Friday, May 13, 2011


Once again, this week my blog is in video form.

Unfortunately, Blogger has decided not to cooperate.  After much trouble, I was able to upload my video below, but alas the quality of the video is terrible.

For a much better quality version of this video, please click here.  Or, copy and paste this URL into your web browser: 


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mission Dolores.


Presidio Chapel, Monterey, California.

On June 17, 1776, Lieutenant Jose Moraga, 16 soldiers and small group of colonists left the Monterey Presidio for San Francisco Bay.  Among the travelers were Fathers Francisco Palou and Pedro Cambon, who accompanied the expedition as founders of the mission.  They arrived four days later and set up a camp on the bank of a lake, named Laguna de Nuestra Senora de los Dolores (Lake of our Lady of Sorrows).

Lieutenant Jose Moraga.

The commander ordered an arbor to be constructed, and the Fathers celebrated the first mass on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29, 1776, just five days before the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia. This little tule arbor built by Spanish soldiers was the first church in San Francisco.  This church was located on the site where the Mission Dolores was later constructed.  The date of June 29th would become the official birthday of the City of San Francisco.

Father Francisco Palou.

Construction of Mission Dolores began on August 18, 1776.  The church was dedicated on October 9th of that year.  Of the 21 California Missions, this was the sixth to be established under the direction of Father Junipero Serra.

Father Junipero Serra.


Mission San Rafael Archangel.

Unfortunately, the often cold and damp weather kept the Native Americans way from this place.  Almost an entire year went by before the first Native Americans were baptized there. The climate at the mission site was severe, often with chilly sea winds and damp fogs.  This did not help the many natives stricken with the diseases brought by the foreigners. More than 5,000 Native Americans eventually died here from the measles epidemic.  The problem of sick natives was so great that eventually, in 1817, a hospital mission was opened in San Rafeal where the Mission Dolores inhabitants could recuperate in the sunshine.  This site would later become the Mission San Rafael Archangel.

1782 - 1791.

Mission Dolores Chapel, 1791.

In 1782 Father Pal√≥u decided to move the mission to a more favorable site.  In 1791 a beautiful new adobe church was dedicated.  The chapel is an excellent example of vernacular colonial Spanish architecture. The walls are constructed of adobe brick four feet thick and the roof beams are of redwood. Traditional Indian designs have been reproduced on the ceiling with vegetable dyes.  The Neophytes (Christianized Native Americans) built this church so well that it withstood the 1906 Earthquake of San Francisco.

Photo of Mission Dolores, taken after 1906 Earthquake.


Mission Dolores.

In 1834, Mexico decided to close Mission Dolores, as well as all the other missions, and sell the land.  Mission Dolores was the first to be secularized. The Indians did not want to come back, and no one would buy it, so it remained the property of the Mexican government.


The grounds of Mission Dolores.
In 1846, California became part of the United States, and American priests took over.  When the California Gold Rush began in 1849, the area became a popular place for horse racing, gambling and drinking.  Land reforms took the land away from Mexico, and soon there were more Irish than Spanish grave markers in the old cemetery.


Mission Dolores.  Present Day.
Mission Dolores is now the center of the city's Hispanic population.  Mission Dolores, the oldest intact building in San Francisco.  The church and cemetery are all that survive of the original complex.  It has been used continuously for religious purposes since it was built.   The adjacent cemetery includes many significant burials, including that of Don Luis Antonio Arguello, the first Governor of California under Mexican rule.  Don Jose Joaquin Moraga, the first commandante of the Presidio of San Francisco, is buried under the altar of the church.  Mission Dolores continues to serve the people of San Francisco and masses are still held today.

Mission Dolores

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ghirardelli Square.

Domenico "Domingo" Ghirardelli


Rapallo, Italy.

Born in 1817 in Rapallo, Italy, Ghirardelli served as a Genoa confectioner’s apprentice and at a young age developed a strong interest in the business. He left for Uruguay when he was 20 years old, then sailed around Cape Horn to Peru where he became a coffee and chocolate merchant.

1848 - 1849.

James Lick

James Lick—Ghirardelli’s neighbor in Lima—left for San Francisco in January 1848 taking 600 pounds of Ghirardelli’s chocolate with him. He arrived just thirteen days before the first shiploads of gold-rush pioneers.

Ghirardelli's general store.

Lured by his friend’s tales of the gold rush, Ghirardelli joined Lick a year later and opened a general store supplying mustard, coffee, spices and, of course, chocolate.

1852 - 1895.

Former site of the Pioneer Woolen Mills.

Between 1852 and 1895, Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Factory was located at four different sites before the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company took over the Pioneer Woolen Mills on North Point Street—today’s site of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Manufactory & Soda Fountain and Ghirardelli Square.

1960's Ghirardelli Menu.


In the 1960s the chocolate manufacturing operation was sold and transferred to San Leandro. A group of San Franciscans, fearing Ghirardelli Square might be demolished, purchased the property.

Ghirardelli Square Layout.

Unique shops and restaurants were created within the old factory, combining the latest in retailing and fine cuisine with the flavor of old San Francisco. The project officially opened on November 29, 1964.

1982 - Present.

Ghirardelli Square.

Ghirardelli Square is considered the first successful adaptive re-use project in the country.  In 1982 the owners applied for and were granted National Historic Register status, a move that ensured the preservation of Ghirardelli Square for future generations.

Ghirardelli Square.

Originally a chocolate factory, today Ghirardelli Square delights visitors with its lively retail mix, while maintaining Ghirardelli’s tradition as a trendsetter for the rest of the world.

Ghirardelli Logo.

The Cannery.


During the 1906 Earthquake and fire of San Francisco, several of the plant facilities owned by the California Fruit Canners Association were destroyed.  That same year, the company gained ownership of a cleared lot on the corner of what are now Leavenworth and Beach Streets, in order to build a new cannery and warehouse.

The New Cannery Building. 1906.

This new waterfront location was perfect for the new fruit and vegetable canning plant.  The location provided berthing for ships, a rail system for bringing fruit and other produce directly from California's fertile agricultural valleys, and a convenient way to ship finished cargo on ocean-bound vessels.


President Roosevelt's Great White Fleet passes in front of The Cannery. 1908.

Cannery workers were able to have a front row view in 1908, as the Great White Fleet steamed through the San Francisco.  The fleet was on it's way around the world on the goodwill tour ordered by President Theodore Roosevelt.


Cannery workers soldering the cans. 1909.

 By 1909, The Cannery the largest fruit and vegetable canning plant in the world, producing over 200,000 hand-soldered cans per day and employing 2,500 people.  The California Fruit Cannery Association eventually changed their name to "Del Monte." 

Hand car.

Crates of peaches were transported by hand car from railroad cars into the cannery for processing.

Crates of Peaches.
After male workers delivered full lugs of peaches to the preparation tables, women removed the pits with spoon-shaped knives and cut each peach in half. The halves were then taken to the peeling department before canning.

Sliced peaches on a conveyor belt inside the factory.
Containers were then filled with peaches through a hole in the lid, which was then plugged with a metal disk and sealed by hand with a solder.


The Cannery. 1923.
This historic photo shows The Cannery in 1923.  To the bottom left of the photo, one can see what would become Hyde Street Pier Ferry Terminal and the Aquatic Park, both of which were built over the rubble from the 1906 Earthquake.

Behind The Cannery, one is able to see North Beach and a bare Telegraph Hill, with the absence of Coit Tower.  Coit Tower would be built 10 years after this photo was taken.  Another familiar landmark is visible in the background - the twin towers of St. Peter and Paul's Church were being built at the time of the photograph.


The Cannery closed in 1937.
As a result of The Great Depression, The Cannery ceased production in 1937.  The Cannery became a warehouse for various companies until the 1960s, when it was doomed to undergo demolition.


Leonard Martin heroically saved the brick-walled cannery by purchasing it in 1963.  His reason for purchasing The Cannery was first to "save the historic structure from the wrecker's ball and, second, to preserve this landmark, not as a static monument but as 'a place for people to detach themselves from everyday hustle and bustle, in an environment reminiscent of the romantic marketplaces of Europe.'"

In an effort to preserved what was left of the original cannery, Martin enlisted a remarkable team of legendary creative and technical professionals to restore the abandoned cannery into a three-level walled city of brick walkways and bridges which would become a hub of fine stores, restaurants and entertainment venues.

Main walkway of the new cannery.

One of the major decisions was to split the massive factory into two buildings, divided by a zigzagging corridor open to the sky.  For preservation purposes, all of the outside walls except those in the central corridor are from the original cannery and packing plant.  Magnolia and pear trees are planted in the central corridor, while the 75-foot wide courtyard is dotted with 20-foot high olive trees, over 130 years old.  These beautiful trees are from an old grove near Marysville, California.

The Present Cannery Courtyard

"In The Cannery we have balconies, open arcades, outdoor escalators, broad and open stairs and a dramatic outdoor glass elevator. We wanted to retain the rich, exciting feeling of a colorful marketplace," stated The Cannery's architect Joseph Esherick.  The beautiful new cannery opened in 1967.   It is now a place for people to sit and relax in the sun, amid flower carts and sidewalk cafes.
San Francisco's street musicians and entertainers perform in the courtyard, and special events are often scheduled, always free to the public.

The Present Cannery Courtyard.

1970 - Present.

The Present Cannery.

Thanks in part to Leonard Martin, The Cannery received an Honor Award in 1970 from the American Institute of Architects and, along with Ghiradelli Square, spurred a national movement to recycle older buildings and influenced tax legislation to preserve them.  The Cannery is still owned by the Martin family. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Castro Theatre.


The Castro Theatre was built in 1922 by the Nasser brothers.  The Castro was built at a cost of $300,000.

Timothy L. Pflueger

The Nasser brothers chose Timothy L. Pflueger (1894-1946) to design the theatre.  Pflueger went on to become a famous Bay Area architect. Pflueger chose an exterior design reminiscent of a Mexican cathedral. 

Example of a Mexican cathedral.

The large windows, the shape of the roof line of the front wall of the building and the plaster wall decorations all combine to convey a look of grandeur in keeping with the large scale of many theatres built in the 1920s. 

Castro Theatre, 1922.

The glazed tile street foyer, ornate tent-like box office and the wooden doors are all from the early 1920s.  The Castro's interior is very diverse. One can sense Spanish, Oriental and Italian influences. The auditorium seats over 1400 in a fantasy setting that is both lavish and intimate. Both side walls of the auditorium are covered with classic motif murals which were created in a wet plaster process called scrafitto. This type of wall decoration is rare.

Interior of the Castro Theatre, 1922.

The mezzanine and balcony above it are reached from the lobby by two dramatic staircases which are highlighted by large mirrors framed in gold. Hanging on the walls of the mezzanine are rare film posters. The mezzanine with its elegant older pieces of furniture is often used for film-related receptions and other parties.


Castro Theatre.

The marquee and vertical neon sign were added in the late 1930s.  On either side of the stage and screen (the small original screen has long ago been replaced with a large screen) are large organ grills.  The Art Deco chandelier dates from 1937 when a small electrical fire destroyed the original parchment fixture.

Interior of the Castro Theatre.

From 1922 until 1976 the Castro showed first and second run mainstream films. Then, in 1976, the theatre was leased to Surf Theatres and later to Blumenfeld Theatres.  These two chains proceeded to change the exhibition format to repertory cinema, foreign films, film festivals and special first run presentations.


In 1982 the theatre's old Conn organ was replaced by a mighty Wurlitzer organ.  Ray Taylor and his sons Dick and Bill began assembling the all-Wurlitzer pipe organ in 1979.  The Taylors had to obtain parts for the organ from many different sources.  For example, the console came from a theatre in Detroit.

2001 - Present.

Interior of the Castro Theatre.

When the last lease expired on July 31, 2001, the Nasser family again took over operation of the theatre. Under their direction substantial improvements were made to enhance and preserve the beauty and functionality of the theatre.
Improvements included the installation of new, larger and more comfortable seats on the main floor and balcony, the stage was expanded to accommodate live performances, a new curtain and a new screen were installed, the entire theatre was recarpeted, the walls were painted and the candy counter was updated.  Additionally, sound quality was improved with installation of new speakers behind the screen.  New stage lighting was installed and the theatre received a new PA system.  The auditorium was wired to accommodate modern audio and video presentations.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Old Vedanta Temple.


The structure is said to be the first Hindu Temple in the Western Hemisphere.  The community’s history reaches back to the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and the fair's concurrent World Parliament of Religions. 

Sri Ramakrishna

Swami (teacher) Vivekananda, a disciple of Sri Ramakrishnavisited San Francisco after attending the conference.  His lectures and classes gathered a significant group of students in the Bay Area who formed the Vedanta Society in 1900.

Swami Vivekananda

The Vedanta is a philosophy based on the Upanishads, the final books of the Veda (ancient Indo-Aryan philosophic/religious texts). It is considered the basis of the Hindu religion and embraces the concept that all religions share the same goal, the achievement of spiritual knowledge and oneness with God.


The Old Temple served as the home for what became the Vedanta Society of Northern California. An early pamphlet published by the Society noted that the Temple "may be considered a Hindu temple, a Christian church, a Mohammedan mosque and a Hindu monastery."


In 1904 the San Francisco group purchased the property on Webster Street for $1,800 in order to build its first temple. The neighborhood was still dotted by sandlots, market gardens, and nursery operations.

Joseph A. Leonard

Joseph A. Leonard was chosen as the architect and worked with Swami Trigunathiandaji on the design. The first two floors were completed in 1905. Leonard (1849-1929) was an eclectic architect and developer who delivered a large Edwardian structure with undeniable Queen Anne touches.

The Old Temple.

In 1907-08, Swami Trigunathiandaji explicitly directed the design of an exuberant third floor: five hollow domes and the graceful, lobated arches of the gallery.  The dome that looks down on Webster Street honors Christianity, seen as a European, Western religion.  The corner dome is a double bulb, patterned on that of a Hindu temple in the Bengal region of India.

Hindu Temple in Bengal, India.

The easternmost Filbert Street dome is a two-stage octagon which represents a Shivite temple in India, but is topped with an Islamic crescent that is itself crowned by a trident.

A Shiva temple in India.

The next dome, moving west, is the “Hershey kisses” dome, a miniaturized replica of a temple in Benares (in Uttar Pradesh, India), also reminiscent of the onion domes of Russian Orthodox architecture. 

"Hershey kisses" dome.

The final dome above Filbert Street is a copy of the Moghul architecture of the Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal.

The Old Vedanta Temple is in good company as a landmark-worthy house of worship and study in its Cow Hollow neighborhood.  The Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral, the English country-style Episcopal St. Mary the Virgin, and the Heidi-Swiss Roman Catholic St. Vincent de Paul churches are all nearby.

1959 - Present.

The "New" Vedanta Temple.

The Vendanta Community used the Old Temple from 1905 to 1959, when the community outgrew the space of the Old Temple.  The “New” Vedanta Temple was dedicated in 1959 at Fillmore and Vallejo Streets, just a few blocks away from the Old Temple.  The Old Temple continues to serve the community as a dormitory, lecture hall, and site of classrooms. Tours of the Old Temple are not available to the public, although architecture students are sometimes given access.