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San Francisco Landmark #87: Jessie Street Substation 21 June 2003
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San Francisco Landmark #87
Jessie Street Substation
220 Jessie Street

This aesthetically outstanding example of early 20th century classical revivalism by one of the Bay Area's most significant architects, Willis Polk, is the prototypical application of the style for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company in their long-term contribution to the City Beautiful Movement in San Francisco - making civic ornaments of industrial structures.

From City Planning Commission Resolution 7566 dated September 30, 1976.

The original plain brick building, with some romanesque detailing fronting on Stevenson Street, was executed in 1881 by a predecessor of the San Francisco Gas and Electric company. This company enlarged it in 1883 and again in 1892 to accommodate switching and generating machinery.

Ownership of the building passed to the San Francisco Gas and Electric Company during its formation in 1896, then to Pacific Gas and Electric in its consolidation on October 10, 1905.

Further additions, as well as alterations to existing elements, were designed by Willis Polk during that year. This date appears in roman numerals on the lintel of the main entranceway and marks the first move by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company to make its substations civic ornaments.

The building was partially destroyed by fire in February 1906. Rebuilding began only to be destroyed by the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

New plans based on those of 1905 were drawn up in 1906 by Polk. The skylit room with it cherub-decorated entrance on the west end of the building was included in this design, and the whole subsequently constructed.

In 1909, the east annex was designed by Polk and built. A large skylit room, it added four windows to the façade.

The San Francisco Redevelopment Authority acquired the building in 1971 as part of the Yerba Buena Center plan. Pacific Gas and Electric removed the last of its energized equipment in 1973.

The building now houses the Contemporary Jewish Museum designed by architect Daniel Libeskind.

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