The White House (department store)

37°47′23″N 122°24′19″W / 37.7896°N 122.40530°W / 37.7896; -122.40530

Name plate of The White House[1]

The White House was the first department store in San Francisco; it opened in 1854 and closed in 1965. It was originally named Davidson & Lane, then J.W. Davidson & Company, and finally, in 1870, when it moved to a large new building, took the name "The White House".[2]

In 1885, Lane retired, and Raphael Weill (1837-1920) continued with his brother, Henry Weill, Eugene Gallvis and Albert Roullier as partners.[3] All four were Jewish and French by birth.[3] Raphael Weill, who came to San Francisco in 1855,[4][5] was a prominent "philanthropist, epicure, and patron of the arts".[6] Weill was a French Jew[7] born in Phalsbourg, Lorraine, France.[8][9] He arrived in San Francisco in 1853, joined the firm in 1855 at age 18,[10] became a partner in 1858, and in 1885, became senior partner. He was a prominent member of the Bohemian Club,[2] a founder of the French Library, and a patron of the French Hospital.[8] He was an uncle of the founding brothers of Lazard Frères.[8] Weill was appointed as a chevalier of the French Légion d'honneur in 1908.[11][12] He died in 1920.[13][14]

In the 19th century, the company was known for its progressive treatment of its employees, closing at 6pm and on holidays, offering annual paid vacations, paid sick time, and commissions on sales.[2]

The Davidson & Lane Dry Goods Company originally opened in 1854 at the corner of Post and Grant. It moved to Kearny and Post on December 7, 1870, with the new name, The White House. After that store burned down in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the third location, designed by Albert Pissis and clad in white terra cotta,[15] was at Sutter and Grant, with street address 256 Grant Avenue.[16][17][18][19] In July 1960, an Oakland branch opened in Kaiser Center, at 20th and Webster.[19] The White House, San Francisco department store, closed on January 1, 1965, at which time it was housed in four buildings.[16]

After remaining vacant for several years, the main building reopened as a parking garage on the upper floors, with restaurants and retail stores including Tiffany & Co. and Peck and Peck at street level.[15] As of 2021, the primary ground floor tenant is Banana Republic.


  1. ^ "The White House Raphael Weill and Company department store patinated bronze sign". LOT-ART. February 21, 2021. Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  2. ^ a b c The Bay of San Francisco The Metropolis of the Pacific Coast and Its Suburban Cities : a History, Lewis Publishing Company, 1892, 1:553
  3. ^ a b "White House Department Store". 25 November 2013. Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  4. ^ "Raphael Weill papers and photographs, 1880-1964". The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life. 14 May 1880. Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  5. ^ "Raphael Weill". The Maritime Heritage Project. Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  6. ^ David Kipen and the Federal Writers Project, San Francisco in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the City by the Bay, 1940 (republished 2011), ISBN 0520948874, p. 186
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c Claudine Chalmers, French San Francisco, Images of America series, 2007, ISBN 1531635474, p. 59
  9. ^ "Raphael Weill", Ship Passengers ~ Sea Captains: The Maritime Heritage Project ~ San Francisco 1846-1899, [1]
  10. ^ Frank McConnell Mayfield, The Department Store Story, 1949, p. 38
  11. ^ "PUTS RAPHAEL WEILL IN LEGION OF HONOR; President of France Gives San Franciscan High Decoration; NEW-YEAR'S SURPRISE; Distinction Comes for Services as an American Citizen", The San Francisco Call 103:33:3 (Thursday, January 2, 1908) California Digital Newspaper Collection
  12. ^ LLOYD, REUBEN H. "DINNER IN HONOR OF RAPHAEL WEILL [held by] REUBEN H. LLOYD [at] "BOHEMIAN CLUB, SAN FRANCISCO, CA" (REST;)". NYPL Digital Collections. Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  13. ^ David Kipen and the Federal Writers Project, San Francisco in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the City by the Bay, 1940 (republished 2011), ISBN 0520948874, pp. 133, 184, 186
  14. ^ Hartlaub, Peter (12 October 2020). "'With a love that is filial': It's 2020 and the battle for S.F.'s soul has just begun". San Francisco Chronicle.
  15. ^ a b Joseph P. Fried, "Cars to Share Retail Landmark With Shoppers in San Francisco", New York Times, Sunday, May 21, 1967, p. 330
  16. ^ a b Veronica Gelakoska, Pig 'n Whistle, Images of America series, 2010, ISBN 0738581410, p. 16-17
  17. ^ William Woodhead, "The Material City: Some details of the rehabilitation of San Francisco's business houses", Sunset Magazine 22:4:425 (April 1909)
  18. ^ "Hanna v. Raphael Weill & Co., 90 Cal.App.2d 461". Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  19. ^ a b The White House, The Department Store Museum