Another Landmark Location for VICOM Associates
and a Worldwide Cultural Change!
In 1987, I moved once again with the medical advertising agency that allowed me to rent a room, this time it was at One Lombard Street (National Register #09001300) which was originally, an ice storage warehouse built 1901. More interesting than the various occupiers of this address, is the story of the architect who practiced decorative restraint to achieve lasting beauty: Willis Jefferson Polk
(October 3, 1867 – September 10, 1924)
He was the Master Architect of San Francisco in the years: 1890s to 1920s.
Above: Willis Jefferson Polk and three views of One Lombard.
In 1889, Polk inherited the assignment of the completion of the San Francisco Ferry Building.
A few years later, Polk designed a logo.
After much dissatisfaction with their logo, the Sierra Club, in the Spring 1894, adopted a design by Willis Polk. It was used for a century as their logo with small changes, until 1998. https://www.sierraclub.org/library/sierra-club-logo-history
In 1897, George Washington Percy became Polk’s partner, handling the business so that Polk could design five large scale designs including One Lombard in 1901.
Above: some of the many Polk designs and collaborations.
1904 – 1907 Merchants Exchange Building, (with Julia Morgan) reconstruction.
1915, Polk oversaw the architectural committee for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
1916, when he was tasked to design the Hallidie Building. That glass curtain façade was a precursor to modern skyscraper development.
St. Francis Yacht Club:
The Main Club House (Polk-1924), which occupied approximately one half of its site, burned to the ground in 1976.
The new Club House was designed by Robert Marquis of the San Francisco firm of Marquis & Stoller.
In the early eighties the Yacht Club commissioned Eden & Eden Architects to design new facilities on the other half of the site to house a large regatta center, court yard, observation deck, race committed offices, private dining facilities, library, showers and changing facilities. Also, the employee’s dining facilities, lockers etc. were then remodeled.
(With thanks to Ted Eden)
There were close to 30 examples of Polk’s talents before he died (9−10−1924) at age 56.
Originally. there were 70 miles of railroad track reaching almost every pier and berth along the Embarcadero and it reached the Presidio. The tracks reached Fisherman’s Wharf, Aquatic Park and the Fort Mason Tunnel. It was the State Belt Railroad of 1889. The San Francisco Bay Railroad was the successor to the Belt Railroad. In 2000, it received approval to operate only the five miles of track near One Lombard.
The view from my window was the old roundhouse which had been turned into offices,
In the photo of the roundhouse, rail lines can be seen. (Currently: architecture and design offices, not open to the public.)
San Francisco Landmark #114
Beltline Railroad Roundhouse
(Intersection Sansome, Lombard, The Embarcadero)
Built 1913 (1918?) by Newman, Freeman & Alden.
The offices in One Lombard, which faced out to the street, had exposed brick in the interior (like my previous locations at the Belli Building and the Wharfside Building). Little bits of brick would often drop down, but this building had been recently re-structured with I‑beams. One diagonal beam crossed inside (2nd floor fourth window) of my room.
When the ’89 Loma Prieta Earthquake hit (on October 17, 1989) I was there when the 6.9 shaking reached our building.The ceiling lights swayed as I stood at the opened sliding glass doors of my room. The I‑beams did their job and the bricks stayed where they belonged!
The Computer Culture
The Computer Culture changed everything world-wide!
There were, already a great number of computers in San Francisco, from the early Commodore in 1971 to the Apple computers. It was in 1984 when Apple’s Macintosh offered its graphical user interface that Vicom moved quickly to introduce them to the whole art department.
As this magazine story wrote, ”throw away your brushes”.
Because of the training that I needed, I accomplished most of my learning process at home using the early graphic software products: Studio‑8, Painter and Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator.
There were Apple manuals then. Actually, I was learning from one that I was asked previously to illustrate.
Back in the agency, I could accept the new challenges. Just simple planning could be done, putting photos and parts of the photos together, which offered new ideas.
Thumb-nail sketches were still needed to determine the choice for the computer art.
Then when a “health house” was suggested, no previous sketch was needed, parts just come together.
As the agency was moving toward digital art, I was still required to create layouts with pencil and markers on large layout pads, The computer didn’t yet offer a layout that could be presented to another artist or photographer to complete the finished art or photograph. (See my layout of a hip replacement and Vince Perez’s finished art). I show one example were my layout became the finished art for JAMA.
On July 18,1986 Vicom merged with Foote, Cone & Bending Healthcare.
The Christmas party that year was held at the Haas-Lilienthal House, San Francisco Landmark #69.
(Architect Peter R. Schmidt and contractors McCann & Biddell. it was built in 1886 for William and Bertha Haas.)
I was asked to make this quick Xeroxed invitation, details of the occasion were added and it was handed out to all employees and to independent contractors, like myself.
I’ve searched for my photo of VICOM and FCB attendees posed on the steps, but I must’ve shared that photo, also.
And now, where did we eat? McGovern’s on Vallejo Street, had closed and that location became “Grumpy’s” (Although it was owned by two advertising men, it was what we called: a “fern-bar”). But farther south on Battery Street, was “Bricks Bar and Grill” (with that name only from 1992 — 1999) run by Bill Duffey before he changed the name to “The Old Ship”. The hotel rooms above, were still being rented.
Briefly: ”The Old Ship Alehouse” was created from a hole cut out of the bow of the ship, Arkansas, after it ran aground in 1849 hitting “Bird Island” (now Alcatraz). “The Old Ship” was towed to the Pacific Street Wharf.
The bartender,19 year old James “Jimmy” Laflin,” (previously the ship’s cabin boy) ran the place and used the location as one of many “shanghaiers” in San Francisco.
It was a historic lunch location and a nice walk south to Pacific Street. (I show the full building in color, as “Bricks” …and a close-up corner view, as it is now.)
It presently has the status: San Francisco Legacy Business.
And parking? – – as I’ve shown this before, a VICOM reserved space on the neighboring roof top.
(I didn’t save the Datsun 510, but i’ve saved this Isuzu Impulse.)
Then Bob Buechert retired, I had twenty four years working for Bob’s accounts and attending mutual social occasions. On 12 – 1‑1990 there was a “black-tie” retirement party, again at the Haas-Lilienthal Mansion. (I don’t show Bob in his tux, as I gave most our photos to his family.) I have these photos and one of Bob at one of our get-togethers at about that time.
I stayed at One Lombard until 1996.
I could still freelance at home.
There were our good friends, Stan and Frances Galli, who did not want or need to move into the computer-age. They were so very well known for their traditional painting that a new method would be a loss to their established collections of work.
In 1995, at Frances Galli’s retrospective, I was able to see Bill Davis who set me onto my graphic career… 34 years earlier.
There were very many independent graphic artists (and groups) that found work-space in various old San Francisco buildings. Many in our our creative fields were able to work at home. It is only now, on-line, that I could find the history of the buildings where we spent many years.
(For my research on Willis Polk, extensive history of computers, and the Old Ship restaurant — I thank, and I donated to, Wikipedia)
The Beatniks…there still are some …and only today, in the Sunday Chronicle, I read that there are now many new art galleries appearing on upper Grant Avenue. The City Lights Bookstore and ‘Specs’” still exist.
The Hippies? The music lives on.I remember thinking that I would always see those colorful Hippie vans. Now, I might see one— once in a great while, “movin’ along the highway”. And recently, there was a gathering at Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park for a “4−20 smoke-in”.
Old buildings and past cultural places and events still exist, and others remain in our memories.