Adelphian Apartments, 820 O'Farrel Street, San Francisco, San Francisco County, CA
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820 O'Farrel Street, San Francisco, CA
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Documentation compiled after 1933.
Survey number HABS CA-2344
Building/structure dates: 1915 initial construction
Significance: The Adelphian Apartments (Jordan Hotel) is a contributor to the San Francisco Apartment Hotel District, which has been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places at the statewide level of significance, under Criteria A - events and C - architecture, as "perhaps the country's only large, virtually intact, architecturally consistent, densely packed inner-city residential area" (Nomination form, block 8). The district's period of significance is 1906 to 1931. The year of significance for this building is 1915, when it was constructed. The Adelphian Apartments is also a good example of the district's "predominant building type: a 3- to 7-story, multi-unit, permanent residential apartment, hotel, or apartment-hotel constructed of brick or reinforced concrete" (Nomination, block 7). In the 1983 National Register Nomination form for the San Francisco Apartment Hotel District, this building is listed among the contributors as No. 716/3, on continuation sheet page 107. The listing reads, "Adelphian Apartments (now Jordan Apartments), 820 O'Farrell Street: 1915, designer William Wilde, 4 stories, stucco facade, marquee, marble steps." Although somewhat modified on the interior and, because of a fire, at the rear east wing, the building is basically intact as to location, design, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. The Nomination form describes the District's typical building in terms which apply directly to the Adelphian Apartments. "Compositionally the typical apartment or hotel is a two-part vertical block with prominent cornice, residential upper part, and differentiated base. ... It stands on the sidewalk line an usually occupies the entire lot width of 30 to 150 feet. Light courts open at side and rear. It may have bay windows. Sash in the earlier buildings is most often double-hung. ... Roofs are almost always flat and surrounded by parapet-firewalls, which provide compositional space for the decorative cornice" (Block 7). "Most designers chose to ornament their two-part vertical blocks with restrained references to a broadly Classical vocabulary" (p. 53). "Typically the apartment or hotel is entered a few steps up from the street. ... The entry opening, vestibule and front are as imposing as the budget permitted. One finds curvalinear and glass-fringed metal marquees. ... The lobby helped describe the social status of the residents and therefore became an important space" (p. 54). The subject building is a curious example of the social status-seeking norm in the District. While the building was designed for low-rent tenants, (single room apartments, narrow halls, tiny lobby, minimal interior ornamentation with inexpensive materials), it presents a luxurious face to the public. The well-proportioned entry opening appears of normal height for its style, but it actually rises considerably less then the full height of the main floor. Usually in the District, a vestibule or lobby steps up to the main floor in response to a hilly site, but here the site is flat. The steps have luxurious width and marble cladding. There is an unusually large number of steps -- ten -- which, along with the glass fringed, flat topped marquee and restricted opening, completely conceal the meager lobby and cramped quarters. The building's design thus seems directed to tenants of severely limited means who wished to give an outward impression of respectability and prosperity.
Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress)
1. FACADE, viewed from south side of O'Farrell Street.
2. MARQUEE, viewed from sidewalk, looking northeast and up.
3. VESTIBULE STEPS, looking north from sidewalk.
4. VESTIBULE STEPS, looking south from landing.
5. VESTIBULE STEPS AND WEST WALL, looking southwest from landing.
6. VESTIBULE EAST WALL, looking east from landing.
7. LOBBY AND ELEVATOR DOOR, looking northeast.
8. LOBBY CEILING, looking northeast.
9. HALLWAY (typical), second floor, looking north.
10. UNIT ENTRY (typical), Apartment 109, looking west.
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