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San Francisco Landmark 174: California Hall
27 May 2010
(Click Photo to Zoom)
Landmark 174
California Hall
625 Polk Street Between Turk and Eddy
Van Ness/Civic Center
Built 1912
California Hall, designed by Frederick Meyer in the German Renaissance architectural style, is constructed of steel and concrete clad in terra cotta.

The landmark nomination form, dated 7 December 1983, reads in part:

California Hall is significant as a finely detailed example of a rarely seen architectural style in San Francisco and as one of a limited number of structures associated with this city's German Community. Constructed in 1912 from funds raised by German societies, the building served as a social center for the community.

The hall opened in December of 1912 in an elaborate celebration with a message from Kaiser Wilhelm.

The design of the structure is reminiscent of Heidelberg Castle in Germany.

Other structures related to the German presence in San Francisco include St. Mark's Church, St. Paulus Lutheran Church and St. Boniface Church. [Webmaster note: St. Paulus Lutheran Church was destroyed by fire in 1995.]

Frank Norris' pitiable dentist, McTeague, lived on Polk Street a few blocks north of California Hall. Here is how Norris described the ladies who shopped on Polk Street before the 1906 Earthquake and Fire destroyed their flamboyant mansions on Van Ness Avenue:
Towards eleven o'clock the ladies from the great avenue a block above Polk Street made their appearance, promenading the sidewalks leisurely, deliberately. They were at their morning's marketing. They were handsome women, beautifully dressed. They knew by name their butchers and grocers and vegetable men. From his window McTeague saw them in front of the stalls, gloved and veiled and daintily shod, the subservient provision men at their elbows, scribbling hastily in the order books. They all seemed to know one another, these grand ladies from the fashionable avenue. Meetings took place here and there; a conversation was begun; others arrived; groups were formed; little impromptu receptions were held before the chopping blocks of butchers' stalls, or on the sidewalk, around boxes of berries and fruit....McTeague, Chapter 1
On December 31, 1964, the Council on Religion and the Homosexual held a costume party at California raise money for the new organization. When the ministers informed the San Francisco Police Department of their intentions, the SFPD attempted to force the rented hall's owners to cancel the event. After a further meeting between the ministers and police, which resulted in an agreement not to interfere with the dance, guests arrived to find police snapping pictures of each of them as they entered and left, in a blatant attempt to intimidate....

Read more at Wikipedia.

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