Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Perch on Sutro Tower - The top of San Francisco

Sutro Tower - from the Catwalk on the West facing structure; viewing North to Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands

  Something with a little vertigo anyone?

Rust-colored Alien-like "Prongs" extend from the
Tower to
create the perfect vantage point


Imagine the grinding of metal gears, scrapping of metal on metal siding, snapping and popping as they engaged thankfully, one by one, thus enabling a painfully slow but necessary ascent inside one of the three metal legs of Sutro Tower.  Looking out mid-climb from the man cage, an emerging vanishing point fortold the vertigo enducing future that was a mere 15 minutes away as the elevator slowly took us toward the non-aviation related highest perch in San Francisco.

Not content for the simple experience however, we had decided to lug of all things an 8 x 10" view camera , one of those Ansel Adams size monster cameras that would capture images that could be blowup the size of a house.  What were we thinking?  Oh yes, it was 1984 and we did things like this back in the day.

Once we summitted, there was suffice to say some further adjusting to do.  First and foremost, as you step off the man cage, you realize that your walking platform is see-through expansion metal-grating.  This means, if you chose to look at your feet, you are also staring straight through your new 'floor' roughly 750 feet to the cement deck below.  This is a bit unnerving. You get used to it. Thank god for the hand rails.

Upper Casto area from top of Sutro Tower

Upper Castro area from top of Sutro Tower

Next up, because I simply must get the best possible shot and view, that bloody giant camera had to be the hoisted up and out onto the most outer perch of the prongs of this alien-like antenna tower.  Yes, that means ropes and more vertigo and realizing that in addition to the visuals, that this entire contraption swayed in the wind. Only common sense and knowing that it was still standing after all these years made it possible to ignore the fear that otherwise would have quashed our sense of adventure.

Catwalk on Sutro Tower

Your truly back in the day

Now we were at our finale.  Rest assured that the view is worth it - and, there was something supremely surreal and extraordinarily exhilarating about dangling our feet off the edge of this perch and contemplating the City and Bay Area expanding in 360 degrees in all direction.   This was indeed a grand place to live and the ultimate view point.  By the end of the day, the wind gradually moved from gentle to hurricane force. Same time, we started to feel our genetic material being altered by the distinct buzz of the radio waves. In an abundance of caution, we realized it was time to retreat, and enjoy another fifteen minute long man-cage decent back to the normal terra firma of the City...

History: from Wikipedia
Named after Adolph Sutro, a businessman and former mayor of San Francisco who had a mansion located about 100 feet away from where the tower is now located, the tower stands 977 feet (298 metres) above the ground and 1,800 ft (549 m) above sea level. It is the tallest structure in the city, surpassing the 853 ft (260 m) Transamerica Pyramid by more than 100 ft (30 m). In addition, it is built on one of the highest peaks in the city, the old site of the Sutro Mansion owned by Adolph Sutro's descendants.

The facility is easily accessible by car and the site offers beautiful panoramic viewpoints of San Francisco, and there is a platform near the top of the tower, 762 ft (232 m) above ground. Authorized maintenance workers access the tower by a small two-person elevator that runs inside the west tower enclosed leg.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fog City Reborn 2.0 ??

Fog City Diner, San Francisco

The Original Fog City Diner, gleaming Chrome and "Don't Worry" Neon Clock

Driving by the 're-manufactured' Fog City Diner, fully modernized to 2013 aesthetics and no doubt the latest culinary best practices, I found myself missing its original gleaming chrome, the design genius from its launch at this prime Embarcadero location across from the San Francisco Bay Club.  OK, it was originally the Mildred Pierce, a favorite haunt for the "Mad Men" of San Francisco back in the 70's and 80s prior to Fog City's original birth June 12, 1985.

The legendary Herb Caen went to the grand opening of Fog City Diner and proclaimed its white hot nature in his famous column:

"Another day, another new restaurant. These things cost big bucks and are a high-risk business, but I guess when they pay off they pay off big. I know a lot of rich restaurant owners and several who died multimillionaires. Wednesday night’s kickoff was for the Fog City Diner, owned by the three people (Bill Higgins, Bill Upson, Cindy Pawlcyn) who made a winner out of Mustard’s in the Napa Valley. This one’s at Battery and the Embarcadero, on the spot where two earlier places died – Mildred Pierce’s and Battery Point – but I think they got it right this time. The diner is a stylized super 20th Century Limited “car” that cost half a million in chrome alone. In the fog, which was thick Wed. night, the Fog City Diner looks ready to roll. I think you’ll need reservations.

Well said but is this an improvement?  

I am sure it is better for business, and for those of us that study historical preservation it will always bring up the questions as to whether demolition leads to a better experience, asking what should we save, when and why.
What do you think of the change at Fog City?  

Bill Higgins said the “diner” concept has had its run and Pawlcyn left over a decade ago. Higgins says, "the concept isn’t commensurate with current dining expectations."

Full Disclosure:  
Back in the day,  those of us, known at the time as the "Three Amigos" did admittedly frequent the Fog City Bar after a grueling workout playing badminton at the Bay Club. OK laugh. But, if you ever played serious shuttlecock you would know that this involved serious sweat. Anyway, this led us to the world famous Billy Berger, his hijinks in general, the Knights of Knee, popular at the time, and the best Mai Tais on Earth and and the correctly named "Tim and Tonic", after Tim Hill naturally, and eventually, a eventually a bronze plaque, appropriately nailed to the bar upside down in our honor.  The Three Amigos are long gone, but not have not forgotten. Such is the nature of the "Bar in San Francisco", an experience with countless thousands of stories over nearly hundreds of years now, all with variations on a similar theme. PS, we were always successful at "working off the work out" at Fog City - they Delivered in spades - Thanks Billy Berger(sp), Nancy Hahn, Bill Higgins, Ty Joseph wherever you may be and everything Fog City.

    And, I miss what was no doubt the best pork chop on Earth and notably the first time I had ever heard about a farm-fresh Sonoma grass fed pig, cattle, chicken anything - and that was in the 80s.

PHOTO NOTES: Some decades ago, I shot this exterior view of the Fog City Diner, at the time commissioned by founder Bill Higgins, for a promotional postcard.  The final was actually a hand-tinted version of this view. 6 x 7cm old school transparency film of course.

Reference:  Waterfront History of San Francisco

Friday, October 18, 2013

BART on track to Fremont, 1972

BART Strikes—
if it is not one thing it is another . . .

Early BART Train on the MacArthur-Fremont route, the first line which opened

ABOVE:  BART train, built by California based Rohr Industries, on the MacArthur-Fremont route, the first line in service, opened September 11, 1972
  (hand-tinted by Bennett Hall, original sourced from Oakland Public Library)


Regretfully on the heels of the government allowing the Cliff House, Muir Beach and Yosemite to reopen, our community is suffering another body blow, that the Fremont Train has been idled... one crisis ends, another begins.  Regretfully, it seems that rules dating back to the date of this photograph are being assigned the blame for the disruption that is upon us.  Union argues they should get overtime under 40 hours, and refuses electronic pay stubs. Really? 

The truth keeps percolating out and it is not pretty. Wondering if the work rules also allow BART to hire replacements?

The estimates of economic loss, $73M/Day and massive CO2 releases spiking from this conundrum make this especially tragic.  Let's hope this ends right away and the losses minimized.

Unicorn on BART

Perhaps someone will listen to the Magic Unicorn who says:
"Get back to Work!!"


BART Construction overview c1970

Construction of Elevated track , 1972

First Routes: MacArthur–Fremont (MacArthur, 19th St. Oakland, 12th St. Oakland City Center, Lake Merritt, Fruitvale, Coliseum/Oakland Airport, San Leandro, Bay Fair, Hayward, South Hayward, Union City, Fremont)


BART history from their website featuring a video and some very big hair

BART history on Wikipedia

 BART can do it better than this right?
Dumping BART San Leandro Save near 106 ave

This is a typical seen as you follow the BART tracks - debris seems to reflect the nature of the conflict.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cliff House, Sutro Bathes and Ocean Beach

Cliff House #2 c1890Cliff House from the Ocean circa 1970Men picnicking on a  rock overlooking  Seal Rock House, from point the Cliff House was located 1865Cliff House #2 and Seal Rocks c1870View from Cliff House 1879Cliff House, by Taber c1880
Seal Rocks from the Cliff HouseCliff House from Sutro Park by Billington c1896Viewing Cliff House and Deal RockCliff House, San FranciscoSutro Park, San Francisco c1900May Day at Sutro Baths, 1897
Sutro Baths Interior-LithographSwimmers in the Sutro Baths, c.1895Cliff House from Ocean Beach, c1890Cliff House c1890 from Ocean BeachCliff House and Seal Rocks from Ocean Beach, c1895Geary Line Terminus, c.1890
Ocean Beach by Cliff HouseGrounding of Ship, Ocean BeachAerial View of Playland at the BeachThe Cliff House #4 circa 1940Playland and the Beach, viewing South to Great HighwayChild on Merry go Round, Playland at Beach
sCliff House & Sutro, a set on Flickr.
Slide show with the best of the history of this area that I have on hand - ENJOY!

In honor of those who lost their jobs today due to the unnecessary actions of the certain parties in the Federal Government.

Hoping that more rational heads prevail soon, and they protect the public from things like Foster Farms' Salmonella instead of shuttering the livelihood of thousands and denying Veterans access to the WWII monument in DC in example.

Thus, the Government defines which employees are essential and which are not;  And, that is where things get interesting: 

CHECK LIST:  Shutting Down the Cliff House:  ESSENTIAL  -
Protecting the public from Foster Farms Salmonella rich Chicken:  NOT ESSENTIAL  - 
Stop Veterans from visiting WWII memorial in DC: ESSENTIAL.   

See a pattern here?? 


Therefore, IMO this may be the moment for citizens to step up and demand accountability and transparency from who ever is in charge of this and examine fully what is happening here. 

Cliff House Closed by Federal Government and Citizens out of Work - Really?

Honoring the Cliff House and its long and Storied history in San Francisco

Cliff House #2 c1890

The second Cliff House, built by Adolph Sutro in 1896, was an 8-story Victorian structure. It offered fine dining, panoramic views, and art and natural science exhibits, which made it a popular attraction for the City's elite. It survived the 1906 Quake, but was destroyed by fire in 1907.

Cliff House Closed by Federal Government and Citizens out of Work - Really?______________________________________________________________________

In case you have not been following this story, spirited entrepreneurs trying to keep unemployment of their staff and their enterprise afloat were shuttered by policies and rules of their landlord, the Federal Government, claiming that they cannot be open or serve the public or provide employment with Washington in its tizzy.   Really?  This is necessary why?  This helps who?  What kind of point are [t]hey trying to make? 

Are we lemmings or are we men?

I will add more to this and share the rest of the Cliff House history here later as I have more time

Cliff House Flickr Gallery

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

US District Court, Ceremonial Community Mural, San Francisco Federal Building

District History Mosaic, Mural outside Ceremonial Courtroom of the Northern District, U.S. District Court, 450 Golden Gate, San Francisco 19th floor

Heritage Mural of the Northern District Counties

Design by Bennett Hall and Helen Rischbieth,
Production by Business Image Group and Eco Framing, Oakland
US District Courts • 19th Floor
Phillip Burton Federal Building
450 Golden Gate, San Francisco

On March 28th 2013, coinciding with the induction of Judge Tigar, we debuted this feature mural, a mosaic representing the legacy of the 15 counties that the United States District Courts Northern District serves. This piece culminated a 10 year project working with the Court under the leadership of Judge Charles Breyer, whose efforts have spearheaded numerous improvements to the Courts facilities.  It has been our honor to design and produce these extensive community history exhibits.

This mural celebrates the rich local history, diversity and achievements of the fifteen countries served by the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. The Northern District of California encompass fifteen counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma. These counties are served by four federal courthouses located in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Eureka.

"Outside the door to the ceremonial courtroom is a wall of 33 images depicting the district, which is mentioned three times in Breyer's job title, and runs through 15 counties from the Oregon border to south of Big Sur" —Sam Whiting, Chronicle

The project was curated, designed and produced locally by Bennett Hall and Helen Rischbieth, principles of Business Image Group. The mural is set into a frame made in Wisconsin using solid cherry wood, also grown in America.  The mural is the culmination of a nearly 1000-piece exhibit throughout the U.S. District Courts, Northern District of California, that has been gradually been installed throughout the Bay Area regions facilities in San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland over
the last ten years.

Specifications of Mural
Overall Size: 168" x 46"
Media type: Canvas, printing on z3200 HP 12 color pigment printer
Images are digitally mastered in the studio by Bennett Hall
There are a total of 33 individual canvas, each 14 x 14", wrapped around a stretcher frame, made in our Oakland digital studio, with Eco Shield protective coating
Sign: Cast prismatic bronze 3" letters, made in US by Gemeni

Framing - display
The canvases are fastened to three interlocking leather wrapped backing panels.
Framing around each section is in Cherry wood that was grown in America and milled and finished by the Larson Juhl Company in their Ashland, Wisconsin facilities.

Program Background

United States District Courts adjudicate matters rooted within the local community that are
governed by federal law, aligning District Courts with the communities they serve.

When it became time to commission decoration for the walls of the Northern District courthouses,
including public corridors and jury rooms, the Courts chose to form this program around this local
community, using its rich heritage as the subject matter.  Today, the Northern District courthouses feature displays of local historical photographs providing context and an authentic narrative of the greater San Francisco Bay Area’s legacy. Each image has been carefully selected and grouped, digitally restored, and is accompanied by stories that provide an educational experience.  

Lobby exhibit outside Ceremonial Courtroom of the Northern District U.S. District Court, 450 Golden Gate, San Francisco 19th floor

"You can learn the breadth, the scope and the reach of the court of the Northern District of California," says Breyer. "You get a panorama of the diversity of the region."

See article on program in Chronicle by Sam Whiting, April 2013

The program was the inspiration of the Honorable Judge Charles Breyer, who from inception in 2002 has guided the project, initially focused on enhancing the juror experience in the rooms where deliberations are conducted. Local historical photography drawn from dozens of sources, with accompanying educational narratives, was selected as the theme.  The program presently covers all the public spaces of the Bay Area region courts, juror rooms and most of the chambers areas with content depicting our local heritage.

Over the last ten years, Bennett Hall, designer and curator of Business Image Group and his partner Helen Rischbieth, have worked with the United States District Courts to provide this local experience for their facilities working with their numerous public historical collections as well as private and their own archives.

Historical Exhibit Program, San Francisco

This project has been completed during several phases over the past 11 years, covering their facilities in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.  The program is ongoing with additional refinements to ensure the the best representation of the Counties in respective facilities. In 2014, the program will be expanded to include the new Federal Courthouse under construction in Eureka/McKinleyville.

No public funds were used in this program.

US District Court Heritage Program
San Francisco Bay Area • Community History exhibits, 2002-2013

US District Court Program in Oakland
History of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties

US District Court Program in San Jose
History of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito Counties

San Francisco Content Libraries

Get the flash player here:
Get the flash player here:

Happy Birthday Coit Tower!

Moonrise over Coit Tower

Coit Tower with Moon, Bennett Hall, 1995

Telegraph Hill, from Russian Hill c1890

Future site of the Coit Tower
Observatory and Signal Station, Telegraph Hill, c. 1890

The Observatory, built by Frederick O. Layman in the style of a German baronial castle, opened in 1882 with a restaurant and concert hall. Unfortunately the cable car system designed to climb the steep Hill was unsuccessful, and the place failed. It was burnt down in 1903.
Telegraph Hill from Russian Hill c1870

Observatory and Signal Station, Telegraph Hill, c. 1870

 Telegraph Hill c1918

Telegraph Hill, showing crowd assembled on the future site of Coit Tower c1923

Pioneer Park, at the summit of the Hill, was donated to the City in 1876.   Many plans were debated for its development. Eventually, in 1923, a serpentine road was graded to the summit. The parking area was surrounded by a 4 foot concrete balustrade with large decorative urns.

Coit Tower during passing storm

Coit Tower during Passing Storm, Bennett Hall 1992

Coit Tower from Kearny Street

Coit Tower from Kearny Street looking north.
8 x 10" view camera, Bennett Hall 1994

Saturday, October 5, 2013

San Francisco Images on Amazon

  Hilltop of San Francisco, California, looking toward the bay.

Hilltop of San Francisco, California, looking toward the bay 1849
Marryat, Frank, 1826-1855 , artist, hand-colored chromolith

Worldwide Archive and San Francisco Images on Amazon

You can now purchase any of our collection of images from San Francisco and beyond through Amazon's new art services.   We have a terrific range of images including the San Francisco Bay Area, Yosemite, LA, Chicago, Washington DC, New York, NASA images.  Media types vary, black and white, sepia and hand-tinted images, with a selection of framing options. 

We are just launching this so it is beta and we are looking for feedback and ideas on how to refine and improve this, within the limits of Amazon's system and our production partner ImageKind, a Cafepress Company


For additional options of media types and frame selection, see our main web galleries on Imagekind.
ImageKind San Francisco Images

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Hills Brothers Coffee - Interpretive exhibit at #2 Harrison Street

Hills Brothers Coffee Legacy Exhibits
Now home to Mozilla, Google, Gensler Architects, and a host of innovative firms, you can tour the history of San Francisco's original coffee company, Hills Brothers, established in the late 1800s, viewing this interpretative exhibit in the historic lobby of 2 Harrison Street. This property was original constructed by Hills Brothers, opening in 1925.  The lobby exhibits showcase the legacy of Hills Bros. from their humble beginnings, through the construction of this building, opened late 1925, through their expansion into a global leader in the coffee industry.

Hills lobby front desk

Reception Desk at 2 Harrison, 1935 SF Bay Bridge Panorama

To create this program, we had the pleasure of working with the building's original developer Betawest, Hills Brothers, project architect David Colleen of Whistler Patri, and perhaps most memorably, Carol T. Wilson, the company's historian, who began his career in this building in 1924.

Panoramic Mural
This hand-tinted 12' wide panoramic photograph showing Hills Plaza and the Bay Bridge under construction full size is a one-of-kind photographic print made from the original negative.

hills panorama lobby

Main Exhibit - historic lobby of 2 Harrison Street

hills_lobby-entr-2harrison-2Hills Bros. Coffee Mills Storefront from 1884 to 1894

Hills Bros. Arabian Coffee & Spice Mills, was located at the corner of Sansome & Sacramento Streets, serving as both a factory and home office for the growing company from 1884 to 1894.  This site later became the site of the Federal Reserve Bank.


Unloading coffee at Hills Bros. at 175 Fremont Street c1915
Following two years in temporary quarters after being nearly wiped out by the Earthquake and Fire of 1906, a new building was completed for Hills Bros. at 175 Fremont Street.  Hills Bros. grew rapidly from 1908 through 1925, when they moved to 2 Harrison Street.

hills lobby founders sign

 Dedication Plaque honoring Hills Bros Founders

Hills Bros. was founded February 14, 1878, in San Francisco when two brothers, Austin H. Hills (1851-1933), and Reuben W. Hills (1856-1934), formed a partnership to sell retail dairy products in a stall in Bay City Market located at 1146 Market Street.  Three years later they became owners of Arabian Coffee & Spice Mills. This marked the beginning of their growth to become one of the nation's largest and most notable coffee companies.  Burned out by the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906, these courageous brothers went on to achieve their destined mark in coffee history.  This building was the home office and plant for Hills Bros. from January 1926 until April 1990, when remodeling began to make this structure a vital part of the new block-square Hills Plaza.

--> The partnership Hills Bros. was incorporated in 1914, but the name was not changed to Hills Bros. Coffee, Inc. until the early 1930's.  These are the three generations of Hills men who directed the daily operations of this 98-year-old family-owned business until it was sold in 1976, later to become a strategic part of the new Nestle Beverage Company. The company was later sold to Sarah Lee in 1999 and was sold to Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA in 2005

 hills founders sign

Three Generations of Hills Brothers
Austin H. and Reuben W. Hills break ground for their new building at
2 Harrison Street, August 12, 1924

The sons of the founders. . .
Herbert G. Hills next to his father A. H.; Leslie W. Hills, Edward E. and
Reuben Hills, Jr., the three sons of R. W.  

The Grandsons. . .
Herbert G. Hills Jr., Austin H. Hills, Leslie W. Hills (second generation),
and Reuben W. Hills, III

Hills lobby #2 harrison main display

Main Lobby Exhibit, #2 Harrison
This group showcases historical milestones of the Hills Brothers Coffee Company, featuring the famous tasting table a 2 Harrison as its centerpiece, set onto a 4" x 2" solid mahogany backing, flanked by two reproductions of the Holden Murals depicting the history of coffee.  Image on the far right is a 1851 shot of South Beach area showing the future location of the building before the landfill was done.

hills construction progress

Construction progress of 2 Harrison

This series shows the construction progress of the 2 Harrison Street plant and offices of Hills Bros. from ground-breaking August 12, 1924, until near completion at the end of 1925.   The architect was George W. Kelham; builder was P. J. Walker Company.

hills 2 Harrison cross section

Cross-section Illustration of #2 Harrison showing original operations in the property
This cross-section illustration of the Hills Bros. plant at 2 Harrison Street shows the path coffee beans traveled after arrival in the warehouse until they were blended, roasted and vacuum-packed for shipment.  The orange bins in the center of the Green Coffee Mixing Tower were used in combining various lots of coffee to prepare the final Hills Bros. blend.  The cup testing rooms are at the top right side of the building.


Hills courtyard arab sculpture 

Sculpture in Hills Plaza Courtyard by Spyro Anargyros
of the turbaned icon of the Hills Brothers brand

hills plaque arab sculpture
Dedication plaque

hills hanging the H and model

Electric Roof Sign, Hanging the "H" on 2 Harrison Street

LEFT: In 1935, the original electric roof sign facing the Bay was converted from incandescent globes to red neon tubing.  

Background: This photographic model appeared frequently in promotional materials for Hills Bros. Coffee in the late 1920's.

Additional Reference:

History of Hills Brothers - Blog post on San Francisco Images

Hills Bros Flickr Gallery

Leasing and building office at Hills Plaza