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San Francisco Landmark #248: Juvenile Court and Detention Home Veterans Commons
Formerly Juvenile Court and Detention Home
4 February 2012
(Click Photos to Zoom)
Tower in the Court of Abundance
Tower in the Court of Abundance
Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915
Photo Courtesy Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley
(Click Photo to Zoom)
San Francisco Landmark #248
Juvenile Court and Detention Home
150 Otis Street
Built 1916

The following is excerpted from the September/October 2001 Edition of Heritage News:

Architect Louis Christian Mullgardt designed the Juvenile Court and Detention Home, constrained by a 140 x 140 foot parcel which had to accommodate a new building as well as outdoor play areas for children. His solution was a tall, narrow structure that ensured maximum light and ventilation while leaving the balance of the site for four walled-in open-air playgrounds. Each floor of the building had a different, self-contained function.

The six-story narrow slab sits on a three-story projecting base, whose third floor contains a sun porch with continuous windows on three sides. Two-story pilasters supporting a gabled pediment mark the arched entry, which is flanked by large bronze lantern fixtures.

The structure is steel-reinforced concrete with a travertine-like roughly textured buff-colored stucco coating. Continuous pilasters and window mullions that become brackets at the eaves extend from the fourth through ninth floors, giving the building a strong vertical emphasis. A wide-overhanging gabled roof clad in Spanish tile tops the structure. Such features have prompted the appellation, Mullgardt's highrise bungalow. The style defies easy classification, but appears to be an eclectic blend of the architect's own devising that combines Mediterranean and Asian influences.

The building continued in its historic use until 1950 when it was transferred to the Department of Social Services. Today it is being renovated by Swords to Plowshares and Chinatown Community Development Center.

Mullgardt also designed the Infant Shelter which is San Francisco Landmark 242 and the Tower in the Court of Abundance for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

The following is excerpted from a press release by the Mayor of San Francisco dated 10 May 2011:

Spearheaded by community-based non-profit organizations, Swords to Plowshares and Chinatown Community Development Center, the Veterans Commons housing project will provide 75 chronically homeless and senior veterans with permanent homes and wrap-around care. The property for Veterans Commons, a landmark building located at 150 Otis Street, was made available through the City's Surplus Property program.... Former Mayor Gavin Newsom in November 2010 joined veterans and community organizations to break ground on Veterans Commons, which is scheduled to open in January 2013.

"Nationally, the Obama Administration and VA Secretary Shinseki are implementing perhaps the most effective policies I have seen in my thirty-plus years as a veteran advocate and service provider," said Swords to Plowshares Executive Director Michael Blecker.

San Francisco Street Trees

Consider Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey). Lovely building.

Consider the Taj Mahal, the Doge's Palace, the Parthenon, the Lincoln Memorial, the Sagrada Familia, the Winter Palace of the Tsar, the Hagia Sophia, San Francisco's own City Hall and Opera House and Legion of Honor.

Lovely buildings, all. Essential to their appeal is that they stand unobstructed to be admired from any angle and at any distance.

Over the past twenty years or so, many of San Francisco's most distinctive buildings have gone into hiding behind ill-considered street trees. Except for the Spreckels Mansion Spite Hedge which clearly flips the bird to San Francisco, most of these trees were planted in good faith to beautify the streetscape, filter the air, increase property values; but like the cute SPCA puppy who grows up to be a two hundred pound mastiff, many of our street trees would be more at home in the country than the city.

Here is a short list of some striking San Francisco buildings which I wish were more clearly visible. I'm sure the Hop-On Hop-Off tourists would enjoy them too. They can see an ineptly pruned ficus or an ailing plane tree anywhere.

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