“The last days are here.”  80-something,  Ray takes his morning constitutional down to the corner store, at Broderick and Fulton around 8 am, hangs out to catch his breath, smoke a cigarette, socialize and sometimes prophesize.  We talk about the recent foreclosure and sale of the Gethsemane Missionary Baptist a block away.  “I’d been sayin’ it all along, it’s the last days, I do believe that.  The last days are here!”

The Gethsemane Missionary Baptist at Grove and Broderick is the latest of Western Addition’s church closures.  Neighbor Bill reports the church had been failing for  a while and was not shocked to hear the loan had been foreclosed and the property sold.  The realtor for sale reports the interior was in shambles.

I bump into Dharma, drinking lattes, a block east at Mojo.  He recalls, “I think maybe it was 2004.  I ‘member walkin’ by and those walls were like pumpin’.”  Here he makes a squeeze-box oompah gesture.  “Yeah, it was this cool, loud gospel music.  We stuck our heads in, but it didn’t exactly feel right. So ….” 


The First Apostolic Faith Church displays a Pentecostal purity of form in stark contrast to the ornament laden Victorians that populate the neighborhood. Cleansed of its Victorian ornament to a powerful austerity and a puritanical severity, the First Apostolic Faith Church at Pierce and Bush, top, provides an affordable and architectural alternative to the prevailing upper middle class styling common in Lower Pacific Heights in Western Addition’s upper end.  It represents one of many small and endangered churches still active as its supporting congregation is pushed out of the neighborhood to make way for a less evangelical population. 


On Thursday evenings and Sundays mornings, the largely white neighborhoods of the Western Addition are transfigured by  voices singing the gospel and shouting Amen from within the local African Americans churches of what were predominantly black neighborhoods.   Once occupying the entire Western Addition as “the Harlem of the West“, the now scattered black community reassembles in the church choirs and congregations with former neighbors driving in from more affordable neighborhoods across the city, and across the bay for worship and community. 


May 25th, 2012,  Leah Garchik’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the Haight Ashbury Reunion which occurred on May 12th bringing together former and lifetime residents of the Haight Ashbury to party in the Golden Gate Park Panhandle.  The group was predominantly African American like the neighborhood 50 years ago. Garchik reports many had graduated Dudley Stone Elementary, now De Avila Chinese Immersion on Haight, in 1970 and 1971 to become among the first bussed out of their neighborhoods to A.P. Giannini Middle School at 37th and Ortega, 4.5 miles away.  Roslynn Grimal, now of El Sobrante, recalls, “Not only were we exposed to a different class of people, but it was the first time a lot of us were in school with anybody other than African Americans.”  Craig Cook, formerly of Waller Street, adds, “We were, like, sightseeing.  We saw grass.  People had lawns…” 


Could this design from the Housekeeping Campground Map in Yosemite Valley be the original inspiration for LA architect Rudolf Schindler’s radical home design on King’s Road? (See our post Sun-worshipers and Free-thinkers.)   As Schindler describes it,  the home “… fulfils the basic requirement for a camper’s shelter: a protected back, an open front, a fireplace and a roof…”( ‘A Co-operative Dwelling’ , T-Square, February 1932).

In 1921 amidst the falling oak leaves of September and October Rudolf and wife Pauline  enjoyed an idyllic few weeks in camp shelters in Yosemite Valley.  Having just terminated his employment with Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolf and Pauline planned their modern life and modern home in Los Angeles. Four independent and  utilitarian studios conjoined in a communal relationship would provide a background for work and play.  They would be joined in this experimental four-plex by housemates and friends Clyde and Marian Chace. 


The classic farmhouse form of this gold rush era home can be described in a few words: a gable house wrapped by a porch.

The two shapes, gable and porch, can be described with hand gestures. The shape is simple and common, lodged in our shared memory and dreams. Its commonness confirms its comfortable familiarity and borrows from past associations with similar homes, with farms, porch swings.


The colossal spans of Parisian rail stations witness a time of technological breakthrough looking back at a historical sense of proportion and delicacy while looking forward to the new scale of the industrial age with its efficiencies of mass production and big box warehousing.  Through this temple of arrivals and departures have passed daily commuters, returning loved ones, and deported Jews.  Unable to assume a moral position on passing events–right or wrong–the station has effectively assumed a positive position on history and society, ennobling the passage of time and people without judgement of the circumstances.


Preservation today offers provocative questions about the value of creating monuments to wealth, power and fashion. Instead alternatives present time as a continuum and not simply a period, and consider history as something that is not owned but shared by all.
At Drayton Hall Plantation outside Charleston centuries of paint and furnishings are stripped away. The empty rooms become more memorial than museum. Without the distractions of furnishings and personal memorabilia, the mind wanders through history to a time when fields of slaves and tobacco supported a family home.  The home becomes haunted by one’s own reflections on time’s passage and the ghosts of southern history.


Light on two sides is the rule for a well lit, warm and glare-free room. The Fort Ross Chapel of 1850 takes a different approach with a different effect. Lit from one side, the hot spots, glare and gloominess are highly emotive with a dark presence hanging over the pulpit.
The tight grain and rich darkness of the the old growth lumber panelling is unavailable today. The diameter of the ceiling drum would be similar to that of the tree fell to supply the fort’s lumber.