McAllister Tower Apartments

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McAllister Tower Apartments is a 28-story, 94 m (308 ft) residential apartment skyscraper at 100 McAllister Street in San Francisco, California. The property is owned and operated by the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. The tower includes mixed-use offices on various floors, and the Art Deco-styled "Sky Room" with a panoramic view on the 24th floor.

McAllister Tower Apartments
2017 McAllister Tower UC Hastings College of Law.jpg
McAllister Tower Apartments is located in San Francisco
McAllister Tower Apartments
Location within San Francisco
Former names100 McAllister
Temple Methodist Episcopal Church
William Taylor Hotel
Empire Hotel
General information
Architectural styleGothic Revival
Art Deco/Art Moderne
Location100 McAllister Street
San Francisco, California
Coordinates37°46′52″N 122°24′50″W / 37.7810°N 122.4139°W / 37.7810; -122.4139Coordinates: 37°46′52″N 122°24′50″W / 37.7810°N 122.4139°W / 37.7810; -122.4139
CompletedJanuary 1930[1]
OwnerHastings College Of The Law
ManagementHastings College Of The Law
Roof94 m (308 ft)
Technical details
Floor count28
Floor area280,000 sq ft (26,000 m2)[2]
Design and construction
ArchitectMiller & Pflueger
Lewis P. Hobart

Conceived as an unusual combination of a large church surmounted by a hotel, construction of the building brought architectural dispute. Initially designed by Timothy L. Pflueger in the Gothic Revival style, the investors fired his firm and hired Lewis P. Hobart, who changed little of Pflueger's design. In a resulting lawsuit, Pflueger won nearly half the damages he asked for. The building opened in 1930 as the William Taylor Hotel and Temple Methodist Episcopal Church. However, extra construction expenses had put the congregation at greater financial risk, and the church-hotel concept did not prove popular. No profit was made in six years, and the church left, losing their investment. In the late 1930s the building housed the Empire Hotel, known for its Sky Room lounge, then from World War II to the 1970s, 100 McAllister served as U.S. government offices.

Reopening as university housing and offices in 1981, McAllister Tower is home to some 300 law students and their families. "The Tower" is sited one block from the administrative and scholastic center of Hastings College of the Law, and is the most prominent building in the district.


Church and hotelEdit

The skyscraper at 100 McAllister began in 1920 with a plan formulated by Reverend Walter John Sherman to merge four of the largest Methodist Episcopal congregations in San Francisco, sell their various churches and properties and combine their assets to build a "superchurch" with a hotel on top of it.[6] From their initial $800,000 they bought property at McAllister and Leavenworth streets and hired the architectural firm of Miller and Pflueger to design the edifice.[7] Timothy L. Pflueger was chosen as the designer. The new hotel, intended to be "dry" (serving no alcoholic beverages) in the "sinful" city,[8] was to be named after William Taylor, a Methodist Episcopal street preacher and missionary who formed the first Methodist church in San Francisco. The large church was named Temple Methodist Episcopal Church, or simply "Temple Methodist".[7]

Beginning in 1925, Pflueger designed a 308 ft (94 m), 28-story, step-back skyscraper made of brick framed with steel, along the lines of his just-completed Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company Building. Its main decorative theme was neo-Gothic, expressed strongly in the three Gothic arches which formed the main street-level entrance for the church.[8] The Great Hall, the large worship area located within the second, third and fourth floors was to seat 1,500 churchgoers and a smaller chapel was designed for 125 more. A grand pipe organ from Skinner Organ Company was installed with four manuals controlling 3,881 pipes.[9] A stained glass window was placed 80 feet above the sanctuary, representing Faith, Love and Hope in three tall, narrow panels.[2] Two assembly halls could be combined to hold 1,100 attendees for theatrical or athletic events. Some 500 guest rooms and 32 tower apartments were intended to bring a steady flow of visitors and a source of profit to the church. Though never the tallest building in San Francisco, it was to be the tallest hotel on the Pacific Coast for many decades.

In a dispute, the architectural firm of Miller and Pflueger was fired from the project, and was replaced by Lewis P. Hobart.[1] Miller and Pflueger sued for $81,600, alleging that Hobart's design was little changed from Pflueger's original. Three months after the hotel and church opened in January 1930, Miller and Pflueger won $38,000 in a favorable court decision.[1]

Dedication of the church's pipe organ took place August 31, 1930. It was E. M. Skinner's opus 819 of Boston, Massachusetts.[10] The combined congregation was very satisfied with their new place of worship.[7]

Eventually costing US$2.8 million ($43 million in current value), the building's completion required several rounds of new financing from its investors in order to overcome unanticipated expenses. Unfortunately for the congregation, the idea of a hotel above a church didn't attract the requisite number of guests and the venture failed to turn a profit.[7]

From 1990 through 2001, the church housed the theater of George Coates Performance Works – an experimental multi-media theater troupe that utilized the 60 foot high vaulted ceiling for projections.[citation needed]

Empire HotelEdit

By November 1936, enough debt had accumulated that a bondholder's protective committee foreclosed on the property, buying it back for $750,000.[7] The Temple Methodist congregation lost its investment and was asked to leave. The Skinner Opus pipe organ was removed to be sold to Occidental College in Los Angeles and rebuilt in their Thorne Hall.[9] The three-piece stained glass window was removed and exhibited, eventually making its way to Stockton, California where it was installed in the Morris Chapel at the University of the Pacific. The 100 McAllister building itself was refurbished: the church's floor area was given over to parking, a coffee shop was built in part of the first floor lobby and the new enterprise opened again as the Empire Hotel, noted for completing, in 1938, the first view lounge in the area, the Sky Room on the 24th floor.[1][11] With plush carpeting, a large Art Deco-style oval bar, and plate glass windows on all sides, the Sky Room provided a panoramic view of the city.[8] Architect & Engineer wrote of the luxurious bar in April, 1938, that it "has no prototype west of New York",[12] referring to Manhattan's Rainbow Room which opened three-and-a-half years earlier.

Federal officesEdit

At the beginning of direct American involvement in World War II, the U.S. government bought the building and converted it to federal offices, officer billets, spaces used by the Army's Ordnance Procurement department, a passport agency and an induction center run by the local draft board.[8] The high vaulted ceiling of the Great Hall worship center was hidden by a dropped ceiling. After the war, the Internal Revenue Service moved offices into the building.[2]

Many federal groups at 100 McAllister moved their offices in 1959–1960 to the newly built federal building at 450 Golden Gate Avenue, later named the Phillip Burton Federal Building. Occupancy at 100 McAllister was low, though the United States Army Corps of Engineers moved their San Francisco District offices there in the 1960s,[13] and local draftees were still required to appear there through the late 1960s.[14] The San Francisco Selective Service System offices were located in the lower floors of the building during the Vietnam War.

UC HastingsEdit

In 1978, the University of California, Hastings College of the Law bought the building, the most prominent in the Tenderloin district,[12] and began two years of refurbishment and redesign. Calling it "McAllister Tower", 248 units were modernized for residential use by law students, and the building opened in 1981 with a combination of compact studio units as well as larger one- and two-bedroom apartments taking up a total of 17 floors.[2] The building, home to about 300 law students and their families,[11] is casually referred to as "the Tower" by Hastings residents and faculty, who have but a one-block commute to the law school's main building at 200 McAllister.[15]

The old Sky Room with its spectacular 360-degree view reopened in 1999 as the James Edgar Hervey Skyroom, in honor of alumnus James Edgar Hervey, Class of 1950, a prominent San Diego trial lawyer.[11] It is used as a space for student study by day (no alcohol allowed) and is available for special events in the evenings. Other floors of the building hold offices, apartments and residential conveniences. The mezzanine level contains a compact fitness center, the third and fourth floors contain classrooms and offices for political action groups and legal assistance organizations, and the 22nd and 23rd floors hold publishing headquarters for a number of scholarly journals.[11]

The Great Hall remains un-refurbished and has been judged by UC Hastings to be in need of substantial repair and improvement, including major architectural engineering work. The college has plans to create a 400-seat performing arts venue within the Great Hall.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Poletti, 2008, p. 106
  2. ^ a b c d e EIP Associates (March 2004). "Hastings College of the Law Institutional Master Plan" (PDF). University of California Hastings College of the Law. Archived from the original (.PDF) on February 26, 2009. Retrieved April 2, 2010. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ McAllister Tower Apartments at Emporis
  4. ^ "McAllister Tower Apartments". SkyscraperPage.
  5. ^ McAllister Tower Apartments at Structurae
  6. ^ Staff writers (March 17, 1930). "San Francisco Skyscraper-Church". Time. Archived from the original on July 15, 2010. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d e Staff writers (May 24, 1937). "San Francisco Marriage". Time. Archived from the original on January 25, 2012. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  8. ^ a b c d Crowe, Michael (2007). San Francisco Art Deco. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 24–25. ISBN 0-7385-4734-4. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  9. ^ a b "Opus 819: Temple Methodist Church (San Francisco, CA)". Aeolian-Skinner. August 15, 2008. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b c d Hastings College of the Law (2007). "Student Guidebook" (PDF). 2007–2008. University of California. Archived from the original (.PDF) on February 26, 2009. Retrieved April 2, 2010. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ a b Poletti, Therese (October 17, 2009). "The disappearing skyroom". Timothy Pflueger Blog. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  13. ^ Simon, Ted (2001). The River Stops Here: Saving Round Valley, A Pivotal Chapter in California's Water Wars. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23056-6. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  14. ^ United States of America v. Lawrence Joseph Dell'anno, 436 F.2d 1198, p 23 (US Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit January 4, 1971).
  15. ^ "On Campus Housing". University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Archived from the original on 24 April 2010. Retrieved April 10, 2010.

External linksEdit