Saturday, May 26, 2007

An Architectural Desecration

Unhappy walk today ... didn't start out that way. Some young female twit blew a stop sign without looking while we were in the crosswalk at Octavia and Hayes ... the dog and I were five feet away. I yelled and she stopped and then gave me a little dismissive flip of the hand. Driving some obscene SUV. It's always somebody else's fault nowadays ... the little shit.

But that was nothing compared to an architectural desecration at Buchanan and Grove, a few blocks away. There is a magnificent old brick building there with a faded tile sign that says "Hebrew Free Loan Association" and a cornerstone that says 1925. This part of town is the Western Addition, and for many decades, especially after the Second World War, it was a relatively poor and very multi-ethnic neighborhood. In the late 40s and early 50s, it was largely razed and turned into ugly subsidized housing, and much of it remains an architectural scar ... opposite the building in question on both Buchanan and Grove are subsidized housing units, albeit in pretty good shape and well-maintained, but nothing compared to the fabulous Victorians that were destroyed in the 50s.

The Hebrew Free Loan Association building had long seemed empty, but in the last year or so several signs in Korean sprouted, and there is one rather weather-beaten metal sign that says "Korean American Residents Association of San Francisco Bay Area."

All well and fine, except ... today they started to paint the ancient bricks a hideous cheap yellow ... and a crappy amateurish paint job to boot. These magnificent bricks have never been painted before. They have already painted over the inlaid "Hebrew Free Loan Association" logo. Do they plan to rip out the iron grates with the stars of David? It is a brutal, bloody-minded assault on San Francisco's architectural heritage, and an assault on historical memory. What are they thinking?

The only organization with online contact information in this location that I can find is the Korean American Women Artists & Writers Association. It is possible that the organization is actually called the Korean American Community Center of San Francisco and Bay Area, but it has no readly accessible online presence. Whoever it is has committed a crime against art. It is bizarre that this is an Asian organization considering the recent, stirring world premiere of After The War by Philip Kan Gotanda (pdf) at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater which treated of the multi-ethnic community and its destruction in the 50s ... now some short-sighted organization does more damage. Shame on them.

I have sent some notes to sundry parties and will post any results here. If this building has already been declared worthy of historical preservation, whoever mucked it up will have some expensive restoration to do.

I have photographed the building numerous times ... it is a difficult subject because it is dark, close to the street and shrouded by trees, so I have mostly shot details. I mounted a folder of photos before the desecration here or just click on the photo. I think I have more photos but I'll have to hunt them down and will post them if I find them.

No comments: