Saturday, November 28, 2009


The former Newton Tharp Commercial School shares a block of prime San Francisco Civic Center real estate with the former High School of Commerce. They both sit just south of Symphony Hall and are disgracefully derelict. Newton Tharp (above) has been completely abandoned for decades. "Commerce" (as its elderly alums still fondly call it) as seen below – with glimpses of its lavish glazed polychrome ornamentation – houses administrative offices of the San Francisco Unified School District, though the fabric of the building is so shabby, seen up close, that it too looks abandoned.

According to municipal documents, "the entire city block bounded by Van Ness Avenue, Fell, Franklin and Hayes Streets, Assessor's Block 815, Lot 1 ... is within the boundaries of City Landmark No. 140. The site and its buildings are also designated as a contributing property within the Civic Center National Register of Historic Places and local Historic Districts."

In plain language, this designation apparently means that the worthy old buildings will not be torn down but will merely be quietly permitted to rot away.