turned on during the day, which allowed me to capture it, appropiately, against a backdrop of summertime fog coming in from the bay.

Summer Fog


In 2004, I spent the Fourth of July with a couple of friends in their apartment on the seventh floor of the Pacific Bay Inn, which afforded me an excellent view of the lower Tenderloin. It was a typical San Francisco summer day, warm and sunny until around 4:00 in the afternoon, when the fog, lots of it, began to pour in from the ocean.


Summer Evening - The Tenderloin

Later that evening, I took this photograph from the same window.

O’Farrell and Leavenworth

2007 Survey

Harding Apartments. 595 O’Farrell Street. Store and apartment building with nine two-room units. 1918. Architect: C.O. Clausen.

Farrelworth Apartments. 601 O’Farrell Street. Eighty two-room units. 1918. Architect: H.C. Baumann.

Alexander Hamilton Condominiums (formerly Alexander Hamilton Hotel). 631 O’Farrell Street. Apartment hotel with 195 units of three to nine rooms. 1930. Architect: Albert H. Larsen.

The Alexander Hamilton was originally designed as a luxury apartment-hotel; its enormous lobby is lavishly decorated with stunning Deco appointments.


Admiral Hotel. 608 O’Farrell Street. Stores and hotel with thirty-three rooms and thirty-three baths. 1916. Architects: Foulkes and Lowe.

Tall, pink, wide and sporting a cornice that looks positively aerodynamic, the Admiral Hotel is anything but subtle. The fan-shaped marquee over the entrance is rather special, too. At one time, the Admiral was fairly classy as residential hotels go, but its exterior belies how seedy the interior has become. Unfortunately, a presentable exterior that hides living conditions ranging from sub-standard to outright hellish is typical of many SROs these days, although this is slowly changing as non-profit housing companies take over more of these hotels.


Upper Tenderloin

2007 Survey

Pontchartrain Apartments. 685 Geary Street. Store and apartment building with forty two-room units. 1916. Architects: Rousseau and Rousseau.

Colonade Apartments. 550 Leavenworth Street. Twenty two-room units. 1915. Architects: Rousseau and Rousseau.

Aragon Apartments. 540 Leavenworth Street. Forty-three two- and three-room units. 1914. Designer: David C. Coleman.

Beginning at the bottom of Nob Hill’s southern slope, the Tenderloin’s streets follow its northward rise until the Tenderloin becomes Lower Nob Hill, which ultimately becomes the exclusive Nob Hill. As the streets climb upward, so also do property values, even within the Tenderloin, and thus apartments between O’Farrell and Geary command the highest rents in the district.

2007 Survey

Stanford Apartments. 795 Geary Street.

Reynolds Apartments (1915), Lareme Apartments (1923), Jervis Apartments (1933-1937). 534 Hyde Street. Twelve two- and three-room units. 1912. Architects: Hladik and Thayer.

Arcadia Apartments. 522 Hyde Street. Fifteen three-room units. 1910. Architect: W.G. Hind.



Hydrangea Apartments. 525 Hyde Street. Fourteen two-room units. 1914. Architect unknown.

Nite Cap


Nite Cap Lounge. 699 O’Farrell Street. Corner storefront of the Ruthland Apartments (691 O’Farrell Street). Circa 1916. Architects: Rousseau and Rousseau.

Once in a while, I’ll pay a visit to the Nite Cap, one of the friendliest neighborhood bars in the Tenderloin. It’s small and cozy, with a pool table and a jukebox filled with an eclectic mix of rock, jazz, and R&B. With the exception of the pool table, the interior still looks and feels much the same as it did the first time I saw it, nearly forty years ago.

O’Farrell above Hyde

2007 Survey

La Rell Apartments (1918), Lormer Rooms (1953), Weiland Hotel (1964), Hotel Kinmon South (1982), Ambika Hotel (2007). 788 O’Farrell Street. Stores and apartment building converted to rooming house with twenty-six rooms and ten baths. 1914. Architects: Salfield and Kohlberg.

Edgeworth Hotel. 770 O’Farrell Street.

Cristobal Apartments. 750 O’Farrell Street.

O’Farrell Garage. 740 O’Farrell Street. 1922. Engineer: James H. Hjul.

Apartment building with twenty-three two- and three-room units. 730 O’Farrell Street. 1922. Owner and builder: D.J. Clancy.

Garage (originally stores). 720 O’Farrell Street. 1930. Owner and builder: John Seale.

O’Farrell below Larkin

2007 Survey

Loma Court Apartments. 725 O’Farrell Street. Apartment building with thirty-one two- and three-room units. 1923. Architect: Woodward Wethered.

Carlway Apartments. 735 O’Farrell Street. Apartment building with twenty-four two-room units. Owner and builder: Carl F. Ernest, plumber. Bronze plaque next to entry: “Carlway Apts.”

Store. 741-745 O’Farrell Street. 1948. Architect unknown.

Grand Court Apartments. 755 O’Farrell Street. Apartment building with thirty-three two- and three-room units. 1922. Owner and builder: J. Steur.

Rockwell Apartments. 765 O’Farrell Street. Apartment building with thirty-one two-room units. Owner and builder: E.V. Lacey.

Apartment building with seven three-room units. 771-775 O’Farrell Street. 1923. Engineers: John G. Little and Company.

Apartment building with thirty-two two-room units. 777-785 O’Farrell Street. 1926. Architect: J.C. Hladik.

Mira Valle apartments (formerly Hotel Mira Valle, 1911-1922). store and rooming house converted to apartment building with fourteen rooms and eight baths. 1907. Architect: Philip Schwerdt.

(West of Larkin) Burnett Apartments. 801-815 O’Farrell Street. Store and apartment building with forty-four two-room units. 1913. Architect: C.H. Skidmore.

O’Farrell above Larkin

2007 Survey

Hotel Iroquois. 835 O’Farrell Street. Mid-priced hotel with eighty rooms and seventy baths. Architect: Moses J. Lyon. 1913.

Barbett Apartments. 845 O’Farrell Street. Apartment building with twenty-three two-room units. Architect unknown. 1924.

Apartment building (originally Blanco’s Hotel and Restaurant, later Taft Hotel). 851 O’Farrell Street. Mid-priced hotel with forty-six suites, each with bath; converted to apartments with twenty-seven two-room units. Architects: Righetti and Kuhl. 1908.

Great American Music Hall (formerly Blanco’s Cafe: 1906-1923, Music Box: 1939-1946, Blanco’s: 1950, Charles Restaurant: 1968-1974). 859 O’Farrell Street. Original owner: “Blind Boss” Chris Buckley. Architect: A.W. Edelman. 1906.



Briscoe Apartments. 946 Geary Street. Nine two- and three-room units. 1916. Architect unknown.

The Briscoe is across Geary Street from the Geary Arms and next to the Edinburgh Castle, a perennially popular watering hole, in what is locally known as the Tendernob, the area where the somewhat fuzzy social, cultural, and architectural boundaries of the Tenderloin and lower Nob Hill overlap.

Geary and Hyde

2007 Survey

Earl Court Apartments. 747 Geary Street. Twenty-one three-room units. Architect: Sylvain Schnaittacher. 1922.

Rossmoor Apartments (formerly Macbeth Apartments). 765 Geary Street. Forty-eight one-, two- and three-room units. Architect: Charles Peter Weeks. 1911.

Apartment building with thirty-six two- and three-room units. 775 Geary Street. Architect: Edward E. Young. 1922.

Stanford Apartments (formerly St. Anthony Apartments). 795 Geary Street. Forty-eight two- and three-room units. Architects: O’Brien and Werner. 1912.

Geary and Jones

2007 Survey

Hotel St. Claire (formerly Oliver Hotel). 585 Geary Street. Hotel with forty-six one- and two-room units. 1912. Architects: Hladik and Thayer.

Hotel Nazareth. 556 Jones Street.

Davenport Hotel (1933), Commonwealth Hotel (1952), Hotel Pierre (1982). 540 Jones Street. Hotel with eighty-eight rooms with baths. 1926. Architect: H.C. Baumann.

Pacific Bay Inn. 520 Jones Street.

Abbey Apartments (formerly Athmore Apartments). 450 Jones Street. Apartment hotel with fifty-four rooms and fifteen baths in two- and three-room units. 1909. Architects: Sutton and Weeks.



Nazareth Hotel (formerly Hotel Towanda, Hotel Louie). 556 Jones Street. Hotel with fifty-six rooms and forty-six baths. 1913. Architect: A.A. Schroepfer. Engineer: H.J. Brunnier.

The Nazareth Hotel sits at the edge of the Tenderloin on the corner of Geary and Jones. Its battered, weather-beaten sign is awkward and far from beautiful, but it was the sign that attracted me, not the hotel. After some searching I found the sign’s home, framed against the visual anarchy of a tangle of nearby fire escapes and pipes.

Magic Hour


This parting shot places the Tenderloin within a larger perspective. From the east entry steps to City Hall, the northeast view encompasses four districts. Some of the flags that line Civic Center Plaza flutter in the foreground. Behind the Civic Center steam plant stack, which looms over the northeast corner of McAllister and Larkin, is the McAllister Hotel; to its left are the Rainbow Apartments, and behind it, in the Tenderloin, is UC Hastings Law School. Also representing the Tenderloin are the red-brick Oasis Apartments facing the Turk Street Mosser Tower, and the monolithic Hilton SF Tower I, which dwarfs everything around it. The dome flying the American flag is part of the Hilton complex. Arguably the most famous building in the Union Square District, the St. Francis Hotel is seen here to the left and behind the Oasis. A Financial District landmark at 555 California Street, the red granite Bank of America building is twelve blocks distant as the crow flies.


Except where otherwise indicated, text and photos on this site are copyright © 2004-2015, Mark Ellinger. Any use and/or duplication of this material without prior written permission from the author is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mark Ellinger and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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112 responses to “The Tenderloin

  1. Joann

    Thanks for all this work you have done. I stumbled on this site because I have teapot from the Warfield Cafe. The kind of “silver” 8oz teapots used at the old cafes. Please let me know if you would like pics of this and if you have any interior pictures of the cafe.

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