A Holiday Treat at the Fairmont
Photography courtesy of Timothy D. Manning/ manningmagic.com
POSTING DATELINE: January, 2015
A large turnout of CHC members and guests met in the Crystal Room on November 20, 2014 for a walking tour of San Francisco’s renowned Fairmont Hotel by Tom Wolfe, the Fairmont’s chief concierge. Wolfe is a captivating historian, with encyclopedic knowledge of the hotel, and many personal perspectives, reflected in the long and colorful history of the Fairmont.
The story of the Fairmont Hotel begins with Tessie and Virginia Fair who were the daughters of James Graham Fair, one of San Francisco's wealthiest citizens. The daughters were determined to construct a grand monument to their father, who had passed away in 1894.
In 1902, construction began on The Fairmont Hotel, but by 1906, it had become too much of a burden for the Fair sisters, and they sold it to the Law brothers, Herbert and Hartland. How could anyone know that the 'great San Francisco fire,' as locals referred to the disaster of the earthquake and what followed, was just days away?
After the quake and fire, the Law brothers took the burden of social responsibility seriously, and went ahead with plans to repair, redecorate and, where necessary, restore. The Law brothers’ final choice for the project’s architect was Julia Morgan, the first woman graduate of the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris who was just starting out, and would later rise to be known as the nation's preeminent female architect.
Exactly one year after the earthquake, a grand banquet celebrating the opening was held at The Fairmont. Fireworks illuminated the beautiful new hotel, as a thousand ships at anchor in the bay, City Hall and all the buildings rose up, phoenix-like, in defiance of nature's wrath. San Francisco was alive and well and would thrive again.
But as the decades marched on, time took its toll on the grand hotel. The Fairmont in 1941 had entered an era of 'benign neglect,' victim of the depression and its own lethargy. But once again, The Fairmont 'rose from the ashes.' The occasion was the end of World War II, and the Fairmont was purchased by Benjamin Swig. Swig was an East Coast businessman who, 'had a knack for seeing a good thing and turning it around. Swig engaged Dorothy Draper, the most famous decorator of the time, to transform the lobby and the public areas.
The Fairmont once again made history when it greeted the 21st century with an award-winning $85 million restoration. In May of 1999, legions of craftsmen checked into the San Francisco landmark to recreate architect Julia Morgan's vision for the 1907 hotel. Comparing the project to an archeological dig, the restoration team uncovered much of what had been layered over by Draper’s designs, restoring original marble floors, ornate domes and intricate design work throughout the historic hotel. And the finishing touch has added the modern-day amenities desired by its guests, such as a spa and wireless internet capabilities. Today the Fairmont still stands, world-renowned, as an awe-inspiring picture of historic San Francisco.
At the conclusion of Mr. Wolfe’s presentation, CHC Board Chairman John Hodges and CHC President Christopher Layton presented Mr. Wolfe with a framed proclamation that we sponsored in 2007, from the Office of the California State Assembly, in recognition of the Fairmont’s 100th anniversary. The proclamation was procured in 2007 by our historian, Neil Malloch, but was never presented to the Fairmont, due to executive changes taking place. Neil stored this proclamation for all these years, and CHC finally had the opportunity to present it in the care of Mr. Wolfe.
Mr. Wolfe then took us on an informative, and very enjoyable, walking tour of the Fairmont, pointing out the highlights of the restoration, among other interesting facts. He sharing several personal stories of his many years at the Fairmont, and its famous guests like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.
We viewed the two-story giant gingerbread house, in the Grand Lobby, under construction and almost completed. We also saw several rooms that are closed to the public, such as the former Venetian Room, where workmen were installing yards of garland and other holiday decorations for the hotel.
Mr. Wolfe arrange for special elevators to take us to the very top floor of the hotel, the Crown Room - also closed to the public, and only used for special events. It was a clear night, and the view spectacular -- better than the top of the Mark, as rightly pointed out by Mr. Wolfe.
The Fairmont has been nominated, and approved by all on the tour, for an award at our June 25, 2015 Awards Dinner for its interior restoration and preservation.
Visiting the 2014 Award Winners
POSTING DATELINE: September, 2014
Meyers House and Garden
The Meyers House, erected in 1897, is an example of Colonial Revival, an architectural style popular around the turn of the century. Designed by Henry H. Meyers, the house was built by his father, Jacob Meyers, at a cost of $4,000.
Mr. Meyers was a prominent East Bay architect who received many Alameda County commissions. His work includes the portal entrance of the Posey Tube in Alameda, ten veterans buildings throughout Alameda County, and numerous public buildings and churches. In 1894 he married Bertha May, whose father was a prominent rancher in Alvarado, California.
The couple had three daughters. Edith (1900-1971) was a physician, Mildred (1898-1982) practiced as an architect, and Jeanette (1905-93) ran their Dry Creek Ranch near Union City. Mr Meyers died in 1943, followed by his wife in 1947.
The home is situated on a three-parcel lot, that includes the original fencing and pergola, three-car garage, and an architectural studio built in 1935. The Meyers House has received numerous additions, designed by Mildred Meyers, a practicing architect.
The Architectural Exhibit
Once the 3 car garage, designed by Henry H. Meyers and constructed between 1916-1917, the area was transformed into an exhibit area featuring architectural artifacts from the Museum’s collection in 2009. Some of these objects, never before exhibited, include doors, hardware, light fixtures, stained glass windows, etc., removed from Alameda buildings, some now demolished. The exhibit illustrates the decorative details that were utilized on such mundane items as door hinges and gas jets. They represent the period of their use and the evolution of taste and design.
All photography by Timothy D. Manning/ manningmagic.com
The 2014 Awards Presentation
In Recognition for Striving to Preserve
CHC President Christopher Layton and Chairman John Hodges presented the 2014 CHC awards of recognition to nine honorees at the our annual awards dinner on June 12, 2014 at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. The recipients were all smiles as they received their honors.
Receiving for the JUDGE AUGUSTUS PALMER HOUSE, Calistoga: Bob Fiddaman
Receiving for the MACHADO SCHOOL, Morgan Hill: Bob Sass, Brenda Sass, Shelli Bettencourt, Jan Strahan and Mary Lou Gunter.
Receiving for the MEYERS HOUSE, Alameda: George Gunn & Jeannie Graham
Receiving for 865 THE ALAMEDA, San Jose: Mark Cardoza
Receiving for the THE PINES, Sausalito: Roxanna Sheridan & Gil Purcell
Receiving for the OWL GRILL & SALOON, Grass Valley: Steve Graham
Receiving for VILLA AMOROSA, Calistoga: Jim Sullivan
A special presentation was made by CHC President Christopher Layton to Theodora Hansen for her distinction of being the youngest CHC member to date.
THE GOLD BEAR AWARD was presented to Gary Widman for his outstanding public service in historic preservation of the Presidio National Historic Landmark District.
All photographic images by Timothy D. Manning/ manningmagic.com
UPDATED ENTRY DATELINE: May 21, 2014
PREVIOUS ENTRY DATELINE: May 6, 2014
CHC Announces 2014 Award Nominations
Packards, pines and a pub highlight this year’s California Heritage Council Annual Awards Nominations. The awards dinner is scheduled for June 12, 2014 at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco.
And the nominees are…
JUDGE AUGUSTUS PALMER HOUSE, Built in 1874, Calistoga
MACHADO SCHOOL, Built 1895, Morgan Hill
MEYERS HOUSE, Built in 1897, Alameda
865 THE ALAMEDA, San Jose, Built in 1927
THE PINES, Built in 1888, Sausalito
OWL GRILL & SALOON, Built in 1857, Grass Valley
VILLA AMOROSA, Built in 1872, Calistoga
THE GOLD BEAR AWARD will be presented to Gary Widman for his outstanding public service in historic preservation of the Presidio National Historic Landmark District.
Visiting the 2013 Award Winners
ENTRY DATELINE: March 27, 2014
The U.S.S. Red Oak Victory, Richmond
Launched on November 9, 1944 as the SS Red Oak Victory, and commissioned as the USS Red Oak Victory (AK235) in December, 1944, the Red Oak Victory is the only vessel built by the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, California that is being restored. The ship saw service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and has the distinction of being the only ship operated by both military and civilian personnel during her career.
In 1996, by an Act of Congress, title to the SS Red Oak Victory was conveyed to the Richmond Museum Association. One of the primary goals of the museum is to preserve, restore and develop the Red Oak Victory into a viable asset that can be used, enjoyed and appreciated by the citizens of Richmond and the surrounding Bay Area communities.
No man had a greater influence on the City of Richmond than Henry J. Kaiser. It is important that his accomplishments and contributions to the war effort and community be made known as an example of what committed people can do.
The Richmond Museum of History has undertaken this unique restoration project because one object, a World War II Victory Ship, has brought together the devotion and commitment of volunteers, the wartime accomplishments of a community, and the vision and ingenuity of one man.
All photography courtesy of manningmagic.com
ENTRY DATELINE: March 5, 2014
The Ford Motors Assemby Plant, Richmond
The historic Ford Assembly Building in Richmond, designed in 1930 by renowned architect Albert Kahn, is now fully reborn as a mixed-use property called Ford Point, housing businesses, a restaurant, light industrial and an entertainment space called the Craneway Pavilion.
With its combination of green businesses and a glittering events venue set against the backdrop of stunning waterfront views, Ford Point is offering Richmond a chance to burnish a reputation often marred by association with crime and blight.
Inside the imposing brick building, SunPower assembles rooftop solar racks near the spot where World War II-era workers tested and outfitted armored tanks.
Down the hall, Mountain Hardwear sells and designs outdoor gear where Ford autoworkers used to build Model A cars.
The Craneway Pavilion - a huge, glass-enclosed space where cranes once hoisted completed vehicles onto train cars - now hosts a diverse range of cultural and entertainment events. Barefoot Merce Cunningham dancers have twirled and leaped in performance there; thousands of silent meditators spent two days sitting with Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron; and raucous women's roller derby skaters regularly explode into action on the floor.
Ford Point's final piece is a permanent home for the visitor center of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park.
All photographs ©2013 Manning Magic.com
ENTRY DATELINE: January 31, 2014
The Bruton House, Alameda
A large Colonial Revival house that was once home to three prominent Bay Area artists is Alameda's 30th historical monument.
The building at in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Alameda, was constructed in 1897 for San Francisco businessman Daniel Bruton and his wife Helen, according to local architectural historian Woodruff Minor.
The house was home to the Brutons' three daughters, who all became well-known artists in the 1920s and 1930s and used a portion of the building as studio space.
Although their work is not well known now, the Bruton sisters were probably the most important local artists of that period. Their work included mosaics that can still be seen at the San Francisco Zoo.
You can read more about the house's design and history in Minor's report on the City of Alameda website.
All photography by Timothy at manningmagic.com
DATELINE: December, 2013
CHC Member Neil Malloch Honored
at our 2013 Holiday Dinner
For his many years of passionate and thoughtful observation
of history, for the sharing of his vast reservoir of knowledge,
for his gift of colorful and captivating communication,
for his outreach in keeping history in vital focus for
our Bay Area Community and beyond, we give our
thanks and appreciation for his exemplary public service.
DATELINE: JUNE 19, 2013
California Heritage Council
2013 Award Winners
June 19, 2013
Antique & Classic Boat Society
Bruton House, Alameda
Classic Yacht Association
Ford Motor Company
Assembly Plant, Richmond
Norwegian Seamen's Church,
SS Red Oak Victory
Spaulding Wooden Boat
DATELINE JUNE 19, 2013
A Message from the California Heritage Council
Board Chairman, John Hodges
I love the great maritime tradition of the San Francisco Bay, always have. Maybe it’s because I kept a boat in Sausalito for years or my service in the U.S. Navy. Anyway I love the lore and the tradition of it so when it was decided that this year CHC would feature our marine history as part of our Awards Dinner I was over the top with enthusiasm.
Our dinner this year will be at the Saint Francis Yacht Club and as we are right on the water it could not be more appropriate as this is also the summer of the America’s Cup.
The America's Cup "World Series" is currently scheduled on San Francisco Bay this summer and will race at astonishing speeds along the waterfront, displaying Olympic class maneuvers in close proximity to shore, and whetting our appetites for the 34th America's Cup race on the Bay featuring extreme, 13-story high, carbon fiber, flying wing yachts.
While these modern boats have captured the public's imagination, their designs have evolved over centuries, and their sailors are in fact continuing a long tradition of yachting that began, on San Francisco Bay, more than 150 years ago.
And that tradition continues to this day maintained by the several excellent historic yacht preservation organizations we will be honoring at our dinner. The list of clubs and awards for this year are listed in this newsletter. In addition we have some of the most exciting honors to award and I know we all will enjoy the evening.
See you at the hosted reception at the SFYC. PS "Go Navy"
John Hodges, Board Chair
A Message from the President
CHC Celebrates the Season
As the Year 2012 Comes to a Close
DATELINE JANUARY 2013
Once again, members of the California Heritage Council gathered at the Saint Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco for their 53rd annual, and much anticipated, Christmas Dinner. The evening was enhanced dramatically by the magnificent setting, the unequaled views over the bay, and the festive decorations. Good friends from around California exchanged holiday best wishes.
As a featured high point, Dr. Anthea Hartig, eminent historian and gifted storyteller, captivated the crowd with her presentation, “Re-imagining the Future of Heritage in California” and brought a truly imaginative aspect to her subject. She spoke about the importance of our roles as historians, who must keep the past alive to give a sound foundation to the future.
At the evening’s conclusion, yours truly conferred our organization’s most prestigious “Distinguished Service to California History” award upon Dr. Hartig. The celebration and ceremony made it an evening to be remembered.
Happy New Year!
President, California Heritage Council
Dr Anthea Hartig, Executive Director of the California Historical Society, joyously receives CHC’s “Distinguished Service to California History” award from CHC President Christopher Layton.
(Photo by manningmagic.com)
CHC Members and Friends Gather
For the Annual Holiday Dinner.
DATELINE JANUARY 2013
Please enjoy the smiling faces of the CHC members and friends, pictured below, as they celebrated the season at CHC’s Christmas Dinner, held December 12th 2013 at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco.
As a footnote, CHC Executive Officer Dianne Rowe reports that the silent auction of the evening was a great success. Thanks to you all for your participation.
(All photography by manningmagic.com)
Consider this a eulogy I would have delivered had I had the chance; a testimony to Mr. “Everyman” who on reflection was really Mr. “Extraordinary.”
First some facts: Win was 86 when he passed, the eldest of four boys, a graduate of MIT, served in the U.S. Navy until 1947 and in the Navy Reserves long after World War 2.
He came to San Francisco in 1954 and worked until retirement for the city as an electrical engineer.
He loved music and was active in the San Francisco Symphony and member of the Symphony Chorus, the SF Opera, Boy Scouts, and was active in many outdoor clubs. He was a long time member and deacon of his Presbyterian Church and played the piano every Sunday. He played Christmas carols for the CHC Holiday Dinner each year to the delight of our revelers.
I first met this man 25 years ago at an Officers’ Mess, an unofficial gathering of retired or ex-military men who got together monthly to put their old military decorations on a too-tight tux, eat roast beef, drink scotch, and generally regale each other with war stories of days gone by.
What I remember about Win in those days is that he had the oldest, well worn, but absolutely the finest tuxedo you have ever seen. I asked him about it once, and he told me he bought it when he graduated from MIT! It was not black, but midnight blue, and it looked great with his old military ribbons proudly pinned on.
We remained members of that club for many years, as did our friend John Ritchie, and during this period we both were members of CHC. Now to understand Win, you need to understand the “long view” of things. By this I mean wisdom, pure and simple wisdom.
Wisdom is a tough thing to define. We can describe it better than we can define it. Wisdom speaks of maturity, of profound recognition. When I think of wisdom, I think of the elders of CHC or any community, for that matter, who have seen so much that they are not thrown off course by short-term good news or bad news.
Wise people like Win have a long view of life in that, like that old midnight-blue tux, they are not blown about by fads, or the emotions of any given event or moment. He was consistent and stable in what was good. He loved old religious hymns, old ideas, and old concepts of good for the community because they were time-honored and classic.
Win had a great mind. When it came to San Francisco city matters, he was doggedly relentless in solving its problems. I remember him showing up at a CHC meeting with a pile of papers and page after page of columns of numbers. He proudly announced that, with these pages of numbers, he had calculated that the Presidio had enough money to restore some key buildings. We asked him how he got this confidential, guarded data and he told that he side-stepped the main Presidio Trust office and went to an old friend in the maintenance department, who just happened to have that data. Win was well connected.
He did the same thing when he identified that the Lucas buildings at the Presidio were too large and several stories too high for the number of people that would be working there. His research showed that, had the calculations been done properly, in advance, two stories could have been removed from the too-tall buildings that impeded sight lines of the bay and all of us could have had a better view; not just the top two floors’ occupants.
The last project that Win was working on was documenting the cable car tracks in SF that are still in place but were simply paved over by the city. Win was, many times, way out in front of an issue. He saw the growing Presidio area as an ever-increasing tourist attraction and was concerned about traffic and parking. He remembered that the California line had once run out California to the Presidio from downtown, but there were no longer any visible tracks of this old line. Re-establishing the extended California line was his solution to a future traffic problem not yet identified as a problem. But where were the tracks?
So, Win rented one of those beachcomber metal detectors and he walked up and down California Street dodging traffic and searching for lost cable car tracks. And he found them!
In addition to his aforementioned relentless pursuits, I am going to miss Win’s written reports which he sent to newspapers, elected officials, just about anybody connected to whatever he was reporting on. Understand that he typed his own reports on an old manual typewriter that had to be fifty years old. The final product was always tight, dense logic but you had to get past the whiteout corrections, the handwritten comments, and the scotch-taped paragraph additions. But oh man, the phenomenal quality of his CHC observations looked, appropriately, like an engineer from MIT developed them!
Men and women like this are valuable members of their community. They crunch the numbers, play the piano, and support the causes of all the congregations. They rediscover the tracks. They sing in the choir. They carry the tune. But now it is time for us to carry the tune for Win.
This is what we do in the California Heritage Council -- we take turns carrying the tune for one another. Win will forever be in our hearts just like a faint tune, heard long ago; a melody played in the past from somewhere that you can’t quite put your finger on. But memories are like a tune you can’t get out of your thoughts as played perhaps by a proud piano man in an old blue tux.
So long, old friend. God Bless.
John Hodges, CHC Chairman
CHC In The Field: where we took our last field trip.
CHC Past Member Events: Web page for our previous outings and events.
This site is dedicated to the memory of Henry Prien, whose untiring efforts to the preservation of California's creative heritage still inspires us all; and to Betty Ann Prien who continues Henry's legacy