Though high on Potrero Hill, it's stood a the center of the community for over almost a century.
In 1921 Julia Morgan -- most famous for Hearst Castle--was hired to design our neighborhood house, (fondly called the NABE by locals) for a Russian sect of the Presbyterian Church known as the Molokani. Many had fled Czarist oppression in Russia and settled in Potrero Hill, so the neighborhood house served as place for them to learn English and practical skills, as well as host social and religious celebrations and ceremonies.
Julia Morgan was a notoriously private person who shunned publicity. Little is known about her childhood or personal life. But no matter—she left behind a most lasting impressions on California’s landscape and a hard-to-miss hole in the architecture field’s glass ceiling.
Born in San Francisco and a graduate of UC Berkeley, Morgan was the first woman to graduate of UC Berkeley’s civil engineering program, the first woman ever to be admitted to the prestigious École de Beaux-Arts department of architecture in Paris, the first woman architect licensed in California, and in 2014 she became the first woman to be awarded the AIA Gold Medal for Architecture (more than 50 years after her death).
Morgan holds the record for total completed structures designed by a single American architect—she designed more than 700 buildings (most of them houses), so many that even just her Bay Area contributions exceeds the capacity of any one map or index.
Morgan designed the NABE to look and feel like a house, offering a safe and comforting space. 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'.
Our neighborhood continues to change but the NABE still serves us all, and notably hosts the Boosters' monthly membership meetings as well as offer community programs, group space, and a venue for weddings.
The NABE is a registered San Francisco city landmark.
Visit dogpatchna.org/scavenger-hunt to join the community fun as our gift to you during this year's "holidays at home" Shelter in Place.