In the middle of March, the Friends of 1800 Market Street, the group that successfully won San Francisco City Landmark (#223) status for the Fallon Building, started expressing concern regarding the decision of the Community Center Project (CCP) to not restore the plaster ornamentation on the exterior of the building. Since that time the Friends have been working with Tim Kelley, President of the San Francisco Landmarks Board, trying to get a satisfactory answer as to why such significant details are missing.
With documents collected, The Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board has this month asked the CCP, through Project Development Manager, Michael Simmons, for an explanation. They have also asked the City Attorney's Office for an opinion on the matter. As of the writing of this article, the City Attorney's Office has not issued an opinion, and the CCP has not answered the Landmarks Board's questions.
Spectrum has obtained a copy of a document that is part of the Certificate of Appropriateness, which Friends of 1800 is using to question the current condition of the building. The document was written by Cee/Pfau Collaborative dated September 29, 1998, and states on the first page "SIGNIFICANT FEATURES: ...including... original projecting cornices, trim, siding and ornamentation on the Market, Waller and Octavia Street Facades." The second page stages: "MARKET STREET FACADE - FLOORS TWO AND THREE: All significant features of the upper facade (the Market Street elevation) will be retained and preserved with the exception of the replacement of all glass in the windows and the necessary replacement of the irreparable, damaged wood channel siding at this area."
Along with this language, Spectrum has obtained a photo taken by John Wullbrandt showing the building at 1808 Market Street being demolished. The date of the photo is of the same period when the Certificate of Appropriateness was being issued. The photo shows quite well that that all of the plaster ornamentation on the exterior of the Fallon Building was pretty much present at that time.
The CCP is in the process of obtaining bridge financing of $1.5 million, to complete the project, all of which has to be paid back through future donations. When asked by Spectrum about this situation, Dana Van Gorder, Vice President of the CCP Board, did not give the impression that they did not want to do the work, but he did state, "We would welcome the preservationist help in raising monies for this purpose."
When he heard of Van Gorder's statement and the situation that is arising, David Ginn, Spectrum Publisher said, "We (Spectrum) helped the CCP and a powerful volunteer, Camille Maran, raise monies for the Psychiatric Survivors Memorial stained glass skylight, why not try to do the same here?"
John Wullbrandt, one of the driving forces in obtaining the historical status of the Fallon Building, a local and nationally known artist, and the photographer of that picture that shows all of the plaster ornamentation, only wanted to see the best things for the entire project and suggested a partial solution. He stated that he would like "to support efforts in raising the funds needed to restore garlands on the Historic Fallon Building at the LGBT Community Center." To help with this case he has donated 130 prints of the historic San Francisco Streetcars. "I hope historic streetcar and history buffs will be willing to financially support the Fallon Restoration and receive one of these prints as a thank you." (They may be purchased at Spectrum's office at 1845 Market Street (at Guerrero) 415-431-1981, for a minimum donation to the Center of $50.00, and if someone makes a Founders pledge of $1,000 or more, Wullbrandt will personally sign it.)
"I am sure that all sides concerned want only the best for the Community Center and the Fallon Building," stated Gin. "The time to show that is now. The Center has a Founders Challenge Grant made by Ambassador James C. Hormel running through October 31, 2001, and with Dana Van Gorder stating that they welcome financial help with the project, I suggest that anyone who can afford it should come forward."
The story behind these works of art make them a real collector's piece and hopefully will raise the needed monies. Wullbrandt went on to tell us that some people may enjoy the historic streetcars we have on Market Street, but may not know that a group of gay men living in the Fallon Building (including John), worked with the City and County of San Francisco and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce in the early 80's to produce the San Francisco Historic Trolly Festival." Green Torpedo Graphics at 1800 Market produced a series of posters and prints that included "The Boat Car" carrying dozens of celebrated figures from San Francisco's historic past and the "Number One Car," which has a San Francisco skyline that includes the Castro Theatre and the Fallon Building. These posters are rarely seen on sale, but have been a good auction item at AIDS Fundraisers over the years.