Vertigo Celebrates 60 Years!

Vertigo Movie Poster

The Making of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958)

CAST

James Stewart
Kim Novak
Barbara Bel Geddes
Henry Jones
(Click their name if you would like to know more!)

Vertigo is one of Alfred Hitchcock's most powerful, deep, and stunningly beautiful films. At the time of the film's release, it was not a box-office hit, but has since been regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. It is a film noir that functions on multiple levels and was filmed mostly in beautiful San Francisco. The work is a mesmerizing romantic suspense/thriller about a dance with death, romantic delusion and an extreme case of acrophobia.

If you are a Hitchcock Vertigo fan, you will enjoy these fun facts about the film:

1. ALFRED HITCHCOCK BLAMED JIMMY STEWART FOR VERTIGO’S FAILURE.

Marred by mixed reviews, the $2.5 million Vertigo did comparatively less than Hitchcock’s previous movies, and was widely a recognized failure. Frustrated with its reception, Hitchcock partly blamed star Jimmy Stewart’s aging appearance. At the time of filming, Stewart—who had starred in Hitchcock’s three previous films—was 50 years old which, according to the director, was too old to convincingly play then-25-year-old Kim Novak’s love interest.

2. EDITH HEAD USED COLOR TO HIGHLIGHT THE CHARACTERS’ STATE OF MIND.

When having costume disagreements with Kim Novak about her famous gray suit, Head “explained to her that Hitch paints a picture in his films, that color is as important to him as any artist”. After a discussion with the director when Head wouldn’t relent, Novak finally understood their creative choices, “I thought, ‘He knows my point of view, he must see a reason why that would work. He wants me to feel that discomfort as Madeleine. And, of course, she should feel that way because she’s actually Judy, playing the part of somebody, so that edge of discomfort will help me.’”

3. KIM NOVAK WAS ALREADY BEING CONSIDERED TO REPLACE VERA MILES, HITCHCOCK’S FIRST-CHOICE LEADING LADY, BEFORE MILES DROPPED OUT DUE TO A PREGNANCY.

According to Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic, Hitchcock began to have doubts about Miles’s ability to be a breakout star when she showed signs of reluctance to be shaped by the director. Thus, Hitchcock sought a possible substitute. Author Dan Aulier writes, “A few weeks before Miles reported to Stage 5 at Paramount for hair, costume, and makeup tests, Hitchcock screened The Eddy Duchin Story, a biopic featuring an actress [Kim Novak] who was being molded by one of Hitchcock's crosstown rivals [Harry Cohn].”

4. HITCHCOCK EXPLORED NECROPHILIA WHILE SHOOTING THE FILM.

Hitchcock elaborated on the most perverse scene of Vertigo: the part in which Novak’s Judy dresses up as the dead woman with whom Stewart’s Scottie is obsessed. “I indulged in a form of necrophilia,”  In the scene, Scottie can’t bring himself to have sex with Judy until every detail matches his former lover, Madeleine.

5. AN UNCREDITED CAMERAMAN CAME UP WITH THE FAMOUS "VERTIGO EFFECT."

According to associate producer Herbert Coleman, it wasn’t Hitchcock who came up with the film’s famous camera technique (which essentially involves zooming forward while pulling the camera backward); rather, it was an uncredited second unit cameraman, Irwin Roberts. “He didn’t get screen credit on Vertigo because they gave the screen credit to another close friend, [Wallace Kelley] who did all the process work on the stage,”.

6. THE PRODUCTION CODE ADMINISTRATION POLICED THE MORALS OF THE FILM’S CHARACTERS.

Considering this was the 1950s, any kind of sexual activity was scrutinized. According to Auiler’s book on the making of Vertigo, the Production Code Administration, under the leadership of Geoffrey Shurlock, wanted to eliminate several scenes that contained illicit sex. This included, but was not limited to, discussions between Scottie and Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) about her bra and her love life, and any underwear pictured during Madeleine’s suicide attempt.

7. THE FILM WENT THROUGH SEVERAL TITLE OPTIONS.

While the source novel’s literal translation was From Among the Dead, which is the title under which the film was cast and shot, it didn’t stick. A few Paramount execs weighed in with their suggestions, which included A Matter of FactThe Mad CarlottaFace in the Shadow, and Possessed by a Stranger.

8. A MUSICIANS GUILD STRIKE AFFECTED THE FINAL CUT.

In 1958, the same year Vertigo was in post-production, Hollywood's musical status quo changed drastically. Studios were dissolving their in-house music departments, so the industry’s composers, orchestra members, and musicians had to start working freelance or were out of jobs. According to a 1996 interview with Hitchcock’s daughter, Patricia, the union had a lot of things working against them: a leader who didn't look out for them, Hollywood using cheaper old recordings from Europe, and a tense intra-union split amongst members.

“Bernard Herrmann didn’t conduct himself,” said Patricia. “It couldn’t be done in Hollywood, so it was taken to London with Muir Mathieson conducting, and they did about a day and a half there, then the London orchestra went out in sympathy with the Los Angeles musicians. And the entire unit had to move to Vienna.” During the film’s restoration in the 1990s, each country’s recording ultimately aged differently, leaving the folks at Universal to remaster its sound.

9. ALFRED HITCHCOCK CHANGED THE SETTING FROM PARIS TO SAN FRANCISCO.

The French source novel, D'entre les Morts, was set in Paris, but Hitchcock believed that San Francisco was more interesting. With the city's vertiginous streets and hilly landscape, the location perfectly matched the film’s themes. In a city where there were such extreme physical highs and lows, awful for anyone with acrophobia, Scottie’s vertigo became a character in and of itself.

10. DESPITE HITCHCOCK’S TASKMASTER REPUTATION, KIM NOVAK GOT ALONG WITH HER DIRECTOR.

Happy to be on loan from Columbia, the Harry Cohn-run studio under which Novak was contracted, Novak reveled in her experience with Hitchcock. “I didn’t find him controlling whatsoever,” she told The Telegraph“I found him a joy.” She elaborated saying, “[Hitchcock] didn’t make me feel ‘less than.’ He never said, ‘You’re not doing it right…’  What I would do after a take is to look in Jimmy Stewart’s eyes … I used Jimmy to give me what I needed to keep going and to know that I was on the right path with it … So, Hitchcock wouldn’t say anything about my work in the movie but, on the other hand, he wouldn’t complain, either.”

San Francisco Movie Locations

What's in a name?

Chinatown.jpg

San Francisco neighborhoods and how they got their names. 

With the help of my favorite daily read Curbed San Francisco, I have compiled their list for everyone on my list to enjoy! 

Alamo Square: Alamo Square Park began as a mere watering hole on a horse trail, marked by a standout poplar tree. San Francisco Mayor James Van Ness created both the park and its name in 1857, according to the San Francisco Parks Alliance. “Alamo” means “poplar” in Spanish.

Ashbury Heights: According to the Library of Congress, nearby Ashbury Street is named for Munroe Ashbury, former member of the Board of Supervisors.

Balboa Park: The park itself is probably named after early 16th century Spanish explorer Vasco Nuñez de Balboa—not to be confused with the park of the same name in San Diego. (Which was definitely named after Vasco Nuñez de Balboa).

Bayview: Naturally, the name comes by way of the proximity to the bay, although the San Francisco Travel Association credits the long lost Bay View Racetrack with pioneering the moniker.

Bernal Heights: Wealthy rancher José Cornelio Bernal once owned a quarter of present-day San Francisco, conferred on him via a land grant from Mexico in 1839. According to a San Francisco Chronicle obituary, some portion of the land stayed in the family until 1926 and the death of Bernal’s grandson of the same name.

The Castro: Several-times governor of various parts of California, General Jose Castroseems to have had a somewhat luckless life, which included losing California to John Sloat and John Fremont with hardly any opposition and then later being assassinated by bandits.

Chinatown: The city experimented with a few variations on the theme in the 1850s before “Chinatown” eventually stuck. Once upon a time, Sacramento Street was known as China Street.

Civic Center: Present-day Civic Center resulted from an $8.8 million bond ($227 million in modern currency) approved by San Francisco voters in 1912, after the 1906 earthquake devastated the previous Civic Center.

Clarendon Heights: Named after nearby Clarendon Avenue, but from where that name derived seems a mystery.

Cole Valley: The SF Streets database credits 19th century San Francisco doctor Francisco Cole as the most likely namesake for the street and surrounding area.

Corona Heights: Corona Heights Park started off as a quarry dubbed Rock Hill. According to SF Parks Alliance, the city conferred the present name on it when buying land for park space in 1941.

Cow Hollow: Yes, once upon a time most of present day Cow Hollow was dairy farms—and, naturally, there were cows.

Crocker-Amazon: The Crocker part possibly comes from local railroad tycoon Charles Crocker, who once owned most of this land. Amazon Street may have gotten its name from the Amazon women of Greek myth, whom 16th century Spanish novelist Montalvorecalled in his novel about a far-off island nation ruled by warrior women and dubbed “California,” which is from where the name first came.

Diamond Heights: The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency picked the sparkling name when it created the neighborhood from scratch in the 1950s. If there was any particular reason for the diamond moniker—except for the chicness factor—it’s not evident.

Dogpatch: Similarly, Dogpatch is proverbial for the nonsensicality of its mysterious name. Other than general speculation that there must once have been a noteworthy number of dogs around, there’s little use in arguing about this one. Another speculation is that the name was derived from barflies who used to frequent an area watering hole.

Dolores Heights: One day in 1776, a chaplain accompanying Spanish explorer Juan Batista de Anza’s expedition wrote in his diary, “We arrived at a beautiful creek, which because it was Friday of Sorrows, we called the Arroyo de Los Dolores.” Although it’s no longer clear where Dolores Creek once was, the name has endured long after it vanished.

Duboce Triangle: Spanish-American war veteran Victor Duboce was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1899 but served less than a year before dying. Almost immediately after his death, neighbors began stumping to name a park after him, so great was his reputation at the time.

Embarcadero: No mystery here: the Spanish word “embarcar” means simply “to embark.”

Excelsior: The Excelsior Homestead dates to at least 1869 in surviving San Francisco records. Where that got its name in the first place is less clear, although the word itself is Latin and means (roughly) “ever upward.”

The Fillmore: Fillmore Street is named for Millard Fillmore, the former U.S. president who admitted California into the Union.

Forest Hill: The name says it all: When opened up for development in the early 1900s, it was mostly forestland.

Glen Park: Similarly, the “Glen” name is just a reference to the area’s valley geography.

The Haight: Banker Henry Haight came to San Francisco in 1850 and later served as governor. He is credited with founding the University of California.

Hayes Valley: San Francisco County Clerk Thomas Hayes owned and developed the land around this neighborhood in the 1860s.

Hunters Point: The three Hunter brothers bought this land from the aforementioned Bernal in the 19th century. Note that it’s never “Hunter’s Point”—just “Hunters Point” without the possessive.

Ingleside: According to the Western Neighborhoods Project, New York transplant Cornelius Stagg opened his Ingleside (“fireside”) Inn here in 1885. Which, alas, means we were this close to a neighborhood called “Staggstown,” but someone dropped the ball.

Jackson Square: As most people could guess, Jackson Street is named for Andrew Jackson, former U.S. president and headliner on the $20 bill.

Japantown: Originally “Nihonjin Machi,” San Francisco’s first Japanese enclave settled in what’s SoMa today. After the 1906 earthquake, survivors relocated near the present locale.

Jordan Park: Named after late 19th century landowner James Clark Jordan. Imagine if modern San Francisco tycoons got to name neighborhoods after themselves like that: Benioff Heights, Thiel Place, Mount Zuckerberg.

Laguna Honda: Yes, there was once a lagoon in this neighborhood, although it’s long since disappeared, along with the Gold Rush speculators who first built the Laguna Honda “almshouse” here.

Lake Merced: Another product of Spanish exploration and colonization, they dubbed the namesake lake “The Lake of Our Lady of Mercy” in either 1774 or 1775. (Accounts vary.)

Laurel Heights: In April of 1867, the Daily Alta California newspaper ran the following item: “Lone Mountain Cemetery has ceased to exist as articles of incorporation were filed yesterday by several prominent citizens by which a certain portion of Lone Mountain Cemetery has become legally into possession of the name of Laurel Hill Cemetery. The latter is a much prettier name, but it will be a long time before this generation will consent to the change.”

Little Hollywood: Disappointingly, SFGate says that the name stuck simply because folks in the early 20th century thought the homes here resembled those in Southern California.

Lone Mountain: It’s more of a hill than a mountain, of course, but apparently it stood out enough in the relatively flat surroundings to garner a nickname. Note that the aforementioned Lone Mountain Cemetery is probably the reason the name endured.

The Marina: There’s a marina here.

The Mission: There’s a California mission here.

Mission Bay: Modern Mission Bay doesn’t seem particularly close to the Mission, but much of the intervening neighborhoods didn’t exist at the time the name came up, and at one time the waters extended much further inland.

Mount Davidson: Adolph Sutro named the peak after George Davidson, who was a founding member of the Sierra Club. Despite the photographic evidence, he was not also a time traveling James Cromwell.

Nob Hill: People still argue about this one, but the most popular explanation is that “Nob” is a snarky elision of “nabob,” in reference to the wealthy tycoons who built their mansions here.

Noe Valley: Named for alcalde (mayor) of Yerba Buena Jose de Jesus Noe, who had so many great names it’s amazing they managed to pick just one.

North Beach: There hasn’t been a beach here in generations, of course. That’s infill for you.

NoPa: Neighbors usually resist when realtors try to create new neighborhood designations by sheer power of repetition, and many locals still cringe at the NoPa name. But Hoodline contends the name is actually a century old, so who knows.

Oceanview: A strange story, as this neighborhood was once called Lakeview, a reference to nearby Lake Geneva. But Lake Geneva no longer exists, so they changed the name to Oceanview, even though only a small part of the neighborhood affords a view of the ocean.

Pacific Heights: Note that Magellan conferred the name “Pacific” on the waters of the Western Hemisphere, meaning “peaceful.”

Polk Gulch: U.S. Pesident James K. Polk presided over the Mexican-American War, which, with the benefit of hindsight, probably wasn’t such a great thing. But it did mark the transfer of California to the United States.

Portola: Gaspar de Portola founded both San Diego and Monterey on his 18th century expedition north through California, which eventually terminated near the present day Golden Gate.

Potrero Hill: Turns out the “pasture hill” name is pretty literal, as former alcalde Don Francisco de Haro used the land granted to him to graze cattle. Lucky break that the neighborhood isn’t “Cow Hill.”

Presidio Heights: According to Gary Kamiya’s book Cool Gray City of Love, the original Spanish Presidio only survived a couple of years. Turns out adobe architecture was not the ticket for SF’s foggy climate.

The Richmond: Another one nobody can quite agree upon, the most often cited storyis that an Australian immigrant named the neighborhood after his native city, a suburb of Melbourne. Previously, all of the far western reaches were known as the Outside Lands.

Rincon Hill: “Rincon” means “corner” in Spanish. However, the geography that provoked the name to begin with no longer exists.

Russian Hill: Possibly the most oddball legacy of the lot, Gold Rush settlers discovered a cemetery atop this hill with Russian names inscribed, apparently the remains of unlucky sailors from the westward seas.

Sea Cliff: Although now one of the most wealthy SF neighborhoods, in the 19th century what would one day become Sea Cliff was mostly just a village for Chinese immigrant fisherman. “China Beach” could just as easily have become the name of the entire neighborhood rather than just the beach itself.

SoMa: For whatever it’s worth, SOMA magazine published a piece noting that editor-in-chief Ali Ghanbarian has long credited himself with making the “SoMa” portmanteau popular. Take from that what you will.

South Beach: The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency built South Beach Harbor in 1986, and as the premiums of the surrounding blocks rose they adopted the name to distinguish itself from nearby SoMa.

South Park: According to SF Recreation and Parks, San Francisco’s oldest park was “originally conceived as a London-style city garden.” Now, of course, it’s not even particularly far south, by the city’s present borders.

St. Francis Wood: Italian friar Saint Francis of Assissi, for whom the tony neighborhood is named, is also the namesake for San Francisco.

Sunnyside: German immigrant cum developer Behrend Joost, the “Father of Southwest San Francisco,” seemed to be fond of the Sunnyside moniker, naming two of his companies “Sunny Side” before granting the name to the neighborhood.

The Sunset: Once, this westernmost neighborhood was actually called “Carville,“ as early SF bohemians built homes out of decommissioned streetcars and other vehicles. The Sunset moniker was the brainchild of later developers casting around for a marketable name.

Telegraph Hill: Originally it was just “Loma Alta”—literally “high hill.” But apparently that was too obvious, so the telegraph moniker came by way of the old semaphore that long sat at the peak.

The Tenderloin: Named for the neighborhood in New York City, there’s a longstanding dispute over precisely what it means. Popular myth has it that beat cops made extra money for steak dinners working here, though whether they were eating off of hazard pay or bribes isn’t clear. The Tenderloin Museum, on the other hand, suggests that the name refers to the city’s “underbelly.”

Treasure Island: The island could hardly have less to do with the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, but even so here it is.

Twin Peaks: According SF Recreation and Parks, the Spanish originally dubbed Twin Peaks “Los Pechos de la Choca,” which translates into “the Breasts of the Maiden.” Just “Twin Peaks” is a little nondescript by comparison, but who can blame them?

Union Square: During the Civil War, rabble rousing minister Thomas Starr Kingwould harangue the masses here, calling for an end to slavery and victory for the Union. Maybe the fact that both of those occasions came to pass is the reason the name hung around.

Visitacion Valley: Another neighborhood named for the land grant rancho that once stood here, in this case Rancho Cañada de Guadalupe, La Visitacion y Rodeo Viejo.

West Portal: Named for the terminus of the Twin Peaks Tunnel. Which poses a Schrodinger’s Cat-style paradox: While the tunnel is closed, is the neighborhood still there?

Western Addition: The city created the Western Addition in the mid-19th century as a response to squatters creating ad hoc settlements outside the city’s westernmost borders.

Yerba Buena: Yerba Buena is the last holdout of the city of San Francisco’s original name. It translates to “good herb,” which, of course, provokes dank snickering today, but the reference is actually to the wild mint that used to grow on the hillsides.

Dig deeper and learn about a few more neighborhoods not included on the list. Thank you, Wikipedia!

List of neighborhoods in San Francisco

 

The Tale of Four Cottages and Landmark #232

A Milkman, A Butcher, An Artist and a Couple with Persistence

1338 Filbert Street cottage row

1338 Filbert Street cottage row

The Filbert Street Cottages tell a wonderful story by providing a tangible link to the 19th Century history of Russian Hill as both a working-class neighborhood and one that contributed to the City’s artistic traditions. The original property know as 1312 Filbert was split into two lots, each with one house, one owned by by Peter Matthews, a gardener, milkman and laborer, and the other by William K Bush, a butcher.  In the immediate aftermath of the 1906 Earthquake and Great Fire of 1906, a group of four cottages, permitted as rental housing, were built on the double lot property. Since there was a high demand for housing, the structures were built modestly by skilled craftsman rather than known architects.  The embodied rustic simplicity, minimal embellishment, and a generous sensitivity to the site . The overall appearance references the craftsman style en vogue during the early 20th century.



The Matthews-Bush ownership formally transferred to Marian Hartwell in the 1946 who, while renting Cottage A, had built a 1943 addition to use as an art studio. 1n the early 1940's Hartwell developed the School of Basic Design and Color using cottage A as a classroom and renting our the other cottages to students, some of whom had been students of hers from her days as a faculty member at the California School of Fine Arts. These students enjoyed the benefits of her teaching the principals of California Decorative Style during these years. In the 1950s, Marian added square footage at the rear, reconfigured the cottages to 10 units. Additional brick walkways, outdoor patio areas, and landscaping were added to the property. These cottages continued as rentals for working people and retirees.

In 1972, Marian Hartwell sold the property to San Francisco architect, Robert Marquis of Marquis Investors, who in 1979 subdivided the property into four condominiums. Over a period in the 1980's, the units were resold until all four were owned by John Willis, one of the city's developer of fine boutique residential projects. Willis lived in Cottage A from 1989 until 2007, when he sold the property to David Low and Dominique Lahaussois.

Low and Lahaussios purchased the cottages for a simple renovation plus a couple of parking spaces. Three years of planning reviews followed as the project team worked through a myriad of complex preservation, environmental, and planning issues. Entitlements were obtained in early 2010, but further litigation delayed the construction until 2014. Their small renovation ultimately turned into a massive undertaking that included a full underground garage accessed by a commercial vertical lift. During this stretch of time the four cottages were suspended in air by steel columns for nine months while the concrete garage was built underneath.

Patience is definitely a virtue! Now in its reimagined, historically sensitive state, these four beautiful cottages have all been sold. The final sale was completed this spring by my partner, Joseph Lucier, who relocated a very happy couple for Marin County to begin a new chapter in San Francisco.  We all love a happy ending!


Renovated Interiors from 2017-18 offering


Before/After Slideshow

A Sweet Ride Around San Francisco in 1955

How fun is this film! This film took place well before I was born, but depicts the San Francisco I have always loved. Take this wonderful tour around San Francisco and visit many of the landmarks that are still here today. The landscape has definitely changed over time and you will see places in this movie that are no longer here, but the heart of San Francisco still remains! Enjoy!

Cinematography by - Tullio Pellegrini
Filmed with Bell and Howell's Filmorama Lens

Ellinwood Residence Landmark #207

2799 Pacific Avenue: Built 1894

The family coachman shown in this photograph is Carl S. Anderson, a Swede who was naturalized and in 1900 became a U.S. citizen. During World War II, the FBI stayed at the home to spy on the Russian Consulate located at Divisadero and Broadway.

The family coachman shown in this photograph is Carl S. Anderson, a Swede who was naturalized and in 1900 became a U.S. citizen. During World War II, the FBI stayed at the home to spy on the Russian Consulate located at Divisadero and Broadway.

Wanting to move from his home on Pine Street near Van Ness Avenue, Dr. C. N. Ellinwood commissioned architect Eugene Freeman Smith to design this home, first known as 2739 Pacific Avenue and later changed to 2799 Pacific Avenue, a number believed to be better suited for a corner home. It is among the earliest homes built on the crest of Pacific Heights after the extension of transit lines. This academically correct Colonial Revival was under construction from 1893 to 1894 and then the doctor and his wife, Elizabeth moved in and raised their four children.

The interior, with its formally arranged rooms, displays a very high quality of extant decoration. Aside from its 106 windows and 14 fireplaces, the building features a spectacular interior dome containing approximately 8,000 pieces of stained glass.

The house is ripe with multi-generational drama. In 1850, Divisadero was the dividing line between the City and the Presidio, and the Ellinswood House was one of the earliest homes located right at the boundary. Dr. Ellinswood was one of the officers in the U.S. Public Health Service and founder of the Marine Hospital of the Presidio. In 1902 he became the president of Cooper Medical College, which would eventually become Stanford Medical Hospital. By 1907, he was forcibly removed from the presidency following a financial management controversy over funneling funds earmarked for the now famous Lane Medical Library.

His descendants continued to own 2799 Pacific for over 100 years, including a bizarre 50-year stint from 1928-1978 when the house sat vacant and was rumored to have been used by the CIA to spy on the nearby Russian consulate. A later descendant, Alice Ellinwood, lived in the house alone and bankrupted herself in an attempt to restore it.

The home was completely reborn in 2000 by architect Lewis Butler and designer Paul Wiseman in a project that spanned 3 years and cost more than 10 million dollars. This renovation added a swimming pool, fitness center, caretaker's apartment and a spa with a 75' lap pool. By 2009, the mega mansion went into foreclosure, with a mortgage balance due of $11,363,000 and an unmet minimum bid of $10,000,000. Shockingly, no one showed up with cash in hand, so the bank had to forcibly kick out the defaulting owners in 2011.

Now..... this stately home has been lovingly cared for since 2012. If you drive by 2799 Pacific during Halloween or Christmas, you will be in for a wonderful treat. These famous homeowners know how to decorate for the holidays!

 

Iconic Coca Cola Sign

Coca Cola SF

San Francisco History

Standing 112 feet above Bryant Street atop a three-story building in San Francisco's South of Market area, the Coca Cola billboard has been a landmark for drivers going to and from the Bay Bridge since 1937 -- One year after the bridge opened to traffic.

The Spencerian script of the logo with its glowing background in a shade known as Coca-Cola Red was originally illuminated with neon. It alternately twinkled and shone for the better part of seven decades, but in 2010 it began showing its age.

Seventy-feet long and 30 feet high, the new sign is about the same size as its predecessor, but the look at night is crisper and the colors seem more vibrant.

The work to remove the original lighting system and reface the billboard with 4,800 CFLs for the white lettering and strip LEDs for the background took crews working day and night. The billboard was dark for only four days.

When I return from a long trip, I can always count on one of my favorite signs to light up and welcome me back to San Francisco. I am sure for years to come.......
 

FROM BROADWAY TO BELVEDERE

In 1962, architect Norman Gilroy rejected the notion that San Francisco’s historic buildings should be sacrificed in the name of progress. 1818 Broadway, a mansion that Willis Polk designed for Dr. Francis Moffitt in 1914, was slated to be razed for an apartment complex. It’s owners agreed to sell Gilroy the mansion if he moved it off the site.

1818 Broadway shown in its original location.

1818 Broadway shown in its original location.

After several months of negotiating for financing and for building transportation permits at both ends of the move, Moffitt Mansion was ready to journey to the property of some partners on Belvedere Island, which was 15 land and sea miles away across the bay. Using a chainsaw, workers literally sliced the 15-room mansion into two neat sections, each 30 feet high, 35 by 40 feet on plan, and weighing 85-100 tons.

"If you hear this particular whistle, don’t think: just run, the foreman warned. As the first house section moved onto the steep Franklin Street hill, its full weight suddenly canted onto its front dolly. With a scream like a train whistle, the impact tore a one inch steel box beam in two, knocking a two-foot hole in the street. Movers scattered like rabbits."

Chainsaw

This half of a house is ready to go! Ayen Movers claims this was the “largest and most complicated moving job ever attempted in San Francisco” It required 30-foot-vertical street clearances, navigating a 2.5 mile route through a congested area, and an elevation drop of 185 feet. Completed at night to avoid disrupting traffic, the move required lowering transit and power lines at several major street intersections to allow the sections to pass.

Here, workers jack the house up at 3:30am.

Here, workers jack the house up at 3:30am.

It required 30-foot-vertical street clearances, navigating a 2.5 mile route through a congested area, and an elevation drop of 185 feet.

“If you hear this particular whistle, don’t think: just run, the foreman warned. As the first house section moved onto the steep Franklin Street hill, its full weight suddenly canted onto its front dolly. With a scream like a train whistle, the impact tore a one inch steel box beam in two, knocking a two-foot hole in the street. Movers scattered like rabbits."

Time spent waiting for the right weather conditions was not wasted. This photograph shows the two sections being weather proofed for their sea journey. Meanwhile, temporary tracks and a ramp were being built to slide the building halves over the seawall onto the barge for transport.

A close-up shot of the track to the barge shows the amount of work and detail that went into building the ramp to slide the buildings from land to barge. A similar ramp for unloading was later built on the other side of the bay. With one of the halves of the Moffitt Mansion in the distance, it is easy to appreciate the immense size and scope of the project.

A close-up shot of the track to the barge shows the amount of work and detail that went into building the ramp to slide the buildings from land to barge. A similar ramp for unloading was later built on the other side of the bay. With one of the halves of the Moffitt Mansion in the distance, it is easy to appreciate the immense size and scope of the project.

In this shot, the house and barge with its tug captained by Master Mariner John Seaborne, is leaving the San Francisco shoreline for Belvedere Island. The trip will take one full day battling wind and tides in the Golden Gate all the way. The follow up positioning and siting work was left to Ayen house movers, and contractors were hired to restore and reconstruct the residence and landscape grounds.

In this shot, the house and barge with its tug captained by Master Mariner John Seaborne, is leaving the San Francisco shoreline for Belvedere Island. The trip will take one full day battling wind and tides in the Golden Gate all the way. The follow up positioning and siting work was left to Ayen house movers, and contractors were hired to restore and reconstruct the residence and landscape grounds.

West Shore Blvd

On West Shore Road, the sections were lowered into place on newly poured concrete foundations. The view shows the house after the halves were rejoined. Amazingly, the gap between the sections was exactly the width of the first chainsaw cut made on Broadway. The original Polk drawings, found walled up in the house, guided the restoration, and damaged pilasters and moldings were replaced with plaster casts and high-quality modern-day hand carving.

The Moffitt Mansion move is testimony to how an idealistic gamble by a single architect inspired others to preserve important buildings for posterity. Without Norman Gilroy’s vision and determination to convince city officials that historic houses could still be moved and preserved, the later rescue and restoration of many Painted Lady Victorians in the Western Addition might never have happened.

This interior shot captures just one room of the residence’s restored glory.

This interior shot captures just one room of the residence’s restored glory.

8 West Shore Blvd today!

8 West Shore Blvd today!