San Francisco Landmarks

San Francisco Landmark #217: Alhambra Theater
9 June 2003
2214 Clay Street Residence, designed by Newsom & Newsom, moved from Polk Street to 2214 Clay Street
14 May 2012
(Click Photos to Zoom)
San Francisco Landmark #217
Alhambra Theater
2320-2336 Polk Street Between Green and Union
Built 1926

The Alhambra Theater, built of reinforced concrete with unprotected steel trusses, was designed by Miller & Pflueger in the Moorish Revival style which became popular after the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego and quickly replaced the Mission Revival style.

Timothy Pflueger derived the flamboyant ornamentation from Mexican sources which, in turn, had been derived from Spanish sources. The Castro Theater and Mission High School are two other examples of this style.

In the 1920s, movie palaces created fantasy environments to match the movies on screen. The Alhambra's Moorish castle decor was part of a trend to build theaters that conjured romantic, far away places: Mayan temples. Oriental palaces, ancient Egyptian tombs.

Serving Cow Hollow, Russian Hill and surrounding neighborhoods, the Alhambra Theater provided an alternative the larger, swankier movie theaters on Market Street while still offering its patrons fantasy and elegance.

Movies remained the number one source of entertainment throughout the Depression and Word War II, but during the post-war era, television caused attendance to diminish.

In the mid-fifties, a cinemascope screen replaced the original Alhambra screen and concealed the massive proscenium arch. In 1974, the theater was "twinned" by dividing the auditorium in half with a cinder-block wall and painted plaster board suspended from the ceiling, covering the plaster dome. The "twinning" was an attempt to make up lost profits. When this approach failed, partially because the dome could not be soundproofed, the lessee tried a different method to lure movie-goers back to the theater. ln 1988, they removed the wall that divided the auditorium and carefully restored the theater's elaborate interior.

From City Planning Commission Resolution 14005 dated November 9, 1995

The Alhambra closed as a movie theater on February 22, 1998, and it is now a gym. The interior retains most of its detail and movies are shown on the big screen.

From Wikipedia

Before the Alhambra was constructed in 1926, a Victorian mansion stood on this property. The mansion was moved to 2214 Clay Street in Pacific Heights where it survives in splendor.

Buildings that Moved

It's not just that the people of the American West are restless, the buildings themselves sometimes pack up and move when - for one reason or another - the neighborhood no longer suits them or the neighbors no longer want them or opportunity waits down the road.

And when buildings remain in place, they are often searching for their identities.

Acting Superintendent's Office, Yosemite
Alford-Nielson House, Ferndale
Alpine Hotel, Markleeville
Ashland Depot Hotel, Ashland, Oregon
Auburn Fire House No. 1, Auburn

Bagby Stationhouse, El Portal
Bayview Hotel, Aptos
Bridgeport Elementary School, Mono County
Calvary Presbyterian Church, Bolinas
Carter House, Ashland, Oregon
Christian Church, Gilroy
Choller Mansion, Virginia City, NV

Chuck's Railroad Room, Westwood
Colfax Freight Depot (Moved Twice), Colfax
Commodore Watkins House, Atherton
Coyle-Foster Barn, Shasta State Historic Park
Croll Building, Alameda

Dallam-Merritt House, San Francisco
Davis Creek Community Church, Davis Creek
Duatre's Store, Monterey
Errea House, Tehachapi
Fairwind, Eureka
First Baptist Church, Sonoma

Fort Bragg Storehouse and Commissary, Fort Bragg
Galarneaux House, Sacramento
Glass House, San Ramon
Glendale School (Moved Twice), Sparks, Nevada
Goleta Depot, Goleta

Gray's Station, Truckee
Hostess House, Palo Alto
Hodgdon Homestead Cabin, Yosemite
House at 2214 Clay Street, San Francisco
Hutton House, Saratoga

Independence Hall, Woodside
J & T Basque Restaurant, Gardnerville, NV
Jamestown Branch Jail (Moved Twice)
Jax Truckee Diner (Moved Twice), Truckee
Jorgensen Studio, Yosemite

King City Depot, King City
La Gloria Schoolhouse, King City
Lagunita Schoolhouse, Salinas
Lake Mansion (Moved Twice), Reno
Lathrop House, Redwood City

LeConte Memorial Lodge, Yosemite
Little Church on the Hill, Oakhurst
Mansion House Hotel, Watsonville
Marcus Books and Jimbo's Bop City, San Francisco
McCredie House, Central Point, Oregon

Meherin House, Pismo Beach
Mendocino Masonic Hall, Mendocino
Methodist Episcopal Church, Placerville
Migliavacca Mansion, Napa
Milton Masonic Hall, Milton

Moab Cabin, Moab, Utah
Mt. Buckingham School, Darrah Nevada-California-Oregon Railway Depot, Alturas
Old Log Jail (Moved Twice), Markleeville
Old Mammoth Saloon (Moved Twice), Mammoth Lakes

Old North San Juan School, North San Juan
Old St. Mary's Church, Rocklin
Old St. Patrick's Church (Moved Twice), San Francisco
Perry's Dry Goods, Gardnerville, NV
Phelps House (Moved Twice), San Francisco

Rengstorff House, Mountain View
Reno Arch (Moved Five Times), Reno
Roper House, Ashland, Oregon
San Rafael Improvement Club, San Rafael
St. James Catholic Church, Georgetown

Sylvester House , San Francisco
Tribune-Republic Building, San Luis Obispo
Tubbs Cordage Company, San Francisco
Tucker House, Martinez
Twenty Mile House, Cromberg

United Methodist Church, Nevada City
Webber House, Yountville
Wood House, Modesto
Yosemite Transportation Company
Yosemite Valley Chapel

Of the buildings and structures we have visited, the original Reno Arch holds the record for number of moves. It has been moved five times since it was built in 1926.

Jax Truckee Diner holds the distance title. The building moved from New Jersry to Pennsylvanis in 1948, then from Pennsylvania to Califonia in 1992.

Probably the most ambitious relocation occurred on July 4th 1904, when the Southern Pacific Railroad loaded most of the town of Wadsworth, Nevada, onto rail cars and transported the town thirty miles west to create a new town which became known as Sparks.

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