In 1896 the San Francisco Call newspaper featured an article referring to "Sanchez' bar" in Monterey. The big news was that architect Willis Polk and artist Charles Rollo Peters were prepared to enjoy a drink and view the famous art and writing on the walls when they found the bar with a new name and new ownership. Worse yet, the new owner had destroyed the precious work by painting the walls. The destroyed vignettes were known works by William Keith, CR Peters, Jules Tavernier, Daniel Polk, Albert Bierstadt, John Muir, Ernest Piexetto, Xavier Martinez, Robert Louis Stevenson and many more. Willis was so upset at the destruction, he immediately took a train back to San Francisco.
Monterey was the go-to getaway for the Bay Area artist/literati set before Carmel usurped her place as an artist colony. (Another story, another time). Monterey had the added benefit of a train station that took you straight to the Del Monte Lodge, conveniently built by the same investors in the train. And while plenty of drinking went on at the Lodge, the artists frequented this small bar downtown. The owner Adulpho Sanchez encouraged the paintings which were often gifts in lieu of paying a bar tab. It was famous long before the murals at Coppa's in San Francisco.
Sanchez's bar was The Bohemia Saloon on Alvarado Street. The bar was owned by the Sanchez brothers. Adulpho and his brother were well known in Monterey and to the creative set of the time. Adulpho was married to Nellie Vandegrift, sister to Fannie Vandegrift Osborne Stevenson. And what does that mean? Adulpho was Robert Louis Stevenson's brother-in-law. In fact it is Adulpho's son for whom "to my name-child" from Child's Garden of Verses was written. Well Bob's your uncle, literally!
Nellie Vandegrift Sanchez served as the amanuensis for "Bob" Robert Louis Stevenson when he wrote Prince Otto on his sick-bed in Oakland, and she later penned a biography. Stevenson died in Samoa in 1894 seeking the benefits of a warmer climate after battling ill health his entire life.
When news reached San Francisco of his death, it is alleged that Willis Polk and his friend and artistic collaborator Bruce Porter met at the Palace Hotel to dine, wine and design a monument to Stevenson. Polk drew the plan on the tablecloth, paid the complaining waiter a dollar for the loss, and walked off with the cloth tucked under his arm. They created the Stevenson Memorial in San Francisco's Portsmouth Square with money raised by the Stevenson's good friend Dora Williams.
Dora Williams was also an artist and the sole witness at the Stevenson wedding. She was the widow of Virgil Williams, a founder of the Bohemian Club and founding president of the San Francisco Art Institute. Dora met Fanny and Robert through the Art Institute. While little is known about exactly when she met Willis, it is likely through the same artistic circles and their Russian Hill neighbors. Willis and Daniel lived at 40 Florence while remodeling for Horatio Livermore. Dora lived at 826 Green Street. They all were part of the Worcester Group of artists and writers on the hill.
The entire Polk family moved to Russian Hill in 1892 when Dora and the Polk's became partners in the creation of the duplex that tumbled down the steep "unbuildable" hillside in six stories at 1019/15 Vallejo Street (Polk-Williams House). Dora lived in the western unit and the Polk family in the eastern. In 1895, Fanny Stevenson and her daughter Isobel returned to San Francisco from Samoa and stayed in one of Dora’s lower floors for six months. The Polk/Williams house was always humming with artists in tenancy or visiting one side or the other.
In 1899, a now wealthy Fanny hired Willis to design a home for her at Hyde and Lombard close to her Russian Hill circle of friends. The Stevenson home located at 2323 Hyde (the street name a coincidence as RLS wrote Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), was huge. A stained glass window designed by Polk depicts the ship Hispaniola from Treasure Island and was likely created by Bruce Porter. The home was bigger than it is today, stretching around the corner west down Lombard Street. The property was split off at a later date and once used as a convent after Fanny’s death.
Have anything to add to this web of interconnectivity? I would love to hear about it!
Nancy Everett. Dora Norton Williams... in the Argonaut, Volume 21 No. 1., Spring 2010
Scott Shields. Artists at the Continent's Edge. University of California Press. 2006
Original Coppa's Restaurant was a legendary bohemian gathering place in the Montgomery (Monkey) Block where the Transamerica Building now stands. Its crowning glory were the wild murals, created by the artists and writers who made the place their second home sitting for hours at the center table in a long, narrow room with 21 tables.
The leader of the San Francisco Bohemians was Porter Garnett, a writer, editor, designer and co-creator, with Gelett Burgess, of the 1895 literary magazine The Lark. The group also included the painters Xavier Martinez, Ernest Peixetto, Maynard Dixon, poets and writers George Sterling, James Hopper, sculptor Robert Aiken, Willis and Dan Polk were also frequently in attendance along with many others. The late evening libations were decidedly misogynistic and never included wives. Women were included on occasion if they were pretty enough, or a current girlfriend for a one time review.
Years earlier, Bohemians frequented the The Bohemian Saloon* in Monterey which had walls covered by Bay Area artists, but they were painted over when the bar was sold. Maybe with this in mind, or because Burgess had started to scribble some of his characters in chalk, Papa Coppa agreed to let them create a permanent mural on the wall. They started on a Sunday in 1905, for a free lunch and all the wine they could drink. Giant lobsters, self-portraits, black cats - a nod to the Chat Noir in Paris, and cryptic quotations in many languages adorned the walls. The Oscar Wilde's quote “Something terrible is about to happen.” was prescient in that less than a year later the terrible did happen. On April 18, 1906, the earthquake and fire spared the Monkey Block, but looters broke into the cafe and destroyed everything. The now legendary mural only lasted one year.
Coppa opened the ruined restaurant and served a last supper by candlelight for the Bohemians and their families who gathered to share earthquake memories. Here is a memory recorded by Xavier Martinez's wife Elsa Whitaker Martinez*;
Papa Coppa tried to recapture the magic with several reincarnations of his cafe in new locations with new murals, but it never regained the same caché.
* Elsie Martinez is quoted from a longer transcript which includes more Coppa stories.
* The Bohemia Saloon was run by Adulpho Sanchez, brother-in-law of Robert Louis Stevenson. Article here!
Title: San Francisco Bay Area writers and artists: oral history transcript
By: Martinez, Elsie, 1890-1984
Copyright: The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000; http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
The 1916 Preparedness Parade. courtesy US Library of Congress
Over a century ago, tensions about the war in Europe, labor unrest and the Committee for Law and Order exploded. Quite literally on July 22, 1916, a suitcase bomb killed 10 and seriously injured 40, at the city’s “Preparedness Day” parade—one of the largest parades in the city’s history with 51,000 marchers participating. Everybody seemed to be there including Phoebe Hearst leading delegations of women down Market street. The bomb exploded at 2:06 at Market and Steuart Streets.
The idea behind a “preparedness” demonstration, which also took place in New York and Washington, D.C, was to support the American military in the event of the nation entering World War I - which we did one year later. But many were against this interference overseas, and labor leaders protested it was another get rich scheme for industrialists on the backs of working men. So after the mystery bomb blast left little evidence, the police and government was eager to find the criminals. Immediately socialists, anarchists and pro-labor organizers were targeted. Two labor activists, whom the papers referred to as "radicals", were convicted and jailed then released in 1939 after the police were accused of witness tampering in a mob scene trial.
Whoever planted the bombs remains a mystery. Some theories suggest German sabotage. What is certain, is the 1916 bombing is one example of how extreme tensions between unions and businesses had become at this time, and how determined some groups were to either prevent or support the US entering the war. But the tide of opposition was turning.
needed By 1916 daily news reports regarding the suffering and humanitarian crisis in Europe were unavoidable. Headlines were sensational and told harrowing stories of the crisis. The German invasion of Belgium was brutal. They destroyed agriculture, livestock, burned cities and villages causing the deaths of 23,700 Belgian civilians, 22,700 temporary invalids, with 18,296 children became war orphans.
The Commission for Belgian Relief (CRB) was partially responsible for turning the tide in sentiments towards the war. Established in October 1914, Daisy was there at the formation as were many others instrumental in the Hoover directed American Relief Committee (ARC). With ARC's mission to help Americans leave Europe at the declaration of war accomplished, the young entrepreneur Herbert Hoover turned his organization's attention to the growing humanitarian crisis in Belgium and Northern France. The CRB mission was to import food and ensure its distribution within German-occupied areas to civilians. No easy task, it was a logistic and diplomatic triumph.
In 1915 Daisy took a needed break from her work in Europe and along with Lou Henry Hoover and many others, travelled North America raising funds for the CRB and sharing her personal stories about the horrors on the Front. She was supposed to come home to rest, but undaunted she travelled and everywhere she spoke there were headlines. The CRB had no equal in the scope of its responsibility to feed an entire nation of nearly 7.3 million. They quickly became one of the foremost international relief organizations in the First World War era and San Franciscans were major benefactors and shipments of California products were organized from her ports. I'll write a full article on that organization soon!
Five months after the San Francisco bombing in December 1916, Daisy was chosen to lead a humanitarian project in Northern France rebuilding the ruins of Vitrimont on the Western Front. The project was a model for rebuilding and entirely funded by Mrs. William (Ethel Mary Sperry) Crocker. It was front-page news in San Francisco, and was covered in every major newspaper, magazine and many books of the time.
For more information on the SF Bomb see The Library of Congress article
This view from Nob Hill looking up Taylor at Jackson to Vallejo Street - is half a block from the summit of Russian Hill. The true summit lies at Vallejo between Taylor and Jones. Also seen here are the cross streets of Pacific Avenue and Broadway. Ina Coolbrith Park is located just across the Vallejo stairs from the house seen in the upper left corner - The House of the Flag.
Today the 225 step Vallejo Stairs are on both sides of Taylor Street. The House of the Flag is on the SE corner of the Vallejo stairs and Taylor Street. It was named a San Francisco landmark in 1972 and has become part of the lore of this special neighborhood which was home to a coterie of the most creative and interesting San Franciscans of their time. It also largely survived the fire and has many pre-earthquake buildings still standing watch from the top of Russian Hill.
Some stories that couldn't make the book in full ... but need to be told! Editors welcomed - sign up below.
A WILLIS POLK GIFT
THE RLS CONNECTION 1896
EARTHQUAKE TALES FROM COPPA
PANDEMIC OF 1889
THE BOMB THAT SHOOK SF
MILAN:CITY OF WATER
POLK ON THE MAP
FEATHERS, FASHION & FLY FISHING
RARE AVIATION FILM - WWI 1914-17
1906 SAN FRANCISCO
WTF FILES - TECHNOLOGICAL
GET ME OUTTA HERE!
NO HORSES, NO TENTS, NO $
DAISY IN FRENCH LITERATURE
DAISY ON FILM!
THE WHITE DEATH
THE SYMBOLISM OF FLOWERS
POSTE DE SECOURS WWI
TRAVEL 1900: LONDON TO PARIS
DAISY: REST IN PEACE
KEITH'S, DRANE'S & KENTUCKY
MOTHER: MISSOURI COMPROMISE