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Mooser, William

Entry Author: David Parry


Just a few individuals started dynasties of San Francisco design and architectural accomplishment. Charles M. Rousseau (followed by sons Charles J., Arthur and Oliver) would be one; Julius Case Mathews (followed by sons Walter, Edgar and Arthur) would be another. However, William Sebastian Mooser was by far the earliest, and, by 1961, the firm names of William Mooser or Wm. Mooser & Son had been respected in the local architectural community for 100 years through the distinguished efforts of three generations of William Mooser.

William Mooser I was born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1834. He studied architecture in his native land before arriving in San Francisco on October 10, 1854. One of his first jobs was at the Navy Yard designing naval structures, but he soon followed many other fortune seekers of his generation and set out for the mines. He later based himself in Virginia City, Nevada to practice architecture, designing and supervising the building of at least four substantial commercial buildings there.

In 1858 Mooser returned to San Francisco, at first joining pioneer architect Victor Hoffman in practice and then opening his own office in 1861. One early Mooser design still surviving, and therefore one of San Francisco's oldest buildings, is the 1864 Pioneer Woolen Mill at Ghirardelli Square. It is a red-brick building with broad plank floors resting on exposed wood columns, acutely-angled onto Polk Street near Beach. It is now incorporated into the Ghirardelli complex designated in 1970 as San Francisco Landmark #30. Most of the buildings there were designed between 1899 and 1918 by his son, William Mooser II (1868-1962), for the chocolate manufacturer D. Ghirardelli Co. In 1962, the buildings were saved from demolition by Lurline and William Matson Roth who hired Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons to develop them into a retail and office complex, for which they received a collaborative achievement award from the American Institute of Architects in 1965. William Mooser I designed a second building for the Pioneer Woolen Mills across from the first one, which survived for almost 100 years, but was unfortunately demolished to be replaced by those twin obstructions to the view from Russian Hill - the Fontana Towers.

Mooser entered into a few other partnerships during his career in the City, notably with English architect W. J. Cuthbertson in the early 1890's. Despite a great deal of his work being lost in the fire which followed the 1906 earthquake, we are fortunate to have the group of Queen Anne's at 2811-2821 Buchanan Street to admire, designed by Mooser in 1893, and the magnificent home at 2702 California Street which he designed in 1887 for carriage maker John Dupuy (ref. building contract notice in California Architect & Building News, June 15, 1887, $7,500 construction cost).

Mooser was well respected in the local architectural community and was a founding member of the San Francisco Architectural Society in 1861. His son, William Mooser II, joined him in the practice in 1890, continuing the company name after his father died of kidney failure on November 17, 1896. In 1900, during the Phelan administration, he became the first person appointed to the position of City architect, responsible for the plans and supervision of all City construction, in charge of the new Building Bureau and its building inspectors, and writing the first San Francisco building code. William Mooser III (1893-1969), known as William Mooser, Jr. for most of his life, received his formal architectural training in Paris at the renowned École des Beaux-Arts and apprenticed with MacDonald and Couchot, later joining his father in practice for many years.

Entry taken from the website of David Parry at and is used by permission. Unauthorized use of this copyrighted material is strictly forbidden without permission from the author.


Born: Geneva, Swizerland, 1834
In 1858 Mooser returned to San Francisco, at first joining pioneer architect Victor Hoffman in practice and then opening his own office in 1861
Died: November 17, 1896


> Edgar Mathews


+ Ghirardelli Square History


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