Brown, Arthur Page
Entry Author: David
Page Brown was born in Adams, New York in 1859. He attended
Cornell University and joined the prominent New York architectural
firm of McKim, Mead & White as a draftsman. He received
a formal training and then continued his architectural studies
with a trip to Europe, returning to New York in 1885 to open
his own practice. He was brought out to San Francisco in 1889
by Mary Ann Crocker to design a mausoleum for her husband
Charles, president of the Southern Pacific Railroad, who had
died the year before, to be placed on top of a hill in Oakland's
Mountain View Cemetery. Mary Ann Crocker also asked Brown
to design an Old People's Home (Pine at Pierce). With work
in hand, Brown encouraged Willis
Polk to follow him out to California and Polk worked for
Brown from July 1889 through August 1890.
The Old People's Home was a fine three-story plus attic 'L'-shaped
structure with a rounded tower at the center of the 'L', a
brick ground floor, two stories of shingle-clad wood frame
above, with a decorative band of alternating circles and diamonds
between the second and third stories, and attic-level dormer
windows giving the building an interesting roof line. The
building made an immediate impression on San Francisco society
and led to a number of commissions for Brown. It survives
today as Rose Court in altered form, after being threatened
with demolition for many years.
For the Crocker estate Brown supervised the completion of
the first Grace Cathedral (1890) and designed the City's second
'skyscraper' - an eleven-story steel-frame flat-iron office
building, on Market at the intersection of Post. (The first
steel-frame skyscraper was Burnham & Root's Chronicle
Building, Market at Kearny, in 1889). Bernard
Maybeck joined Brown's staff in 1891 to work on the Crocker
Building, which survived the 1906 earthquake, but was demolished
in the 1960's. Brown's commercial and residential commissions
grew rapidly and his office attracted some of the most talented
architects of the day, including Charles M. Rousseau, Edward
R. Swain, James R. Miller, Sylvain Schnaittacher, Frank S.
Van Trees, and A. C. Schweinfurth, as well as Maybeck.
Brown's office won the competition to design the California
State Building for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition,
which they did in a fanciful Mission Revival style, and Maybeck
went to Chicago on Brown's behalf to oversee its construction.
That was followed by two significant, but temporary, buildings
for the Midwinter Fair held in Golden Gate Park which opened
in January 1894 - the Administration Building and the
Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building. However those were
not the first structures in the Park that Brown had designed.
In 1892 he had created a merry-go-round modeled after a circular
Greek temple for the Children's Playground which the Sharon
family had developed, and that same year he had created a
two-arched stone Rustic Bridge to span Stow Lake.
Also in 1892, Brown had designed Trinity Church (Bush at
Gough, now San Francisco Landmark #65), reminiscent of the
cathedral at St. Albans, just north of London, and in 1894
Joseph Worcester, pastor of the Church of the New Jerusalem
and an architectural patron in the City, commissioned Brown
to design the Swedenborgian Church (Lyon at Washington). Maybeck,
Schweinfurth, and artists Bruce Porter and William Keith also
collaborated on the design. Examples of all their contributions
to the final result may still be seen in the Church. Brown's
office also designed a pastoral residence next door, at 2121
Lyon, which also survives today. The Church is scheduled be
added to the National Register of Historic Places in April
Brown is best known, however, for the magnificent Ferry Building,
designed in late 1892, and finally completed in mid-1898 after
a $1 million construction project. The integrity of the design
was proved in the earthquake of April 18, 1906 when the only
real damage was the loss of some of the Colusa sandstone facing
attached to the 240 foot clock tower. The elegant tower was
reportedly inspired by La Giralda, the bell tower of Seville
Cathedral which Brown had seen in his European travels. The
clock remained stuck at 5.16 for a year, reminding San Franciscans
of the time that the first shock had hit that fateful morning.
In 1977 the Ferry Building was designated as a landmark by
the American Society of Civil Engineers and it also became
San Francisco Landmark #90. The October 1989 earthquake ultimately
triggered the demolition of the Embarcadero Freeway which
had blocked the vista of the Ferry Building from Market Street
since 1958. Now central to San Francisco's revitalized waterfront,
it has been undergoing a $75 million restoration and re-opens
on March 21, 2003.
A lot of Brown's residential work in San Francisco was lost
in the 1906 fire, such as the beautiful Alban Towne house
at 1101 California, although its portico was saved and now
stands by Lloyd's Lake in Golden Gate Park as a memorial known
today as The Portals of the Past. The most significant surviving
residence of Brown's in the City is the Richard E. Queen
House at 2212 Sacramento, which turned out to be his final
project. Designed in 1895 it has a striking neoclassical facade,
with full height Corinthian pilasters and an imposing semicircular
entry portico with a balustrade and a Palladian window above.
The large formal reception hall leads to a wide staircase
with a magnificent stained glass window one half-flight up
in a cascading gold-orange-red palette. Pocket doors give
entry to each of the four generously-sized public rooms on
the main level. The living room and study have elegant plaster
details. The dining room is paneled in quartered oak. The
music room is finished in birdseye maple. All of these rooms
have fireplaces with marble surrounds and carved wood mantles.
Floors are hardwood, with a different pattern in each room.
Double half-flights of stairs continue up to the second floor.
Light enters it from a sunny south-facing study at one end,
with the stained glass window at the other. Off the large
central hall are four symmetrically-positioned bedrooms, with
room for each to have its own bath. The third floor also has
a central hall, and another four bedrooms and two baths. Parking
is available at the rear of the property.
Richard E. Queen moved into 2212 Sacramento in late 1896
and lived there for the rest of his life. He died in 1924
leaving the property to the Catholic Church with the right
for his wife and sister to reside there as long as they were
alive. The church eventually received clear title from Alice
Queen in 1956 after the property had fallen into disrepair
and soon sold it to Robert and Frances Moonan, who embarked
on a restoration. That later had to include significant roof
work after sections of a crane being used to build the adjacent
high-rise, 2200 Sacramento, fell onto it in the early 1960's.
The house was designated as San Francisco Landmark #198 in
1990 and the Moonan's eventually sold the property to the
present owners in 1996.
Brown tragically died at the young age of 36, in January
1896, three months after a runaway horse and buggy accident
near his Burlingame home left him with broken bones and internal
injuries. Frank Van Trees supervised the completion of 2212
Sacramento and Edward Swain the completion of the Ferry Building.
Entry taken from the website of David Parry at www.classicSFproperties.com
and is used by permission. Unauthorized use of this copyrighted
material is strictly forbidden without permission from the