I’ve always had a love/hate thing with Beaux-Arts. I’m childishly drawn to the grandeur but, as Diana Vreeland said, “the eye needs to travel” and with all that frou-frou which way does it go? Considering that almost all of its stylistic elements are from previous eras and that its success is based on new construction methods that allowed it to be produced on a large-scale, it’s not that original.
“When you’re being run out of town, get in front of the crowd and make it look like you’re leading the parade.”
The pilasters in my lobby are replicas of the Rod of Asclepius, the symbol for medicine. Which would support stories I’ve heard that there was once a pharmacy in the building. Probably in 1915 when it was first built. I’m guessing it would have been in the unit off the lobby which is now an (unoccupied) in-law apartment.
It wouldn’t have been the only drug store on the block because three doors up at the southeast corner of Pine and Jones was the Fairmont Pharmacy. By the time I moved here that building housed Betty Wong’s laundry service. But the door stoop still had “Fairmont” spelled out in chicken wire tiles. It then became a gay bar, The Gate.
Today The Gate has been torn down and replaced with nondescript condos in the Ed Lee/Willie Brown Developer Kickback style of architecture that is sweeping the City.
Half a block west on Pine Street was Sally Stanford’s old brothel where Herb Caen said “the United Nations was really born.” Prominent on her guest list were many mid-20th Century politicians. She herself would later be elected Mayor of Sausalito.
Miss Stanford’s johns would often call her from the Fairmont Pharmacy to gain entrance. It was rumored that long after it ceased being a profitable business the drug store remained open solely to preserve Sally’s entry system.
In the more modern mobile phone era, my upstairs neighbor Jim used to sit at the bar at The Gate and chat up chauffeurs waiting to be called by their clients. Most of whom were frequenting prostitutes down on Bush Street. Unlike the Stanford White designed digs of Sally’s, the Bush Street sex workers were a little more discreet. I have no idea which building(s) they were in.
It seems my block has never been lacking for drugs or licentious behavior. I’ve done my best to fit in.