Last week, I went to the dentist at 450 Sutter, Miller & Pflueger’s ode to the Maya. While I was there, the pleasant security guards (among the nicest in San Francisco) were changing the notices in the elevator, where management updates tenants about the building’s ongoing restoration project. The guard let me keep last week’s notice.
In its place was a reminder that the gorgeous skyscraper had just turned 80 (silly me I totally forgot, even though the building’s opening date, October 15, 1929, is in my book about Pflueger, Art Deco San Francisco).
At 80 years old, 450 Sutter is looking pretty fabulous. While the old girl was gifted with a gorgeous bone structure, her appearance was enhanced by a major facelift. Over the past 2-1/2 years, Harsch Investment Properties, the owners, managed a huge project that involved replacing every window in the building and a serious cleaning and repairing of the terra cotta surface.
“As part of our final inspection process, we hired a special consultant to provide the ‘ultimate leak test,'” wrote general manager Stan Mackewicz, in a recent note to tenants. “The consultant (Mother Nature) successfully scheduled the test this last Tuesday, which amounted to one of the most powerful rain storms in the Bay Area in the past 50 years.”
Mackewicz, a vice president at Harsch, was happy to report that 2860 out of the 2862 new windows installed at 450 Sutter passed the test. Only two windows had some very minor water leaks, resulting in a little puddle on the window sills.
The windows of 450 Sutter are an important element in its novel design and structure. In 1929, it was not commonplace for a skyscraper to have windows wrapping around the corners of the building, as they do here. This was only possible with the use of the steel frame, which enabled builders and architects to do away with heavy masonry walls and support columns. It’s almost as if Pflueger & Co. were saying, “Look Ma, no hands!”
The last remaining temporary scaffolding will stay up at 450 Sutter while the final terra cotta work is done at the front of the building. Chad Miller, office manager at 450, said the scaffolding and swing equipment for the window work should come down by mid-November, but that could change, based on weather conditions, etc.
Kudos to Harsch for its caring stewardship of this icon. What a grand way to celebrate 450 Sutter at 80. You go girl!
Just two blocks down the street from 450 Sutter, one can quickly compare how modern that skyscraper was for its time. While giving the San Francisco City Guides Downtown Deco tour last weekend, someone in my group pointed out the stunning floral ornament at the cornice of this lovely retail building at 250 Sutter.
This small six-story building was built in 1909 and designed by the local architectural firm of Meyers and Ward. It was originally called the Goldberg Bowen building, for the delicatessen at the ground level. The building’s cornice and organic, Art Nouveau-like ornament, are of terra cotta as well, and are an interesting contrast with the neo-Gothic ribbing and arches.