National Register of Historic Places in San Francisco

National Register #07001469: Colombo Building Colombo Building in Foreground
Fugazi Building in Background
25 August 2007
(Click Photo to Zoom)
National Register #07001469
Colombo Building
AKA Drexler Building
1-21 Columbus Avenue
Built 1912

The Colombo Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its intimate relationship to the biography of Elise A. Drexler (1866-1951).

A wealthy widow, prominent philanthropist, and significant property owner in San Francisco, Elise Drexler quietly undermined prescribed gender roles for women during the Progressive Era. As a philanthropist, she worked entirely outside the club system, which was highly unusual for a woman of her stature. As a property owner and landlady, she distinguished herself by helping to launch one of the most powerful banking corporations in the country, the Bank of America; she provided its first rental space in the building that used to stand on the Colombo property.

Even more unusual was Drexler's foray into the world of large-scale property development following the earthquake and fires of 1906. A lawsuit related to three properties, including the property on which the Colombo Building stands, ultimately released Drexler from peculiar restrictions of her husband's will and, in the process, helped free women from the limitations of biological determinism.

Before the State Supreme Court's 1916 decision, however, Drexler could not sell the disputed properties. Instead, in 1913, she commissioned master architects James and Merritt Reid to design the Colombo Building and a building for one of the other disputed properties. Whether or not the latter building was ever executed or if the third disputed property was developed is unclear; regardless, they gave way to the Embarcadero Center and no longer exist.

The Colombo Building is the only surviving artifact in a defining moment of Elise Drexler's path towards independent womanhood, during this period of over all expansion in women's rights.

Extracted from the NRHP nomination.

The Colombo Building is also San Francisco Landmark 237.

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