The Acme Brewing Company in San Francisco

 Posted by on April 25, 2016
Apr 252016

762 Fulton
Western Addition

Acme Brewing San Francisco

On March 12, 1917, the San Francisco Call-Bulletin reported:

“Six San Francisco breweries, facing financial loss, or insolvency, through proposed legislation regulating manufacture of maltuous drinks, have pooled their interests into one association for the manufacture and distribution of beers and malts. The body is to be known as the Acme-National Brewing Company. J.P. Rettenmayer, president of the Acme Brewing Company and head of the State Brewers’ Association, is president of the consolidated companies.

The breweries included in the merger are: National Brewing Company, Henry Weinhard Brewery, Claus Wreden Brewing Company, Union Brewing and Malting Company, Acme Brewing Company and Broadway Brewing Company.”

Only two of the breweries continued as plants of the (renamed) California Brewing Association: the Acme Brewery, and the National Brewery. All of the other breweries ceased production and closed, but their parent companies continued to operate until they were all were forced out of the beer business by Prohibition, January 16, 1920.

In 1935 the California Brewing Association built this art deco gem for their general office and sales department. The building also housed a hospitality tasting room. The architect is unknown.

The building was used by the Redevelopment Agency’s Western Addition Field Office during the scourge of the Western Addition.

The building now houses the African American Art and Culture Complex.

California Brewing Association

Moya del Pina was commissioned to paint three murals in the boardroom.  You can read about them here.



 Posted by on January 8, 2014
Jan 082014

1043 Howard Street

Eng Skell Building on Howard Street SF

It is hard to believe that in a world of corporate mergers and gentrification of neighborhoods, that the original company that built this wonderful deco building still occupies it.

In 1900 W.A. England and H.D. Skellinger founded the Eng-Skell Company.  The company made flavoring extracts for the bakery and bottling trades and specialties such as orange bitters for the bar trade.

Eng-Skell on Howard

In 1930 the company built this three-story Art Deco building in SOMA.  The building was designed by architect A.C. Griewank.  It is 100,000 square feet and originally housed a laboratory, manufacturing plant, warehouse and office space.  There was a Research Department with a staff of trained chemists. Somewhere along the line they became ESCO but their website still proudly displays this Howard Street Building.


224 Townsend Street (1935) was also designed by A.C. Griewank. Both buildings feature fluted pilasters that divide the bays and a three-dimensional, stepped triangular parapet over the primary entrance. Although we know he was an engineer/architect there is no information about A.C. Griewank to be found at the City of San Francisco, the San Francisco Public Library, or San Francisco Heritage.

We do know he was a writer for the Architect and Engineer. In November of 1917 they published an article titled “California Cotton Mills’ New Building,”  by Mr. A.C. Griewank, the architect of the California Cotton Mills Factory in Oakland, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

(update)  The San Francisco Public Library has informed me that Mr. Arthur Carl Griewank was born on the 6th of September 1886 in Laporte, Indiana and died in San Francisco on October 9, 1942,

I found an A.C. Griewank listed in the 1911 alumni record of the University of Illinois stating Mr. A.C. Griewank was a 1910 graduate of the University and was then working with the Sacramento Valley Irrigation Company.

He was also listed as a San Francisco Port Engineer in 1930.

From the November 1930 American Chemical Society Publication:
The Eng-Skell Co. , 208 Mission St., San Francisco, Calif., manufacturer of flavoring extracts, chemical specialties, etc., has approved plans for a new three-story plant at Russ and Howard Sts., and will proceed with work on the superstructure at once. It is reported that it will cost over $54,000 including equipment. A. C. Griewank, address noted, is company engineer.

Despite not knowing much about Mr. Griewank personally, I am sure he would be please to know that some of his structures he designed still stand today.  They include: (in San Francisco) 1130 Howard, 1035 Howard, 1126 Howard, 224 Townsend and Piers 1-35 where he acted as engineer on the substrates and transit sheds, as well as, the California Cotton Mills Building in Oakland

Wally Heider Recording Studio

 Posted by on November 8, 2013
Nov 082013

245 Hyde Street
The Tenderloin


The blue building hidden behind this tree (the fourth film vault) has a prominent place in San Francisco Music history as well.

Wally Heider Recording

In early 1969, Wally Heider opened the San Francisco Wally Heider’s Studio at 245 Hyde Street.  Heider had reportedly apprenticed as an assistant and mixer at United Western Recorders in Hollywood, CA, with Bill Putnam, “The Father of Modern Recording”, and he already owned and ran an independent recording studio and remote recording setup called Studio 3, in Hollywood, California.

In 1967, Heider had been involved in live recording at the Monterey Pop Festival. Artists like Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and The Grateful Dead had been recording in Los Angeles and New York, and Heider saw the need for musicians involved in the San Francisco Sound to have their own well equipped and staffed recording studio close to home.

The studios were built by Dave Mancini while Frank DeMedio built all the studios’ custom gear and consoles, using UA console components, military grade switches and level controls, and a simple audio path that had one preamp for everything. The console was designed with 24 channels and an 8-channel monitor and cue, which was replicated in both the Studio 3 setup in Los Angeles and the remote truck. The monitor speakers were Altec604-Es with McIntosh 275 tube power amps.

Wally Heider Studios

This building still houses Hyde Street Studios.


There are several Tenderloin plaques.  They celebrate all parts of Tenderloin history and culture, including the first hard-core adult feature film shown in the U.S. at the Screening Room, 220 Jones Street, Sally Rand’s burlesque fan dances at the Music Box now Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell Street, the former B’nai Brith, 149 Eddy Street, the former Original Joe’s, 144 Taylor Street, and the former Arcadia Dance Pavilion/Downtown Bowl at the corner of Eddy and Jones Streets at Boedekker Park.

A $12,500 grant from SF Grants for the Arts funded the sidewalk plaque project. Centrix Builders provided expertise in metal work with installation by Michael Heavey Construction.


Further reading from people that were there, about the amazing history of this building under Wally Heider and other recording/ film studios:

Beyond Chron

Found SF

Film Vaults of the Tenderloin

 Posted by on November 7, 2013
Nov 072013

245-259 Hyde Street
The Tenderloin

 Film Vaults of San Francisco 1930's

I have driven by this area with these stunning Art Deco/Art Moderne buildings all in a row, and never pursued the history.  An evening of beers at the Brown Jug with Mark Ellinger and my eyes were opened.

Originally theaters purchased the films they showed their patrons. Then Harry, Herbert and Earle C. Miles, San Francisco brothers, realized there was a business in buying films in bulk and renting them to movie houses. Their original distribution centers were on Market Street/Golden Gate Avenue.

Inside these four buildings were film vaults with thick concrete walls and big iron doors with elaborate sprinkler and ventilation systems.  The reason is, the original films were highly flammable nitrate-based.  Movie theaters frequently caught fire because of these flammable films, even more reason for a delivery system.  In the 1950’s a less flammable form of acetate based film, actually called safety film, came into existence.


MGM Lion

The first building of the series is the MGM Film Vault, distinguished by the MGM Lion.

 MGM Grand Film Vault SF

These four buildings are built on two lots.  The MGM and the Comedy and Tragedy buildings were on one lot (255-259) and the brown building and the blue building hidden behind the tree were on a second (245-251).  These now all sit on one lot.

According to Mark’s article at Found in SF  the original owners of the corner building were the Bell Brothers in 1930 and then Frank and Ida Onorato in 1947.

Until the end of the 1980s, businesses along this stretch of Hyde Street and around the corner on Golden Gate Avenue included Wally Heider Studios (now Hyde Street Studios), Monaco Labs and Leo Diner Films—a recording studio and motion picture labs/post-production facilities that, with the advent of acetate-based Kodacolor and black-and-white reversal motion picture film in the early 1950s, had taken over film exchange buildings.

Comedy and Tragedy on Hayes Street, SF

*Hyde Street Film Vaults

The architects were O’Brien Brothers and W.D. Peugh (1930). These gentlemen worked together on several buildings in San Francisco including the Art Deco Title Insurance Company Building on Montgomery Street, where you can read about their long history with San Francisco.

These buildings housed 20th Century Fox, Loews, and United Artists film exchanges as well.

Film Vaults of San Francisco's Tenderloin


Ornamentation on one of the fil vaults



Pennsylvania Comes to San Francisco

 Posted by on June 27, 2013
Jun 272013

600 California Street

Art Deco Elevator Doors

These two bronze plaques were originally the doors to a hand operated elevator.  The doors, designed by Lee O. Lawrie in 1930-1931 were in the Education Building of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Capitol Park in Harrisburg.

The sculpture was one of six sets of elevator doors that the artist originally fabricated. This set of door panels remained there until 1972, when the building’s hand-operated elevators were replaced with automatic ones. From about 1980 to 1989, the doors were in a private collection in Virginia. They were installed at the new Federal Home Bank in 1990.

Lee Oskar Lawrie (1877-1963) was born in Rixdorf, Germany, and came to the United States in 1882 as a young child, settling in Chicago. It was there, at the age of 14, that he began working for the sculptor Richard Henry Park.

In 1892 he assisted many of the sculptors in Chicago, constructing the “White City” for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. Following the completion of the work at the Exposition, Lawrie returned East and became an assistant to William Ordway Partridge. The next decade found him working with other established sculptors:Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Philip Martiny, Alexander Phimister Proctor, John William Kitson and others. His work at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St Louis, 1904, under Karl Bitter, the foremost architectural sculptor of the time, allowed Lawrie to further develop both his skills and his reputation as an architectural sculptor.

Lawrie received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Yale University in 1910. He was an instructor in Yale’s School of Fine Arts from 1908 to 1919 and taught in the architecture program at Harvard University from 1910 to 1912.

His most prominent work is the free-standing bronze Atlas (installed 1937) at New York City’s Rockefeller Center.

Lee Oskar Lawrie Art Deco Panels


This panel on the left has allegorical figures representing Exploration, Literature, Architecture and Drama.

Lee  Lawrie Sculpture

The allegorical figures on the right represent Religion, Physical Labor, Sculpture and Music.

Washington High School and the WPA

 Posted by on June 18, 2013
Jun 182013

George Washington High School
600 32nd Avenue
Richmond District

George Washington High School, San Francisco

George Washington High School opened on August 4, 1936 to serve as a secondary school for the people of San Francisco’s Richmond District. The school was built on a budget of $8,000,000 on a site overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

The architect was Timothy Pflueger, here he begins moving away from the highly decorative elements of his earlier Telephone Company Building and begins using symmetrical central elements, minimally embellished with fluted speed lines and simple plaques.

The lobby is decorated with WPA murals by Victor Arnautoff in the “buon fresco” styles. They depict scenes from the life and times of George Washington. In the second floor library, there is another WPA mural produced by Lucien Labaudt, entitled “Advancement of Learning through the Printing Press.”

The stadium, auditorium, and gymnasium were added in 1940. The school was formally dedicated on Armistice Day of 1940.

George Washington High School Sculpture

The three figures over the door were sculpted by Victor Arnautoff.

Victor Arnautoff, painter, muralist, lithographer, sculptor and teacher, was born in Mariupol, Ukraine, in 1896. He served as a Cavalry officer in Czar Nicholas II’s army, receiving the Cross of the Order of St. George before escaping to Manchuria to avoid the Bolshevik Revolution. Arnautoff traveled to China and Mexico before emigrating to the U.S. and San Francisco in 1925.

He enrolled at the California School of Fine Arts where he studied sculpture with Ralph Stackpole and painting with Edgar Walters. Arnautoff returned to Mexico and studied mural painting with Diego Rivera.

By 1931 he had returned to San Francisco and shortly thereafter taught sculpture and fresco painting at the California School of Fine Arts. He also taught at Stanford University where he was Professor of Art from 1939 – 1960. His art affiliations included memberships in the San Francisco Art Association and the California Society of mural painters. Arnautoff was technical director and art chief of the Coit Tower murals project and is represented by a mural depicting city life.

He exhibited at the Golden Gate International Exposition, New York World’s Fair, Art Institute of Chicago, Palace of the Legion of Honor, Toledo Museum of Art, Foundation of Western Art, California Pacific Exposition, as well as annual shows of the San Francisco Art Association.

After the death of his wife in the 1960s, he returned to the USSR and died in Leningrad in 1979.

Shakspeare by ArnautoffShakespeare

Washington by ArnautoffGeorge Washington

Edison by Arnautoff

Thomas Edison

On the science building are two Arnautoff sculptures titled Power and Industry.

Power by Victor Mikhail Arnautoff*

Industry by Victor Arnautoff

The Pacific Coast Stock Exchange

 Posted by on March 12, 2013
Mar 122013

301 Pine Street
Financial District

301 Pine Street-one of the historic buildings that comprised our financial system on the West Coast-began its life in 1915 as a sub-treasury building for the United States Treasury. In 1930, when the San Francisco Financial District was fast becoming the Wall Street of the West, the “gentlemen of the tape and ticker” sought a building to express the important financial work they were doing. They chose the San Francisco firm of Miller and Pflueger to remodel the old government building into a new Exchange.

Pacific Coast Stock ExchangeFront of the building features a colonnade and granite staircase, the only remnants of the building’s original design.

At this point in his life architect Timothy Pflueger was interested in throwing out Classicism, a style of architecture modeled after ancient Greek and Roman structures; however, his commission required that he keep the colonnade and the granite stairs leading to the building, part of the original design by J. Milton Dyer of Cleveland, Ohio. As a result, the original building was completely gutted, and the only thing that remained was the front of the building we see today. The colonnade consists of ten Tuscan columns, and as part of the Tuscan Order, the entablature, the area above the columns, should have remained plain and simple. Instead, Pflueger chose to break the classical rules and placed two Art Deco medallions inside the entablature. Art Deco began in the 1920s and lasted for a good twenty years. Known for its linear symmetry, it was a nice fit with the simple Tuscan style that Pflueger was forced to keep.


MedallionArt Deco medallions inside the entablature of the Pacific Stock Exchange Building:

The massive Art Deco pieces that grace the Exchange were sculpted out of Yosemite granite by Ralph Stackpole. They are meant to show the polarity of agriculture and industry and are named accordingly. The sculptures were an important part of Pflueger’s move toward modern architecture, as he did not want any of the “classic” repetitive art on the exterior of the building.



The Pacific Coast Stock Exchange has a long history in the financial world of the United States. In 1882 nineteen gentlemen anted up $50 each to form the San Francisco Stock and Bond Exchange. In 1957 they merged with the Los Angeles Oil Exchange to become the Pacific Stock Exchange, although each town kept its own trading floor. In 1976 they began trading options, and options are still traded in a building around the corner. The trading floor closed in 2002, and the building was later sold to private developers. In a wonderful example of historic reuse, the tenant today is Equinox Fitness.

The Russ BuildingThe Neo-Gothic Russ Building towers over the classical Pacific Coast Stock Exchange.

Jan 172013

1360 Montgomery Street
The Malloch Apartments
Telegraph Hill

Scraffito on Telegraph HillThe Spirit of California.

Muralist Alfred Du Pont (also known as Dupont) was hired to design the images that grace the exterior 1360 Montgomery Street. Du Pont produced two 40-foot high silvery figures in sgraffito, or raised plaster, on the western facade of the building, and a third on the north side. Du Pont applied colored concrete to the exterior and carved it into shape.


Sgraffito on walls has been used in Europe since classical times, and it was common in Italy in the 16th century, and can be found in African art. In combination with ornamental decoration these techniques formed an alternative to the prevailing painting of walls. The procedures are similar to the painting of frescoes.

Spanish ExplorerSpanish Explorer

As a teenager Dupont ran away from home and rode the rails to San Francisco. His art studies were at the CSFA, UC, and CCAC. Active as a muralist in the 1930s, he painted ceilings at Hearst Castle and other public places in southern California. At the Golden Gate International Exhibition of 1939 he painted murals in the mining building. While serving in the Navy during WWII, he did illustrations of ships and manuals and painted portraits of Admirals Nimitz and Halsey. He received two Purple Hearts for wounds received when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941 and in the battle of Okinawa in 1945. After the war he settled in Laguna Beach and painted many marines and coastals of that area. On March 2, 1982 Dupont suffered a heart attack while driving in Newport Beach and died of the injuries.

The Malloch Building has a fascinating history and is well worth the read.

1360 Montgomery Street

450 Sutter, A Mayan Palace

 Posted by on December 22, 2012
Dec 222012

450 Sutter Street450 Sutter Street is San Francisco’s monument to the Mayan Revival branch of Art Deco.

Art Deco draws on a variety of sources including Art Nouveau, Cubism and the American Arts and Crafts Movement. Art Deco celebrates the technological wonders of the early 20th century, the frivolities of the roaring twenties, and the hard times of the Great Depression.

Art Deco is commonly divided into three related design trends: Streamline Moderne, Classical Moderne and Zigzag Moderne. Zigzag, represented by angular patterns and stylized geometry, flourished in large cities and was primarily used for public and commercial buildings.

The Mayan Revival (also called neo-Mayan) was one of the facets of Zigzag Moderne. Mayan Revival was used primarily in the 1920s and ’30s. Although it was named “Mayan,” it drew on the motifs of many of the Meso-American cultures, such as Mexica and Aztec.

450 Sutter Street





450 Sutter Street Exterior Detail450 Sutter Street, completed in 1929, was designed by James Rupert Miller and Timothy L. Pflueger. A steel curtain-wall building, 450 Sutter broke from tradition with the building’s skin design. Miller and Pflueger covered the 26 floors with heavy Mayan Revival style patterns-undulating verticals of ornamented terracotta run from the first floor to the roof. The addition of horizontal bands of windows adds to the overall effect of richness and complexity. The street level and entry are cast in aluminum. In the lobby, cast bronze alternates with Burgundy/Levanto marble.

The building was designed and built for dental salesman Francis Edward Morgan Jr. at a cost of $5 million (including the land). The building was built specifically to house doctors’ and dentists’ offices. According to advertisements, offices could be custom outfitted with electrical and plumbing as the tenant needed. Rents began at $50 a month for three rooms and $100 a month for five. At the time of its construction, it was not only the second tallest building in San Francisco, but said to be the largest medical office building in the world.

450 Sutter - Entry way




450 Sutter CanopyThe unusual motifs and ornamentation of this grand building received mixed reviews at the time of its opening. The San Francisco Chronicle quieted any discord with the following 1929 review:

“Speculation has been rife as to the meaning of these graceful symbols, but their meaning is negligible-they justify themselves by being graceful and attractive. They give the front of the building just enough feeling of movement to emphasize the general vitality of a severe but thoroughly virile design. They tell the passerby any story he chooses to read into them-and that is poetry.”

450 Sutter was one of the last great skyscrapers to be built in San Francisco in the first half of the century.

450 Sutter Street Lobby CeilingCast bronze and cast aluminum lobby ceiling

Elevator DoorsCast aluminum elevator doors surrounded by burgundy/levanto marble