San Francisco Landmarks

San Francisco Landmark 174: California Hall 27 May 2010
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San Francisco Landmark #174
California Hall
625 Polk Street Between Turk and Eddy
Van Ness/Civic Center
Built 1912

Near the Civic Center stands a great Teutonic Rathaus built by the German Association in the days when Polk Strasse was the main commercial street for San Francisco's many German immigrants.

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....

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