Happy Birthday Tim Pflueger, San Francisco still loves you!

Telephone Building, now officially called 140 New Montgomery, lit by floodlights at night. Photo (c) Therese Poletti

After realizing late in the day on September 26 that it was architect Tim Pflueger’s birthday, I decided to walk within a short radius of my office downtown and photograph a few Pflueger buildings. The big reward while walking around on a lovely balmy evening was to see the newly renovated Telephone Building, now officially renamed 140 New Montgomery, all aglow with gorgeous flood lights shining on the tower, just as it did back in the day after the building opened in 1925.

The current owners, developers Wilson Meany, recently finished a huge renovation and seismic retrofitting job. Yelp Inc. moved into several floors of the tower earlier this month, being the first company to occupy the building since AT&T moved out in 2006. As you can see, from this 1929 photo, the building used to have many floodlights highlighting the tower, and at Easter, Pacific Telephone had lights in the windows lit to form the shape of a cross.

Telephone Building at Easter, 1929 courtesy San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library
Telephone Building at Easter, 1929 courtesy San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library

New Montgomery Street is lively with lots of activity going on, due to the heavy concentration of tech companies in the area. I talked with a French entrepreneur who just moved to San Francisco to try to get his curation start-up company going, and he graciously contributed an excellent photo (see below) of New Montgomery Street. Other tech companies in addition to Yelp are moving into 140 too, including one named Terracotta (140 is finished with a white and grey speckled terracotta made by Gladding McBean). The 26-story building is now over 85% leased.

New Montgomery Street at night, photo by Eric Poindessault

Wilson Meany, the developers who bought the building from AT&T Inc. in 2007, are trying to be both energy efficient and good neighbors and currently are lighting up the tower from about dusk until 10 pm.

It’s great to see the tower aglow. In February, 1926 the magazine “Architecture” wrote, “In the new Telephone building, San Francisco has her Woolworth tower.” I was reminded of that comment when I saw how stately the Telephone Building looks at night now, where past, present and the future all collide.

Note: this post was not posted on Pflueger’s birthday because just as I was trying to proofread and post, Comcast started to do maintenance in my neighborhood and I lost my connection for the evening!

Telephone Building at night, 1929, courtesy San Francisco History Center, SF Public LIbrary
Telephone Building at night, 1929, courtesy San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library

6 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Tim Pflueger, San Francisco still loves you!”

  1. Belated Happy Birthday, Tim!
    Therese–It’s wonderful to know that so much bustling activity is happening in that area of Downtown. I’ve been on Mid-Market a few times recently, assisting with architectural salvage at the Strand Theatre before it becomes an additional home for ACT. I’m seeing some slight glimmerings of that area improving a little too, though it’s got a steeper climb to make than the area near 140 New Montgomery, which has never really fallen from grace. The Warfield is undergoing major renovations–on the office block portion, at least, and even the dome of the lately-neglected Golden Gate Theatre has gotten a new surface.

  2. Therese, what wonderful news! Do you know anything about the lobby at this point? Restaurants? Original decor intact??

    It was lovely seeing you last Sunday! Alice

    1. Hi Alice. The lobby has been restored and they re-created the Bell System medallions above the elevators. I have yet to go in I am hoping to go on a tour in the near future with some of my guides. If we do, I will take photos and write a more in-depth post.

      The restaurants are set to move in in November I believe (they are not doing any kind of Deco-themed interiors. Unless they surprise us, both public spaces represent a serious lost opportunity in my opinion to recreate the Patent Leather Lounge or another Pflueger-like, Deco-inspired interiors, that would have been more classic than the current fascination with the bare bones warehouse look.

      I think the lobby is the only thing intact because the tech companies and the incoming restaurants have no taste, cannot think for themselves, and they just to be trendy and have bare bricks and think that the warehouse bare spaces are oh so chic and cool. I believe that the interior office spaces have been pretty much gutted, as I wrote about in the WSJ many months ago. They were going to save some bas reliefs on the 26th floor. Reminds me of all the people who buy 1920s houses and immediately rip out the kitchens and the Deco tile in the bathrooms. No respect at all.


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