THE NOE REVIEW - April - May 1998


John Wullbrandt spoke to Vicky Graham about his memories of the Fallon Building

"I lived on the top floor which was 1802 Market and I always knew the building was in some way valuable historically. So I collected photos, papers and memorabilia the whole time that I was there. When I first moved in, my roommates were Dexter Price, Bob Steinbaugh, Gary Boudine, Dave Morrison, and Bob Campbell. We were a family of gay men. All of us lived on the top floor together.

"At the time Dick Jaycox had the lease on the top floor and would rent out rooms to what would become the members of this family. Dick was a New Age counselor­mind pictures, realizing prosperity, things like that. He still does that. And he would hold classes on the top floor at 1802. Early on in the 70's, he also helped produce The Kalendar, a gay magazine that was created on the first floor of the Fallon Building at 3 Waller Street.

"Bob Campbell was a stained glass artist and his studio was in the dining room. We had stained glass in the windows, stained glass in the doors. It was beautiful. Above the twisted triangular stairwell that led to the top floor was a stained glass skylight with frosted and etched glass. All day long we had this wonderful light that came down through that staircase, a really inviting hospitable approach to coming to the third floor.

"All the woodwork and the rails in the staircase were in perfect shape. We kept them varnished and glued. Almost all of the house was original. All of the moldings, doors hardware and a lot of the glass was original. The mantelpieces had original ceramic tile work and the all the white marble around the sinks was original when we lived there.

"Looking out the bay windows in the dining room was a view of the stained glass windows of the First Baptist Church. One night in the early 80's we heard sirens coming closer and closer, and it was the most incredible spectacle to see. The stained glass windows at the Baptist church were lit up with the flames from the inside. The fire was put out and there wasn't a tremendous amount of damage. When they recarpeted the Baptist Church, they gave us what was good of their leftover carpets. So we carpeted the stairwell and halls with green carpet from the Baptist Church which was cool.

"We kept the interior beautifully maintained. Later on we bought new carpet and did the stairwell in sort of an oatmeal color. It was very gay. In the 80's you had to be lookin' good and the carpet went perfectly with our gray and mauve walls. We also collected some vintage antiques. All of the pendant lamps and sconces had glass shades that were from the late 1800's.

"I had a little art studio in the house and I painted a trompe l'oeil fireplace on the wall. I also painted the kitchen trompe l'oeil to look like a castle. Trompe l'oeil is French for "to fool the eye." Dexter Price really ruled the kitchen at 1802. He's an excellent cook and hosted fabulous dinner parties. Dexter lived in the building the longest and he's still alive today.

"The southwest corner of the building had a bay window that looked out on Market Street as well as a window on the side for afternoon light. That was Dexter's bedroom the entire time we lived there. It was one of the nicest bedrooms, the walls were a very deep, rich saturated red. He had nice drapes and beautiful furnishings. It was a great room.

"There were many gay families living in Victorians in the 70's and 80's. Mary Paccios Humphrey was an artist living in the Goodman Building, which went through a controversy similar to the what we're facing with the Fallon Building. Mary served on the board of directors of the Theatre Rhinoceros and became a friend of mine. She was instrumental in making connections between me and the city of San Francisco, which is how I got to do the trompe l'oeil for the Mayor's office of Community Development at 222 Hyde.

"My first lover Joe Cappetta was an actor, director and writer, and we used the top floor at 1802 for play readings and rehearsals and a lot of theater events that were happening at the time. Joe worked with people in the theater community like Rodney Price, Alan Hermann and Donna Viscaso who were among the people that launched Theatre Rhinoceros, which became the premier gay theater in America.

"We painted sets out on the roof for fundraisers, for Children as Teachers of Peace with Pat Montodon, at the little theater in the Palace of Fine Arts. We did sets for the Lilly Street Fair.

"Around 1983, the Green Torpedo Graphics project also took place in the Victorian. The city wanted to demolish all the old trolleys so we created Trolley Festival posters and greeting cards to increase public awareness of the trolleys. Bob Campbell, myself and Bob Steinbaugh scraped the little money we had into a collection to pay for publishing these posters which were a huge success, and that's partly why we have the antique trolleys today.

"I kept the roof on and patched. I have a video tape my Dad made of me repairing the windows. I also did all the plumbing, electrical, painting and molding until we moved in 1992. The top and middle floor were in fine condition. During the 1980's, the middle floor also became a family of gay men and there was also a woman and her bisexual husband who raised some children.

"Moving out of the Fallon started in 1991. If we could have afforded it, we would have bought the Victorian, but we didn't have any money. The owner was a developer named Ray Hoffman from Hoffman Properties who bought the Fallon Building before the 1980's. He knew that demolition and redevelopment was going to be difficult because it was a Victorian. So we asked to move out because he wanted the building to be empty and allowed to disintegrate.

"When I found out the Gay and Lesbian Board had purchased the building for the Community Center Project and was going to save the building, I was elated. I got in touch with my other ex-roommates from the Fallon Building and Bob Steinbaugh. Dexter and I got together and drove back down to the building and had a wonderful evening celebrating.

"I went ahead and donated $1000 so that I would feel that I had a voice. I was invited to start going to their development committee meetings. I think when the CCP decided to demolish the Fallon Building, they were trying to be responsible financially. But they were being very irresponsible in terms of our history. I feel fortunate to have had the unique opportunity over the past few months to be the one person that has worked with the community center project and at the same time helping with Friends of 1800 Market by donating my archives for their website,"

Courtesy of The Noe Review, April-May 1998

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