Bliss & Faville (1898-1925)

Tavern of Tamalpais Built in 1924 Tavern of Tamalpais Built in 1924
1927 Photograph Courtesy Marin County Free Library

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 (1872-1956)
William Baker Faville (1866-1946)

Walter Danforth Bliss was born in Nevada. William Baker Faville was born in San Andreas, California. They met while attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

They 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.

The partnership often imitated buildings designed by McKim, Mead & White. In those days, architectural critics did not fetishize originality for its own sake. 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
Atascadero Administration Building 19146500 Palma Avenue Atascadero PalmaAtascadero Administration Building
Augustus Taylor House3 Altree CourtAthertonAltreeAugustus Taylor House
Bank of California1908400 California StreetSan FranciscoCalifornia 0400Bank of California
Bank of Italy in Hallidie Plaza19201 Powell StreetSan FranciscoPowell 0001Bank of Italy in Hallidie Plaza
Bliss Residence19152990 Vallejo StreetSan FranciscoVallejo 2990Bliss Residence
Bourdette Building190390 Second StreetSan Francisco!Street 02 0090Bourdette Building
Building1940721 Market StreetSan FranciscoMarket 0721Building
California State Building1926350 McAllister StreetSan FranciscoMcAllister 0350California State Building
Carnegie Library - Richmond Branch1914351 9th AvenueSan Francisco!Avenue 09 0352Carnegie Library - Richmond Branch
Christian DeGuigne891 Crystal Springs RoadHillsboroughCrystal SpringChristian DeGuigne
Eastman Kodak Building1911241 Battery StreetSan FranciscoBattery 0241Eastman Kodak Building
Edna Hopkins Lowery House41 Lowery DriveAthertonLoweryEdna Hopkins Lowery House
Flood (James Leary) Mansion19122222 BroadwaySan FranciscoBroadway 2222Flood (James Leary) Mansion
Fred McNear House60 Parkwood DriveAthertonParkwoodFred McNear House
Geary Theater1910415 Geary StreetSan FranciscoGeary 0425Geary Theater
Geary Theater Annex1909333 Mason StreetSan FranciscoMason 0333Geary Theater Annex
Hellman-Ehrman Mansion1903Highway 89Sugar Pine Point State ParkHighway 89Hellman-Ehrman Mansion
Marine's Memorial Club1927609 Sutter StreetSan FranciscoSutter 0609Marine's Memorial Club
Masonic Temple191325 Van Ness AvenueSan FranciscoVan Ness 0025Masonic Temple
Matson Building1923215 Market StreetSan FranciscoMarket 0215Matson Building
Metropolitan Club1916640 Sutter StreetSan FranciscoSutter 0640Metropolitan Club
Morris Plan Co.1940715-719 Market StreetSan FranciscoMarket 0715Morris Plan Co.
Oakland Hotel1912260 13th Street Oakland!Street 13 0260Oakland Hotel
Oakland Public Library1902659 14th StreetOakland!Street 14 0659Oakland Public Library
Pacific Telephone Building1924444 Bush StreetSan FranciscoBush 0444Pacific Telephone Building
Residence on Baker Street19182332 Baker StreetSan FranciscoBaker 2332Residence on Baker Street
Residence on Broadway19172100 BroadwaySan FranciscoBroadway 2100Residence on Broadway
Residence on Broadway18992898 Broadway San FranciscoBroadway2898Residence on Broadway
Residence on Jackson Street19211950-1960 Jackson StreetSan FranciscoJackson 1950Residence on Jackson Street
Residence on Lyon Street19162233 LyonSan FranciscoLyon 2233Residence on Lyon Street
Residence on Pacific Avenue19052520 Pacific AvenueSan FranciscoPacific 2520Residence on Pacific Avenue
Residence on Pacific Avenue19063001 Pacific AvenueSan FranciscoPacific 3001Residence on Pacific Avenue
Residence on Pacific Avenue19003020 Pacific San FranciscoPacific 3020Residence on Pacific Avenue
Residence on Presidio Terrace190918 Presidio TerraceSan FranciscoPresidio Terrace 0018Residence on Presidio Terrace
Residence on Scott Street 280019052800 Scott StreetSan FranciscoScott 2800Residence on Scott Street 2800
Residence on Washington Street19083540 Washington StreetSan FranciscoWashington 3540Residence on Washington Street
Residence on Washington Street19003638 Washington StreetSan FranciscoWashington 3638Residence on Washington Street
Rialto Building1910116 New Montgomery StreetSan FranciscoNew Montgomery 0116Rialto Building
Saint Francis Hotel1907335 Powell StreetSan FranciscoPowell 0335Saint Francis Hotel
Saint Francis Hotel Streetlights1910335 Powell StreetSan FranciscoPowell 0335Saint Francis Hotel Streetlights
Savings Union Bank19081 Grant AvenueSan FranciscoGrant 0001Savings Union Bank
Southern Pacific Depot19265th and I StreetsSacramento!Street 05Southern Pacific Depot
Southern Pacific Headquarters19161 Market StreetSan FranciscoMarket 0001Southern Pacific Headquarters
Tahoe Tavern (Demolished 1969)1901West Lake BoulevardTahoe CityWest LakeTahoe Tavern (Demolished 1969)
Tavern on Mt. Tamalpais1924Mt. TamalpaisMarin CountyMt. TamalpaisTavern on Mt. Tamalpais
United States Post Office1918315 West Sycamore StreetWillowsSycamore 0315United States Post Office
University Club1912800 Powell StreetSan FranciscoPowell 0800University Club
Walter Danforth Tobey House1001 Hamilton Avenue/567 Hale StreetPalo AltoHamiltonWalter Danforth Tobey House
2332 Baker Street
Built 1918
Photographed 19 December 2019

The 1976 Department of City Planning Architectural Survey was not kind to this building. The rating for architectural design was only 1 on a scale that ranges from -2 to 5.

The comment on the survey form read: "Lumpy, heavy but pleasant. Quite disappointing for this site."

2100 Broadway
Photographed 14 May 2012
2898 Broadway Designed by Bliss & Faville and 2880 Broadway Designed by Willis Polk 2898 Broadway Designed by Bliss & Faville and 2880 Broadway Designed by Willis Polk

2898 Broadway Designed by Bliss & Faville

2898 Broadway  as Seen in the 1960 Movie, Portrait in Black The house as seen in the 1960 movie, Portrait in Black, starring Lana Turner, Anthony Quinn, Sandra Dee, John Saxon, Anna May Wong and many others. At the end of the movie, Anthony Quinn falls to his death on the Baker Street stairs while chasing Sandra Dee out a window and along the rooftop - or a sound-stage rooftop with more elaborate dormers.

Note how unobstructed the view was in 1960 compared to 2019. Although San Francisco has a Tree Dispute Resolution Ordinance (Article 16.1 of the Public Works Code), trees are contentious here.

2898 Broadway
Built 1899
Photographed 17 October 2019

This beautifully proportioned, exquisitely detailed Dutch Colonial brick house was Walter Bliss' first commission; it was built for his own family. The house not only has white marble trim, but massive concrete foundations and piers set into rock. When one of the towering chimneys toppled in the 1906 earthquake, all of the chimneys were removed a s a precaution.

Source: Here Today: San Francisco's Architectural Heritage by the Junior League of San Francisco, Chronicle Books, 1968

1950-1960 Jackson Street
Photographed 19 September 2019

When we photographed the building, it housed the German Consulate General San Francisco.

2233 and 2255 Lyon Street in San Francisco 2233 and 2255 Lyon Street
2233 and 2255 Lyon Street in San Francisco 2233 and 2255 Lyon Street
2255 Lyon Street by Willis Polk
2255 Lyon Street by Willis Polk
2233 Lyon Street Designed by Bliss & Faville
2233 Lyon Street by Bliss & Faville
2233 Lyon Street by Bliss & Faville
2255 Lyon Street by Willis Polk
Photographed 24 December 2015

Both houses turn a side to Lyon Street to face each other across a landscaped open space. The uphill house on the corner (2255 Lyon Street) turns its back on prestigious Pacific Avenue.

Although this configuration is not typical in San Francisco, it is not uncommon in older residential neighborhoods where homes were designed by architects for affluent clients. Other examples are 2600 Washington Street by Edgar A. Mathews, 2241 Sacramento Street by Edward E. Young, and Mark Zuckerberg's home above Dolores Park.

Our website attributed both of these houses to Polk until a San Francisco architect contacted us with convincing evidence that 2233 Lyon Street was designed by Bliss & Faville.

Southern Pacific Headquarters
One Market Street
Photographed 28 November 2019
3001 Pacific Avenue
Photographed 17 October 2019

When we photographed this building, a brass Egyptian Consulate sign was mounted by front door.

According to the website, Curbed San Francisco, the Egyptian government bought the property in 1960s and used it as their San Francisco consulate before moving operations to Los Angeles in 2016 and listing the building for sale at $22M.

In October 2019, the building was still on the market with the price reduced to $16M. The photographs on Sotheby's website showed a spacious but modest interior with no paneling, exotic hardwoods, chandeliers or other grand architectural gestures.

3020 Pacific Avenue
Photographed 17 October 2019
Hallidie Plaza Branch of the Bank of Italy
1 Powell Street
Built 1920
Photographed 12 January 2020

When this building was constructed, it was partly hidden from Market Street by other buildings which were demolished in 1973 to create space for Hallidie Plaza.

Bliss and Faville won a design contest entered by eleven invited competitors. Their Renaissanc/Baroque design resembles the University Club in New York City designed by McKim, Mead and White. An article in Architect and Engineer considered the line between inspiration and plagiarism but decided in favor of Blisss and Faville, stating that this is a building of unusual distinction.

Metropolitan Club
Originally Women's Athletic Club
640 Sutter Street
Built 1916 and Expanded in 1922
Photographed 28 November 2019

This Renaissance Palazzo is built of reinforced concrete clad with red brick and ornamented with terra cotta.

3540 Washington Street
Photographed 5 September 2019
3638 Washington Street
Photographed 5 September 2019
Tahoe Tavern
West Lake Boulevard
Tahoe City
Built 1901
Demolished 1969
Photograph Courtesy Western Nevada Historic Photo Collection

Walter Bliss designed the Tahoe Tavern for his father. Located a half mile south of Tahoe City, the brown-shingled hotel with its multiple gables was a favorite vacation spot for the wealthy from the Bay Area. Socialites from San Francisco ferried across to the Oakland Mole and took a train to the Tahoe Tavern, arriving on special spur rails that carried them directly to the hotel.

Source: NRHP Nomination for the Southern Pacific Railroad Company's Sacramento Depot

Hellman-Ehrman Mansion
Sugar Pine Point State Park
El Dorado County
Built 1903
Photographed 31 August 2014

Walter Danforth Bliss designed this Lake Tahoe summer home for San Francisco businessman I. W. Hellman. It was named Pine Lodge.

The building site was a sand hill. Tons of topsoil were brought from the back country to provide the base for lawns and gardens. Most of the building materials for the house were obtained locally, the granite from Meeks Bay and the lumber from Hobart Mills, north of Truckee.

The house was equipped with the modern utility systems including electric lights and complete indoor plumbing. Steam generators produced electricity until commercial power was available in 1927. Water was obtained from General Creek and later pumped directly from the Lake.

Hellman's daughter, Florence Hellman Ehrman inherited the estate.

In 1965 the house and grounds were acquired by the California State Park System. The house is maintained as a house museum and as an example of the opulent tradition in Tahoe summer homes.

Source: California Department of Parks and Recreation

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