Weeks & Day and the Modern Face of Nob Hill

Following the catastrophic fires following in the wake of the earthquake of April 18th, 1906, not much remained of San Francisco east of Van Ness Avenue. In fact, “outside of war,” the disaster remains the largest conflagration to affect any metropolitan area, ever. (Dennis Smith, San Francisco is Burning (New York: Viking, 2005), p. 3) Nob Hill, being at the western edge of the original downtown area, with its world-famous mansions peering down over the city, was completely wiped out, except for two of the most recently completed structures on the hill, the only ones not built of wood: silver king James C. Flood’s brownstone townhouse (today the Pacific-Union Club), and the set-to-open-in-a-few-weeks Fairmont Hotel. While both of these structures were completely gutted in 1906, they were later rebuilt and redesigned within. Likewise, both projects were overseen by now-celebrated architects (Willis Polk, and Julia Morgan, respectively), both of which were responsible for pioneering what became known as the Bay Region style of architecture, fusing topography, climate, local materials, creativity, and economy. That said, it was during the Roaring Twenties that the firm of Weeks & Day designed a cluster of buildings responsible for Nob Hill’s modern-face.

Intercontinental Mark Hopkins - June 2014
The Mark Hopkins Hotel at the SE corner of California and Mason streets (snapped from 450 Sutter).

Charles Peter Weeks was born on Sept. 1, 1870 in Copley, Ohio. In the early-1890s, after graduating from the University of Akron, Weeks studied architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he met Massachusetts-native, John Galen Howard. On returning to the States, Howard formed Howard & Cauldwell in New York City; Weeks later joined the firm. Such was Howard and Weeks’s relationship, that when Howard was appointed to succeed Bernard Maybeck as head of the school of architecture at the University of California (Berkeley) in 1901, Weeks followed Howard west and worked for him as a designer. In 1903, Weeks moved to San Francisco to work as a draftsman for Albert Sutton, and moved into 939 Bush St., on the south slope of Nob Hill, between Taylor and Jones streets; soon after the two men organized as Sutton & Weeks, and moved into a new office at 510 Montgomery St., between Sacramento and Commercial. (Crocker-Langley City Directory of 1903, pp. 1771 & 1887; 1904, pp. 1785 & 1904)

Sutton & Weeks went on to build various schools (Lincoln and Franklin), many warehouses about the South of Market district like the Baker & Hamilton Building at 700 7th St. (today the offices of Adobe), many Presidio Heights and Pacific Heights residences, numerous hotels and apartment buildings around the Union Square area following the 1906 earthquake and fires, and also remodeled the State Capitol Building in Sacramento. In 1910 however, Sutton moved to Oregon, and therefore Sutton & Weeks was dissolved.

For the next few years, Weeks went it alone, working out of an office at 704 Market St., and still single, living out of the University Club at the NE corner of Powell and California streets. During this time, circa 1914, Weeks designed what can probably be considered his residential masterpiece: 2150 Washington St., built in the Italian Renaissance style for former-Mayor of San Francisco and U. S. Senator James D. Phelan, and his sister Mary Louise. Interestingly, when Weeks joined forces with William P. Day in 1916, therefore forming Weeks & Day, their offices were located in the new, post-1906 Phelan Building on Market Street.

Huntington Hotel - January 2013
The Huntington Hotel at the SE corner of California and Taylor streets.

William Peyton Day was born in California in 1886. He graduated from the California School of Mechanical Arts in 1901, and then attended the University of California at Berkeley from which in 1905 he earned a degree of Bachelor of Science (College of Civil Engineering) with an “honorable mention for distinguished scholarship.” (Oakland Tribune, Aug. 19, 1901, p. 5, c. 5; S. F. Chronicle, May 17, 1905, p. 9, c. 4; S. F. Call, May 18, 1905, p. 6, c. 3) In 1908, Day became partners with John Buck Leonard, a native of Michigan, who was a major proponent and early designer of reinforced concrete bridges. As “consulting engineers,” not only did Leonard & Day go on to design and build bridges all over California, but in 1913 they published a book: The Concrete Bridge: How it has Proved itself In California.

Day had been living at 344 North Willard (today Willard North), just north of the start of Golden Gate Park, but on July 24, 1911 he married Jane Chandler Winston, who lived at 900 Powell Street on the eastern slope of Nob Hill. Day moved them into 955 Clayton St., which he later described as the “family home.” The family never happened however, as just over a year later, after Jane went on extended vacation with her mother, therefore “abandoning” Day, in what in retrospect seems like a 20-year old girl looking for attention, a sensational divorce process took place the following year, covered in all of the papers. While the proceedings gave media coverage to “Lady Jane,” with her photo published about, the divorce was ultimately granted in Day’s favor. (Chronicle, Oct. 1, 1912, p. 4, c. 2-3; Call, Sept. 15, 1913, p. 4, c. 6; Call & Post, Dec. 13, 1913, p. 12, c. 1; Chronicle, Dec. 14, 1913, p. 70, c. 2-3)

While Leonard & Day built bridges all over California, with their offices in the Rialto Building on New Montgomery Street, during 1916 Bill Day quit his business relations with Leonard and joined forces with architect Charles P. Weeks, forming the firm of Weeks & Day. Not only did Weeks & Day start out with substantial bridge work (Red Bluff Daily News, Aug. 12, 1919, p. 1, c. 6), but they were soon designing many premiere west coast buildings, like the State Theatre in Los Angeles for Loews in 1920. (Chronicle, June 12, 1920, p. 8, c. 6)

In San Francisco, Weeks & Day’s first architectural masterpiece was the Don Lee building at 1000 Van Ness Ave., finished in 1921 for Cadillac, which helped usher Van Ness Avenue into its post-1906 identity as Auto Row (today the building houses the AMC Theatres). (Chronicle, Sept. 5, 1920, p. 9, c. 4) In 1921 as well, Weeks & Day were hired by William Fox of the Fox Film Corporation to build a chain of theaters down the coast, starting with the Fox Theatre in Oakland. (Chronicle, July 23, 1921, p. 7, c. 4) By 1923, among other work, Weeks & Day were engaged in building two new buildings in the Capitol group at Sacramento. (Oakland Tribune, March 11, 1923, p. 37, c. 1) Furthermore, while during the Roaring Twenties Weeks & Day went on to design and build many other notable buildings about the west coast, in retrospect, one of their major contributions was in regard to the modern face of San Francisco’s Nob Hill.

Brocklebank Apartments - 2015
Brocklebank Apartments at the NE corner of Mason and Sacramento streets.

Between 1923-1927, Weeks & Day designed four substantial structures atop Nob Hill: first in 1923, the Huntington Apartments (today the Scarlet Huntington), then in 1926 both the Mark Hopkins Hotel (today the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins) and the Brocklebank Apartments, and then in 1927 the Cathedral Apartments, all modern takes on Italian Renaissance and Gothic Revival architecture, with singular variations. In fact, during this period of Nob Hill resurrection, soon after completion of the Huntington Apartments, Bill Day and his second wife Eva moved into the building. (Crocker-Langley Directory of 1925, p. 587) Likewise, Weeks and his wife Beatrice moved into the Brocklebank on completion. (Crocker-Langley City Directory of 1927, p. 2209) Furthermore, when the Cathedral Apartments were completed, Bill and Eva Day moved there from the Huntington. (Crocker-Langley City Directory of 1928, p. 518)

On March 25, 1928, Weeks & Day came to an end when Charles P. Weeks died at the age of 57 in his living room at the Brocklebank of a “nervous condition of several years’ standing.” (Oakland Tribune, March 26, 1928) Bill Day continued forging on alone, and in the 1930s, became the director of works for the San Francisco Bay Exposition, Inc., that is the construction chief in regard to the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1839 on Treasure Island, which was the third World’s Fair in San Francisco within a fifty-year period. Day’s first major task was in creating the space for the exposition, that is in creating Treasure Island from landfill, as well as building a seawall. When the island was half-completed, Day was the first person to walk the stretch of land from Yerba Buena Island to Treasure Island. (Fresno Bee, May 4, 1936, p. 13, c. 3; San Mateo Times, May 27, 1936, p. 7, c. 1; June 17, 1936, p. 8, c. 7) In the 1950s, before retiring, Day’s last major project was not only construction, but also in architecture regarding the new International Airport Terminal at San Francisco International Airport. (Ukiah Daily Journal, Aug. 24, 1954, p. 3, c. 1) On retiring, Day remained with Eva in room 1602 of the Cathedral Apartments, until his death at the age of 80 years old on Aug. 5, 1966 (Polk’s Directory of 1964-65, p. 368)

Cathedral Apartments - 2012
The Cathedral Apartments at the SW corner of California and Jones streets.

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