Thursday, May 24, 2012

Theatre 1839, 1839 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, CA

Next door was the former site of the synagogue for Temple Beth Israel, an early Jewish congregation in San Francisco, founded around 1860, which began constructing its fifth building at 1839 Geary in 1905, although its completion was interrupted by the April 1906 earthquake .

Next to the synagogue was the Scottish Rites (Masonic) Temple Building, known as the Alfred Pike Memorial Temple, at 1859 Geary, which dated back to the 19th century.

A remarkable photo exists from right after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, showing a damaged Beth Israel synagogue and the equally damaged Masonic Temple, with an empty lot where the future Fillmore would be built a few years later.
Although there were a number of different addresses on the block, these three buildings were the main structures on the block until the 1980s.(1)

A brief article in the May 3, 1969 edition of Music Industry trade magazine Billboard notes that Bill Graham sold the Geary Temple next to his old Fillmore Auditorium to Western Addition Youth Group, Inc., a self-help for ghetto teenagers for $166,000, although another bidder was willing to pay $175,000.
By that time, Graham had moved from the Fillmore to the Fillmore West, a dozen blocks and a mile and half away.  In any case, the Billboard notice shows that Graham owned the Geary Temple, and that accounts for the abrupt absence of any shows at the Geary Temple from 1966 onwards.(2)
Temple Beth Israel was on the move as well, as its Congregation merged with another Congregation, becoming Congregation Beth Israel-Judea in 1969. The Congregation moved to 625 Brotherhood Way in San Francisco, where it remains today.

Although the venue had "festival seating" for the most part, probably different than its synagogue functions, the elegant ceilings and decorations were intact, and it was not only a beautiful building but beautiful sounding as well.(1)

Right next door was the converted Alfred Pike Memorial Scottish Rites Temple, which by this time was the headquarters of Jim Jones's infamous Peoples Temple. Jones and his followers left for Jonestown, Guyana and their tragic mass suicide took place on November 18, 1978.
While Theatre 1839 was not directly connected to those events, it did add to the strange mojo of the block.

Temple Beautiful
Theatre 1839 did arise as a performance venue, however, known as Temple Beautiful in early 1979 and hosting a number of punk rock shows. The Clash in particular played a warmly remembered gig there, as well as many more local bands. While this is outside the scope of this blog, it is worth noting that once a Use Permit has been defined, venues are more likely to remain in use. Once again, I do not know the finances behind the concerts, nor why the building stopped being used for music after about 1980. At some point the building became "The Duquette Pavilion," hosting the work of artist Anthony Duquette.

The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 damaged the Fillmore Auditorium, Temple Beautiful (1839) and the former People's Temple (1859), and all the buildings were damaged by fire. The Fillmore was fully refurbished, but the two other buildings were torn down. After some time as vacant lots, the 1859 Geary address is now a newly constructed Post Office, and I do not know the fate of the lot at 1839.(1)

A San Francisco museum burned Thursday night, forcing the evacuation of neighbors and thousands of rock fans who were in the nearby Fillmore Auditorium. The fire at the Duquette Pavilion of St. Francis, a converted synagogue at 1839 Geary Blvd., quickly went to five alarms after it was reported at 9:19 p.m. Nearby buildings, including the Fillmore and the old Peoples Temple, were threatened but apparently undamaged. Some 140 firefighters and two dozen engines responded.(2)

This building on Geary in San Francisco had at one time been a Baptist church. It was used by Bill Graham as a music venue in the late 1970's.

Vintage evening gowns, 1920s clothing, Victorian to 1950s tuxedos. Men and women. Sales and rental. Closed Sunday.

Jerry performed here on
7/29/77 JGB (Bob Marley Greek and Willie Nelson Circle Star)
7/30/77 JGB
8/10/79 Reconstruction (Temple Beautiful)

1.)^Arnold, Corry, July 29-30, 1977: Theatre 1839, 1839 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA Jerry Garcia Band, 2009-11-18, Lost Live Dead,
2.)^San Jose Mercury News (CA) - February 17, 1989
3.)^Arnold, Corry, 1859 Geary Blvd, San Francisco: The Geary Temple 1966-68, Lost Live Dead, 2009-11-17,

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