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The Landmarks: San Francisco's Skyscraper-Church

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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

The McAllister Tower Apartments at 100 McAllister, now the dorm for UC's Hastings College of the Law, got its start as one of the strangest hotel schemes in San Francisco history. This mega Gothic Revival former hotel once featured a full-scale church on its ground floors, and is a contributor to the National Register Uptown Tenderloin Historic District.

The church-hotel combo was the brain child of Reverend Walter John Sherman who wanted to merge existing Methodist congregations by selling their properties and combining to build a "superchurch" with a hotel on top. They hired Timothy Pflueger's firm to design the building in 1930, who went neo-Gothic with an Art Deco twist. (Miller & Pflueger were fired over a dispute and Lewis P. Hobart was brought in to finish the hotel, though he essentially kept Pflueger's design as-is.)

The new Taylor Hotel was named after missionary William Taylor who founded the first Methodist church in SF, with an interior cathedral known as "Temple Methodist" taking up the second, third and fourth floors. The massive church sat 1,500, with a chapel seating 125 more and two assembly halls holding 1,100. As for the hotel portion, it contained 500 guest rooms and 32 tower apartments, all with a "glossy array of electric stoves, refrigerators, semi-modernistic furniture." Of course it also happened to be a dry hotel, meaning no alcohol.

Even though the church was a big hit, the hotel not so much. Shockingly a booze-free hotel above a church wasn't too popular in San Francisco. By 1937 the congregation was in major debt and was eventually bought out. Temple Methodist moved out and the Empire Hotel moved in. The church was converted to parking and a coffee shop on the first floor, and a super plush Art Deco lounge known as the Sky Room was created on the 24th floor.

By 1942, the federal government requisitioned the hotel as office space for a passport agency and an induction center run by the local draft board. The vaulted ceilings in the former church space were covered by drop tile. After the war, the building became an office of the Internal Revenue Service and later the US Army Corps of Engineers.

["The Tower", via UC Hastings]
Hastings College of the Law bought the building in 1978 and refurbished it as housing for students. The Sky Room reopened in 1999 as a study area and event space. The giant church space remains un-refurbished and is currently used for furniture storage. Apparently the space needs a major engineering overhaul, but the university had plans build a 400-seat performing arts venue.

McAllister Tower was identified as a contributor to the Uptown Tenderloin Historic District, listed on the National Register in 2009.

· If These Walls Could Talk [UC Hastings Alumni]
· Hastings College of the Law Institutional Master Plan [UC Hastings]
· The "Skyroom" Above the Empire Hotel [Architect and Engineer via Internet Archive]
· Hotel Empire, San Francisco [Tattered and Lost]
· Disappearing Sky Room [Timothy Pflueger Blog]