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Local Landmark #86: Julia Morgan Stunner in Potrero Hill

Welcome to The Landmarks, where Curbed takes a look at one of the many San Francisco landmarks, listed either locally or on the National Register of Historic Places. Landmarks will be chosen at random, but do drop us a line if you'd like to see a certain landmark highlighted
Nestled in Potrero Hill is the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House designed by Bay Area starchitect Julia Morgan. Not just a pretty face, this building served as a club house and meeting ground for the neighborhood's immigrant population.

By the early 1900s, many European immigrants had settled in the southern working class neighborhoods of SF. In Potrero Hill, the largest immigrant group was comprised of Russians and eastern Europeans. The Russian settlers, known as Molokans, were fleeing Tsarist oppression in Russia and were known for their "puritanical, pacifistic, and paternalistic attitudes." After the 1906 Earthquake and Fire destroyed many neighborhoods, other groups began to resettle in Potrero Hill too.

Dr. W.E. Parker, Jr., Pastor of Olivet Presbyterian Church at 19th and Missouri Street, responded to clashes between the Russian immigrants and other cultural groups by opening his house and offering English classes for men in 1908, with additional classes for women and youth soon following. By 1918 the neighborhood had grown enough to incorporate the club under the California Synodical Society of Home Missions, an organization of Presbyterian Church women. In 1919, they hired local starchitect Julia Morgan (of Hearst Castle fame) to design a permanent neighborhood house with a full time staff, now at 953 De Haro Street.

Through the 1920s and 30s the Russian community used the Neighborhood House for social and religious celebrations and ceremonies. Later the club housed boxing lessons (an attempt to quell a rising youth violence issue), as well as language classes for the older first generation immigrants. When later immigrant groups continued to settle in the area after World War II, the Neighborhood House was used help facilitate "their entrance into the American way of life." It also served as a rallying point in the proposed up-zoning of Potrero Hill in the 1950s, eventually leading the neighborhood to a much lower permitted density with a height limit of 40'.

The demographics of Potrero Hill have changed since the early 20th century, especially after the first dot com boom of the 1990s, but the Neighborhood House still offers community programs and group space. It was listed as Local Landmark #86 in 1977.
· Local Landmark #86 [SF Planning]
· Neighborhood House [Found SF]
· The Potrero Hill Neighborhood House [NABE]