San Francisco Landmarks
These buildings were the final piece of the citywide emergency hospital system funded by a 1928 public bond measure. The buildings are remnants of a noble, and once controversial, effort to provide free and efficient emergency health care to the district.
The buildings were designed by City Architect Charles H. Sawyer who began his career with the city during the rebuilding after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. Bernard Zakheim painted two frescos in the Health Center building Public Works of Art Project (PWAP). Zakheim also painted a fresco at Coit Tower.
In the summer of 1978, neighbors protested the planned closure of the Emergency Healthcare System by moving into the Alemany Hospital. They ate and slept there for over a month and a half. They offered free first aid and emergency services to patients and maintained the building.
This event, while modest in scale, and largely forgotten, is in keeping with San Francisco’s heralded tradition of civic engagement. These buildings represent the most important moment of social activism in the Excelsior District’s history which occurred just months before the fatal and fateful shootings at City Hall. The buildings, the frescos, the hospital system, and this particular act of social engagement should be acknowledged and remembered.
Source: Adapted from San Francisco Landmark Designation Application for 35-45 Onondaga Avenue, 17 February 2016