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
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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