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Corner of Haight and Ashbury declared ‘national treasure’

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Circa-1910 Doolan-Larson building singled out for preservation

haight and ashbury signs Photo by Shutterstock

The National Trust For Historic Preservation declared the corner of Haight and Ashbury a “national treasure” today and announced plans to preserve the nearby Doolan-Larson building as a “center for the interpretation and preservation” of the neighborhood’s history.

Based in Washington D.C., the trust describes itself as “a privately funded nonprofit organization [that] works to save America’s historic places.”

In trust parlance, “national treasures” are “nationally significant historic places where the National Trust is taking direct action [...] to save sites from deterioration.”

Other specially dedicated California sites include Route 66 and LA’s Terminal Island. The only previous national treasure in San Francisco is the Haas-Lilienthal House.

The newly dedicated Haight-Ashbury page on the trust site singles out the Summer of Love era as critical to 20th century American history: “Its complexity, its dedication to social justice, and its impact on music, popular culture, the environmental movement, and technology make the 1960s a key part of our national identity.”

The intersection itself is in little danger, of course, so preservationists have focused on the building at 557 Ashbury, dubbed the Doolan-Larson building, for extra attention:

It was home to one of San Francisco’s first hippie clothing stores, Mnasidika, run by Peggy Caserta, a lover and close friend of Janis Joplin. The store is where Jimi Hendrix supposedly got his trademark bell-bottoms and vest, and where the Grateful Dead conducted an iconic photo shoot.

Today, six retail storefronts are on the ground floor of the Doolan-Larson Building, including one family-owned and operated T-shirt shop that has been a tenant at the corner of Haight and Ashbury since 1980.

The circa-1910 Colonial Revival building on the northwest corner of the intersection is named for longtime resident Norman Larson, aka “the Duke of the Haight,” who eventually donated the structure to San Francisco Heritage.

According to the National Register of Historic Places, Frank T. Doolan was the building’s original architect. Starting Wednesday, the public will be allowed free tours of the interior.