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From Shriners' Children's Hospital to Senior Living in the Sunset

Welcome to Curbed's ongoing series titled Hidden History, where Curbed highlights a Bay Area location with a secret past. Maybe it's no longer there, maybe it's been converted into something else, but each spot holds a place in Bay Area history - even if not many people know it. Have a suggestion or know a place with a secret history? The tipline's always open or you can leave a comment after the jump.

Amidst the stucco buildings along 19th Avenue in the Sunset sits the massive Vintage at Golden Gate senior living community. Established in 2002, the senior housing project was the happy ending to a battle between developers and neighborhood advocates hell bent on saving the former San Francisco Shriners' Hospital for Crippled Children.


The hospital was built in 1922 as a hospital for children by the Shriners, a side order of Freemasons, and designed by Weeks and Day (of Mark Hopkins Hotel fame). At a time when most of the Sunset was still sand dunes, the massive Italian Renaissance hospital was an imposing structure. It was built as one of 10 Shriners' hospitals in the US in the 1920s, all part of Shriner campaign to create a chain of orthopedic hospitals for crippled children. The first was built in Shreveport, Louisiana, and the SF hospital was the third. Treatment at the hospitals was free and limited to patients under 14 years old whose parents couldn't pay at traditional hospitals (and open to children of all races, pretty revolutionary at the time).

[Photos via SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

A new wing was added in 1970, and the old hospital was converted into administrative offices. By the late 1990s, the Shriners had built a new hospital in Sacramento and looked to sell the 19th Avenue site. A development proposal by Catellus Residential Group called for razing the two-block site for 152 residential units in two- and three-story attached flats and townhouses. Neighbors and preservationists freaked, and lobbied to get the site landmarked. They succeeded in 1998, with the original 1922 hospital building and landscaping along 19th Ave protected as City Landmark #221. The Shriners weren't happy, but within a year a new project was proposed that called for demo of that non-historic rear 1970 addition in favor of a new four-story building and rehab of the 1922 building for 120 senior assisted living units. Designed by BAR Architects, the new project with the subdued rear addition made everyone happy . Most of the interior of the old hospital was already messed up, allowing for an easy conversion to housing. However the second floor
nurses' library and the living room were intact, so they were restored to feature the original beamed ceiling, ceiling molding, an original tile fireplace, and window and door trim.

[Photos via BAR Architects]

Thanks to reader Don for the tip!

· San Francisco Landmark No. 221 - Shriners Hospital (pdf) [SF Planning]
· Old Shriners Hospital A Landmark / Fraternal organization will appeal to S.F. supervisors [SF Gate]
· Rebuilding images / Old Shriners Hospital, downtown office, find new purposes [SF Gate]
· Vintage at Golden Gate [BAR Architects]
· Rehab Brings Sunset District Landmark back to Useful Life [SF Heritage]