San Francisco Landmarks

San Francisco Landmark #156: Phelan Building
14 June 2008
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San Francisco Landmark #156
Phelan Building
760-784 Market Street Between Stockton and Grant
Built 1908

The second of two Phelan Buildings on this site, this Renaissance/Baroque building designed by architect William Curlett, bears the name of one of San Francisco's most prominent early families.

The first Phelan Building was a 6-story, bay-windowed, mansard-roofed flatiron constructed by the elder James Phelan. Destroyed in the fire of 1906, it was quickly replaced by the present flatiron which, in size alone, justified the 1907 Call headline "Huge Phelan Building Already A Landmark."

It was instantly one of the most prominent and preeminent office structures in San Francisco and, in keeping with Phelan's strident advocacy of the City Beautiful Movement and the Burnham Plan, it greatly dignified both Market Street and the retail district with its two monumental façades.

Its prominence was further heightened by the choice of glazed cream terra cotta; it is probably the largest structure in the city clad with this favorite reconstruction material and an outstanding example of the desire to make of the downtown a Great White City like the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.

Handsomely detailed and spectacularly sited, the building remains one of the most prominent on Market Street and a superb example the dwindling number of flatirons which were once a feature of Market Street.

Adapted from Planning Commission Resolution No. 9350 dated 25 March 1982.

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