Bliss & Faville (1898-1925)
Bliss designed this house for himself and his wife. It occupies one of the most privileged sites in San Francisco, the Gold Coast of Pacific Heights bordering The Presidio high above San Francisco Bay.
The original tavern on Mt. Tamalpais was built at the upper terminus of the Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway in 1896. It was destroyed by fire in 1923 and replaced in 1924 by a more modest building designed by Bliss & Faville. The Bliss & Faville building was razed in the 1950s after a windstorm destroyed the roof.
(Click Photos to Zoom)
Walter Danforth Bliss was born in Nevada. His father, a successful banker and entrepreneur, was able to send his five children to the Masssachusetts Institue of Technology. At MIT, Bliss met his future partner William Baker Faville who had been born in San Andreas, California, but reared in western New York State.
Bliss and Faville left MIT in 1895 to work for McKim, Mead & White in New York City. In 1898, they moved to San Francisco and formed a partnership. They leveraged the business connections of Bliss' father to secure residential commissions and build a reputation.
Charles F. Crocker selected the new firm to design the St. Francis Hotel on Union Square and sent the pair to Europe to study the finest hotels in London and Paris. In 1904, the hotel opened. Just two years later, it was being expanded from a U shape to an E shape when most of downtown San Francisco was destroyed by the 1906 Eathquake and Fire. The hotel was damaged, but it was repaired and reopened in 1907.
Bliss bought the lot at 2990 Vallejo Street in 1910 and built his house next door to that of architect Edgar Mathews. The house he built for himself and his wife was an early use of reinforced concrete in a residential building. From the front, the house appears to be two stories high, but it is located on a steep lot and in the rear it is at least eighty feet high. (Given the steepness of San Francisco's hills, many houses, like iceburgs, are largely hidden from view and more formidable than they at first appear.)
Bliss & Faville often imitated buildings designed by McKim, Mead & White. In those days, architectural critics did not fetishize originality for its own sake, and appropriation was praised rather than condemned:
The general resemblance of the [Bank of California to] the Knickerbocker Trust Company in New York will, of course, strike everyone who is familiar with the latter building; but the architects are to be congratulated rather than condemned for their frank and intelligent attempt to make under happier conditions a revised version of a good thing.
(Architectural Record 1906: 471)
Bliss and Faville terminated their partnership amicably in 1925.
|Name||Year||Address||City||Sort Address||Sort Name|
|Bank of California||1908||400 California Street||San Francisco||California 0400||Bank of California|
|Bank of Italy - Hallidie Plaza Branch||1920||1 Powell Street||San Francisco||Powell 0001||Bank of Italy - Hallidie Plaza Branch|
|Bliss Residence||1915||2990 Vallejo Street||San Francisco||Vallejo 2990||Bliss Residence|
|California State Building||1926||350 McAllister Street||San Francisco||McAllister 0350||California State Building|
|Carnegie Library - Richmond Branch||1914||351 9th Avenue||San Francisco||Avenue 09 0352||Carnegie Library - Richmond Branch|
|Flood (James Leary) Mansion||1912||2222 Broadway||San Francisco||Broadway 2222||Flood (James Leary) Mansion|
|Geary Theater||1910||415 Geary Street||San Francisco||Geary 0425||Geary Theater|
|Masonic Temple||1913||25 Van Ness Avenue||San Francisco||Van Ness 0025||Masonic Temple|
|Matson Building||1923||215 Market Street||San Francisco||Market 0215||Matson Building|
|Metropolitan Club||1916||640 Sutter Street||San Francisco||Sutter 0640||Metropolitan Club|
|Oakland Hotel||1912||260 13th Street||Oakland||Street 13 0260||Oakland Hotel|
|Oakland Public Library||1902||659 14th Street||Oakland||Street 14 0659||Oakland Public Library|
|Pacific Telephone Building||1924||444 Bush Street||San Francisco||Bush 0444||Pacific Telephone Building|
|Residence||1918||2332 Baker Street||San Francisco||Baker 2332||Residence|
|Residence||1917||2100 Broadway||San Francisco||Broadway 2100||Residence|
|Residence||1899||2898 Broadway||San Francisco||Broadway2898||Residence|
|Residence||1921||1950-1960 Jackson Street||San Francisco||Jackson 1950||Residence|
|Residence||1905||2520 Pacific Avenue||San Francisco||Pacific 2520||Residence|
|Residence||1906||3001 Pacific Avenue||San Francisco||Pacific 3001||Residence|
|Residence||1900||3020 Pacific||San Francisco||Pacific 3020||Residence|
|Residence||1909||18 Presidio Terrace||San Francisco||Presidio Terrace 0018||Residence|
|Residence||1905||2800 Scott Street||San Francisco||Scott 2800||Residence|
|Residence||1908||3540 Washington Street||San Francisco||Washington 3540||Residence|
|Residence||1900||3638 Washington Street||San Francisco||Washington 3638||Residence|
|Rialto Building||1910||116 New Montgomery Street||San Francisco||New Montgomery 0116||Rialto Building|
|Saint Francis Hotel||1907||335 Powell Street||San Francisco||Powell 0335||Saint Francis Hotel|
|Savings Union Bank||1908||1 Grant Avenue||San Francisco||Grant 0001||Savings Union Bank|
|Southern Pacific Depot||1926||5th and I Streets||Sacramento||Street 05||Southern Pacific Depot|
|Southern Pacific Headquarters||1916||1 Market Street||San Francisco||Market 0001||Southern Pacific Headquarters|
|Tavern on Mt. Tamalpais||1924||Mt. Tamalpais||Marin County||Mt. Tamalpais||Tavern on Mt. Tamalpais|
|United States Post Office||1918||315 West Sycamore Street||Willows||Sycamore 0315||United States Post Office|
|University Club||1912||800 Powell Street||San Francisco||Powell 0800||University Club|