Fire at the Elite

Elite

IT WAS A sunny Friday morning, and it looked as if the historic neon sign fronting the Elite Cafe would at last be fully lit. Then suddenly a swarm of fire trucks was on the scene.

“We finally found the part to fix the sign to light both sides,” says owner Andy Chun, “and the sign guys somehow caught the thing on fire when they were installing it.”

Chun says the extent of the damage and how long repairs will take are both unknown at this point.

elite_fire

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London Market takes a spirited turn

Kyle Nadeau in the rebuilt corner store that is now Corbeaux's London Market.

Kyle Nadeau in the rebuilt corner store that is now Corbeaux’s London Market.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD LOST another of its corner groceries last year when the century-old London Market at Divisadero and Sacramento closed. This weekend it is being reborn as the sleek and modern Corbeaux’s London Market, a wine and spirits shop.

It’s the brainchild of Kyle Nadeau — who worked at D&M Liquors on Fillmore Street for nearly a decade — and his partner Evan Krow, both of whom live nearby.

The grand opening will come later this month, but it’s “softly open” as of this weekend. “We’ve had a lot of desire from people in the neighborhood wanting to get in here,” says Nadeau.

Still to come: a gourmet deli in the back offering cheese, charcuterie and caviar. It will be operated by the owners of the new Greenbox takeout shop that just opened a block south at California and Divisadero.

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Hospital may sell its historic library

The hospital's Health Sciences Library was built in 1912.

The Health Sciences Library at Sacramento and Webster was built in 1912.

THE CLASSIC REVIVAL sandstone building at Sacramento and Webster that has housed the medical library for the nearby hospital since 1912 is headed for a new life in its second century.

Its collections have been dispersed and the library’s small staff is relocating by the end of March to the nearby Gerbode Research Building at Webster and Clay.

A hospital spokesman said the library has not been listed for sale. But library director Anne Shew confirmed the building was being vacated and said: “It will be put on the market soon — in the next couple of months.”

The library lost much of its patronage in 2014 when the University of the Pacific’s dental school left its longtime home across the street. The dental school had shared the library with the hospital.

Among those said to be interested in buying the landmark building: Trumark Urban, developer of The Pacific condominium complex at 2121 Webster, which replaced the dental school.

“I have no comment on that,” said Arden Hearing, managing director of Trumark.

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She brought art to the street

Cassandria Blackmore created a showcase for her work on Fillmore Street.

Cassandria Blackmore created a showcase for her work on Fillmore Street.

FOR SEVEN YEARS, people walked by the gallery at 1906 Fillmore, looked in to admire the artwork on the walls, but never found the jewel box of a space open.

That was exactly the idea.

Cassandria Blackmore, who first made her mark in the glass art scene in Seattle, transformed the storefront in 2010 into a San Francisco showcase for her art, which is uniquely her own. She does reverse paintings on glass, then shatters and reassembles them.

“I had used the concept of a small locked storefront in Seattle,” she says. “The space was shallow and easily viewed from the sidewalk. For some it was more comfortable than stepping into a gallery. I found the idea of bringing my art to the street an intriguing one and discovered that it sustained itself.”

Cassandria Blackmore painting on glass.

Cassandria Blackmore painting on glass.

Blackmore created similar spaces in Seattle, San Francisco and Carmel, and her career flourished.

But she and her husband, the musician Jon Blackmore, and their two kids wanted more warmth and sunshine than San Francisco offered. They found it in Santa Barbara.

“I had always intended to stay in San Francisco,” she says. “But when we came to Santa Barbara, I was struck by the south-facing light. There was a glow to it, nestled between the mountains and the sea.”

Then serendipity stepped in. They responded to a posting on Craigslist for a live-work space built by a pair of photographers in 1907. It turned out to be a neglected historic building two blocks from the ocean with studios that had been used by many other artists — including Diego Rivera, who painted his self-portrait there now gracing the front of Mexico’s 500 peso note.

They bought it, fought back the jungle in the side yard, and created a studio for her, a gallery for her work, a home for their family and a rental unit.

“Fillmore led us to Santa Barbara,” Blackmore says. “It was so special to be on Fillmore as a child and to return to it as an adult. It was the reentry point back to my roots in California. I will always be grateful.”

She gave up her space on Fillmore Street in February. The dream continues in Santa Barbara.

blackmore

The Blackmores have found an artistic home in Santa Barbara.

MORE: “The Blackmore family’s dream

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An honest job

Luis Garcia on his new job with Mission City Rebar.

Luis Garcia on his new job with Mission City Rebar.

GOOD WORKS | FRANCINE BREVETTI

When Luis Garcia was 13, he thought robbing people was normal. Now, at 22, after multiple incarcerations, he sees working an honest job for a decent living as normal. He turned his head around with the help of the Success Center, a nonprofit at 1449 Webster Street providing vocational and education services for area youth.

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Garages find a new use

The Patagonia store at 770 North Point was formerly a neighborhood garage.

The Patagonia store at 770 North Point was formerly a neighborhood garage.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

As the automobile increased in popularity and affordability in the 1920s, neighborhood parking garages and repair shops became the norm in San Francisco.

Because private homes were commonly constructed without garages, a new type of building evolved to serve residents with parking needs. Neighborhood garages were often one- or two-story concrete structures with industrial interiors. However, given their placement within the city’s established residential enclaves or along commercial corridors, they were often designed to fit into an existing architectural vocabulary. Many of these once indispensable buildings are still found across the city and in our neighborhood.

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Anne Bloomfield’s archives go to Heritage

Anne Bloomfield's research was the foundation of Gables & Fables.

Anne Bloomfield’s research was the foundation of Gables & Fables.

By BRIDGET MALEY

My predecessor in writing about neighborhood architecture for the New Fillmore, the respected architectural historian Anne Bloomfield, was an amazing researcher and a passionate advocate for maintaining the character of Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights. She died in December 1999, but her life’s work of helping preserve San Francisco’s past lives on.

Anne collected vital information on individual buildings, architects, and builders that led to the designation of many landmarks and historic districts. Her ground-breaking detective work on the building collaborative called The Real Estate Associates, who in 1875 claimed to have built more detached houses than any other company in the U.S., revealed a sophisticated San Francisco building practice.

Her research was the foundation for Gables & Fables: A Portrait of San Francisco’s Pacific Heights, the book her husband Arthur Bloomfield published after her death.

Recently I had the opportunity to review and organize Anne’s research files on Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights for inclusion into the collection of San Francisco Heritage at its headquarters in the Haas-Lilienthal House. The files will be invaluable to future researchers and aficionados of San Francisco’s early architecture.

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“This place is magic”

Fred Martin has worked there for 36 of Browser Books' 40 years.

Fred Martin has worked at Browser Books on Fillmore for 36 of its 40 years.

“LOVE WAS IN THE AIR,” says Fred Martin of the days when he and Browser Books were both young.

And on many nights, it still is.

“This place is magic,” he says of the bookstore, where he has worked for 36 of its 40 years as it grew into a landmark on Fillmore Street. “People love this place. They get caught up in interesting conversations.”

And sometimes more. Many lasting connections have been made in Browser Books: couples on dates uncovering mutual interests, spouses returning to a favorite haunt, chance meetings that grow into romance.

The store is filled with love stories — from the stacks of Neruda that sell out on Valentine’s Day, to Romeo and Juliet on high school reading lists, and the middle-aged professional proudly unembarrassed to ask for Fifty Shades of Grey.

“It’s the most realistic portrait of the romantic idea of working in a bookstore I’ve ever had,” says Jordan Pearson, the newest of the Browser clerks. “It’s being a bartender without the liquor — and sometimes I wish I had a bouncer late at night.”

“I always feel like I’m the party host,” says Fred Martin. “I want the store to be a place where people can be at home and talk about anything. I love being part of that.”

Browser Books opened in 1976 a block north next door to the Clay Theatre.

“It was a real artist hangout,” says Martin. He recalls a couple who met in the old store and got married under the avocado tree in the garden out back, near the fountain with a sculpture of brass instruments. Just recently they stopped by, back in town from Oregon, and talked about moving back.

In 1989 Browser gave up used books and moved south to its smaller current location.

“We’re not just a little library, like a lot of other places,” says Martin. “People have always been friendly and outspoken here.”

The Beat poet Latif Harris worked at the old Browser for a time and lived upstairs above the shop. He met his wife when she came browsing into the store one day. Fred Martin also met his spouse there. And so have others.

 MORE: “Book Lovers

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BOOK LOVERS

By FRED MARTIN, KEN SAMUELS and ERIN MESSER
of the Browser Books staff

Browser Books, a neighborhood fixture since 1976, has no doubt sparked countless anonymous instances of romance. The store’s staff, however, has been especially susceptible to this phenomenon. Perhaps it’s because we spend so much time in the store — or perhaps it’s because there’s just something a little different about the kind of person who chooses to work in a bookstore.

Fred Martin (right) and William Weber in 1988 in their beloved Yosemite National Park.

Fred Martin (right) and William Weber in 1988 in their beloved Yosemite National Park.

FRED’S STORY

It was 1981, back in the funky, colorful days of the neighborhood, when Browser Books was still in its old location next to the Clay Theatre. I had been at the store less than a year, working nights mostly, when I met William Weber, a psychiatrist with an office nearby. William was taking some free time between appointments one day to browse the bookstore in the company of a woman friend, a flamboyant personality from Texas. William — from Yazoo City, Mississippi — was less flamboyant, but seductive, with his big brown eyes and that low bedroom voice.

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A musical journey

Chris Nichols performing at Oxford Lieder Festival in 2016.

Chris Nichols performing at Oxford Lieder Festival in 2016.

FIRST PERSON | CHRIS NICHOLS

My day job in the tech world is rewarding, but music is my passion. And much of my musical journey has played itself out on Fillmore Street.

It started two decades ago with a friend’s invitation to a Thursday night rehearsal of the choir at Calvary Presbyterian Church at Fillmore and Jackson. Alden Gilchrist was directing — my first encounter with this world-class musician and wonderful human being, who was at the heart of Calvary’s musical excellence for more than 60 years, until his death in 2014.

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