‘I just have this thing about bread’

Photograph of Pascal Rigo by Paul Moore

FIRST PERSON | Pascal Rigo

One morning not very long ago, I was eating breakfast with my family. We were sitting around the kitchen table in our apartment, which is above our bakery on Pine Street.
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A preservationist’s return

When Volume 1, Number 1, of the New Fillmore appeared in May 1986, one of its features was ambitiously labeled Great Old Houses #1. It was just a picture and a paragraph about the Victorian at 2447 Washington Street written by Anne Bloomfield. “Untouched it is not,” she noted archly.

For the next 14 years, until her death in 1999, she continued writing every month about a great old house in the neighborhood. Her articles got longer and more detailed, and they became one of the paper’s most popular features.

Arthur and Anne Bloomfield in Paris.

Her writing burnished her growing reputation as a preeminent architectural historian and preservationist. She served as a member of the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board and played a leading role in creating many of the city’s historic districts — including its first residential district, on Webster Street, where she lived.

She always intended to collect, edit and revise her columns into a book, but time ran out. “It was the one thing Anne left undone that mattered to her a lot,” said her husband, Arthur Bloomfield, an author and critic of food and music. “I couldn’t escape the feeling that ‘the Anne book’ should be done.”
So he set about turning her columns into a manuscript that could be published between hard covers.

The result is “Gables and Fables: A Portrait of San Francisco’s Pacific Heights,” a 400-page book with drawings and maps to be published in May 2007 by Heyday Books in Berkeley. The publisher presents it as a collaboration between Anne and Arthur that is “part historical detective work and part gossip column.” It is “a phantasmal composite, if you will, of her cabernet and my merlot,” Arthur says. “It was all her idea, and it’s mostly Anne’s material, but I wrote the book.”

“Gables and Fables” tells the stories of 110 houses and other buildings in the neighborhood — “an architectural and social history of one of the United States’ most attractive neighborhoods,” the publisher says, “along with the moguls, entrepreneurs, artists, mariners, recluses and charlatans who lived in them.”

Temple scaffolding only the start

Photograph of Temple Sherith Israel by Dickie Spritzer

The unsightly scaffolding that surrounds Temple Sherith Israel at the corner of Webster and California streets is as repugnant to the synagogue’s leadership as it is to neighbors and passersby, they say, but it is not going away anytime soon.

The scaffolding was erected to protect pedestrians from shards of sandstone falling from the facade. David Newman, president of the congregation, said it is the nature of sandstone to flake over time as water gets into it. The building’s major problem, however, is not with the sandstone facade but with the unreinforced masonry it covers. The building dates from 1904 and survived the 1906 earthquake, but the city deems it insufficiently reinforced.

Newman said the working drawings necessary to apply for a building permit are being prepared and will probably be ready midyear. The congregation is in the early phases of a major capital campaign to pay for the work. The main project will consist of drilling vertical holes in the walls and filling them with steel and concrete, then tying them across the top. The repairs to the exterior sandstone walls will be carried out as part of the reinforcement project.

Temple Sherith Israel served as San Francisco Superior Court for a time after the 1906 earthquake. It was there that political boss Abe Ruef was tried and convicted of corruption and sentenced to San Quentin.

“It’s a special building,” Newman said. “It’s more than our home. It’s an architectural treasure.”