The Mothers Building
January 27 – March 24, 2017 (extended)
Gallery Exhibit – Extended to March 24, 2017
Photography by Richard Rothman
Opening Reception: February 16, 2017, 1:00pm – 3:00pm
Dates: January 27, 2017 – March 24, 2017 (extended)
Venue: McLaren Lodge, 501 Stanyan Street, San Francisco, CA
- Dave Christiansen, Director, Harvey Milk Photo Center
The Mothers Building was built in 1925 by architect George Kelham for philanthropists Herbert and Mortimer Fleishacker. Inside the building there are four murals depicting the story of Noah and the Ark. They were painted on the walls by WPA artists Helen Forbes and Dorothy W. Pucinelli. The two mosaics on the outside of the building were done by Helen, Margaret and Esther Bruton. This is the only building in San Francisco where all of the WPA art work was done by women artists. Since 2002, the building has been closed to the public due to deteriorating conditions. The building was part of the Fleishhacker playing field area near the old entrance to the zoo on Sloat Boulevard. The water damage to some of the murals seen in some of the photos came from moisture and sea salt coming into the building on the western beach-side wall. Like Coit Tower, and Beach Chalet, the Mothers Building was not built to house or protect murals.
The Recreation and Parks Department, the SF Arts Commission, and the San Francisco Zoological Society helped fund the Conditional Assessment Study along with a grant from the San Francisco Historical Preservation Fund for a Conditional Assessment to study the condition of the building and murals. Architectural Resources Group completed the study in February of 2016. Supervisor Katy Tang and her staff secured funding for the current and next year’s City Budget for funding of this project. We still need about 5 million dollars to complete the project.
Richard Rothman is a native San Franciscan. In his teens he used to go to the Harvey Milk Photo Center to develop and print his photographs. As a small child his mother often took him into the Mothers Building when the family went to visit the Zoo. Richard got interested in WPA murals in the late 1970’s when he started giving tours of Coit Tower through SF Heritage and by 2010 was giving Coit Tower tours through SF City Guides. He has been working with the Recreation and Park Department staff, the SF Arts Commission staff, and the San Francisco Zoological Society staff to bring the Mothers Building up to code and so that the building can be re-opened.
Visit us on Facebook, “Friends of the Mothers Building at the San Francisco Zoo“
Monday – Friday: 9am – 5pm
*Lab operations end 30 minutes before close