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Worship and tribute: Historic SF buildings recognized, refurbished and revitalized

A number of San Francisco’s most iconic communal hubs made headlines this week as news broke that the Castro Theater would soon be under new management and the Cliff House could be serving warm food, cool cocktails and epic views before the end of the year.

This morning, the trend continued as Glide Memorial Church was named to the National Register of Historic Places. The California State Historical Resources Commission voted unanimously to distinguish the 1931 church and apartment building from its current inclusion as part of the “Uptown Tenderloin Neighborhood District.” 

Glide was nominated for its contribution to social history, as well as its importance to Black and Asian heritage. Though the Tenderloin institution is best known for its pioneering programs serving people of color, the LGBTQ community, seniors, addicts and the unhoused, today’s hearing also reviewed its parapets, Tuscan columns, terracotta tilework and other Mediterranean Revival architectural details.

Glide Memorial Church | Getty Images

Founder Lizzie Glide was friends with famed architect Julia Morgan but disagreed with Morgan’s vision for the structure. Glide chose the designer of the Berkeley Public Library, James Plachek, for the project, which began life as a Methodist church and an affordable home for working women.

Placement on the National Register makes the property eligible for grants, tax incentives and preservation assistance. 

Read on to learn about all the historic San Francisco structures that have recently announced plans for renovation, preservation or some other form of rebirth.

Castro Theatre

Born: 1922 | Update: Major renovations and new programming in 2022

On Wednesday, Jan. 19, the Castro Theater announced that the beloved, century-old movie house will partner with Another Planet Entertainment on a multi-million dollar renovation of its building and programming. APE, which produces Outside Lands and runs other historic venues—including the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and The Fox Theater in Oakland—assured the community that film and LGBTQ productions would remain a part of the theater’s programming. However, those offerings will now share the spotlight with live music and comedy events, much to the anguish of cinephiles around the Bay Area.

Cliff House

Born: 1863 | Update: New restaurant in 2022

After surviving an explosive shipwreck, earthquakes, catastrophic fires, multiple owners and 150 years of tourists, the Cliff House isn’t fazed by much. But the historic eatery has been closed since 2020 because the Hountalas family, who had operated the restaurant since 1974, couldn’t reach a new lease agreement with the National Park Service, the property’s steward. This week, the NPS issued a call for proposals to identify a new restaurant operator. It looks like the Cliff House could be back in business before the end of the year.

China Beach Bathhouse

Born: 1957 | Update: Major renovation in 2022

Locals flock to the Sea Cliff cove for its postcard-worthy Golden Gate vistas even as they avert their eyes from the rusty, shuttered bathhouse that looms over the strand. In 2022, the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy will lead the first renovation of the China Beach bathhouse since its construction in 1954. With $20 million in contributions from private donors and federal funds, the project will begin by shoring up the seawall and finish with a bathhouse facelift that will include the return of modern conveniences, such as indoor restrooms and running water for cold showers.

Round House Cafe

Born: 1937 | Update: Remodeled and reopened in 2021

New concessionaire Equator Coffees now serves its sustainable brew here after a summer 2021 renovation of the petite, circular cafe at the southern foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. Born as a road stop one year after the opening of the span and reborn in various forms during the ensuing decades, the Round House’s Art Deco origins now gleam again, showcasing one era of the city’s architectural history and another of its coffee house culture.

Stern Grove

Born: 1890s | Update: Landmark status requested in 2021

In the wild southwest corner of late 1800s San Francisco, the wide veranda of the “Trocadero Inn” welcomed city folk who’d made the long trip to the beach on horseback. Later clientele included fishermen, gamblers, “Women’s Outdoor Club” members, and eventually park lovers, concert goers and wedding celebrants when the clubhouse became part of Stern Grove in 1931. Despite being the oldest building in Parkside, the Trocadero was never declared a landmark until the Parkside Heritage group urged District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar to make an official request last year. Unfortunately, the clubhouse is closed as it awaits word on the petition due to a burst water main in Stern Grove last summer.