CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY OF MT. DAVIDSON
MT. DAVIDSON CROSS
Rancho San Miguel, a 4443 acre grant of land from the ocean to Twin Peaks, given to Don Jose de Jesus Noe by Mexican Governor Pio Pico.1847
Rancho purchased by banker, Francois Pioche.1852
Ownership claim by Jose Yves Limatour proven fraudulent by U.S. Geodetic Coast Surveyor, George Davidson, who surveys the hill and names it Blue Mountain for the lupine flowers growing there.1881
Adolph Sutro, silver baron and subsequent mayor of San Francisco, purchases 1400 acres of Rancho San Miguel; enlists school children to plant trees on Blue Mountain.1911
George Davidson dies. Blue Mountain is renamed for George Davidson at the urging of the Sierra Club in honor of his charter membership and significant scientific achievements. A. S. "Lucky" Baldwin, Sutro's appraiser, purchases Mt. Davidson and surrounding lands for development of Forest Hills, St. Francis Wood, Westwood Park, Balboa Terrace, and Monterey Heights. He builds footpaths to the summit of the mountain to promote the area.1923
First sunrise service organized by George Decatur, Sunset District resident, Director of the YMCA, and official of the Western Union Telegraph Co., which is attended by over 5000 residents. First, but temporary, 40 ft. high wooden cross erected for the ceremony led by Dean J. Wilmer Gresham of Grace Cathedral. Sierra Club organizes Thanksgiving event on the summit.1924
Second wooden cross, 87 ft. high, built on Mt. Davidson.1925
Cross burned down by two small boys.1926
Mrs. Edmund N. Brown, State Park Commissioner, enlists the support of the Commodore Sloat Mother's Club, the Federation of Women's Clubs, and St. Francis Homes Association to stop development of the mountain and make it a city park.1929
20 acres purchased by the city with funds raised by the Mt. Davidson Conservation Committee and dedicated as a public park by Mayor Rolph on John McLaren's 84th birthday. Third, sturdier, and first Easter week lit cross built: 75 ft. high with stucco and 300 lights.1930
Easter sunrise services broadcast coast-to-coast on CBS radio through the 1940's.1931
Third cross burned down by arsonists.1932
A 4th wooden cross, 46 ft. high, built with donated labor from Carpenter's Union Local 22 and Electrical Workers Union No. 6 organized by Archie Mooney of the State Building Trades Council. Mayor Rossi illuminates the last temporary cross. Six acres at crest donated to the City by Mrs. Baldwin for a permanent cross and sunrise service location. A plaque honoring Mrs. Brown's efforts is mounted along a path leading to the top.1933
Fourth cross blows down. Margaret Mary Morgan, first woman member of the SF Board of Supervisors elected after women obtained the right to vote, Mattie Brown, Clarence F. Pratt and others on the Easter Sunrise Service Committee collect one and five dollar donations to build a concrete cross. Mayor Rossi leads dedication ceremony before 32,000 residents for construction of the 100 ft high cross which will be visible up to 75 miles away. Former four-term SF Mayor, Governor "Sunny" Jim Rolph, lays the first cornerstone. Native Sons and Native Daughters of the Golden West pledge their support at a subsequent groundbreaking as a memorial to the struggles of the CA pioneer settlers. One of many civic projects funded to provide employment during the Depression, SF Park's Commission contributes $22,000 and selects the preeminent team: architect, George Kelham (Sheraton Palace, Main Library, Expositions of 1915 &1939, Russ & Shell Bldgs.) and engineer, Henry Brunnier (Bay Bridge, Seals Stadium, Russ, Shell & Bank of America Bldgs.) to build the monument with Monson Brothers general contractors.1934
Final cornerstone and time capsule with original deed to Mt. Davidson put into base of cross built with 750 cubic yards of concrete and 30 tons of reinforcing steel. Leftover concrete used to make the cross three feet higher. One week before Easter, on March 25th at 7:30 PM, cross is lit by telegraph from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in front of 50,000 in attendance.1941
Seven more acres for the park purchased by the city. Highest attendance of sunrise services, 75,000, during World War II.1950
Last five acres purchased for the now 38 acre park.1955
In response to a letter from a soldier bound for the Korean War saying the lit cross was the last sight he had of home, Lakeside Presbyterian Church raises funds for the City to light the cross year-round rather than just Easter and Christmas weeks (as it had been since 1934).1956
The San Francisco Council of Churches begins sponsoring the sunrise service.1976
Due to the energy crisis, City reduces lighting to week before Easter and Christmas.1977
Live television broadcast of sunrise service begins.1979
CBS broadcasts nationally sunrise services held in memory of Harvey Milk and George Moscone.1987
Inspired by the anniversary installation of improved lighting on the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Portalwood Press starts campaign to light the cross year-round. East Bay resident and realtor, Kenneth Sackett, proposes $1.7 million transformation of Mt. Davidson into a holy mountain of prayer for the Pope's visit to San Francisco.1989
S.F.Chronicle editorializes against year-round lighting request. City rejects Sackett's proposal, limits lighting to safety only, 2 hours before Easter sunrise, and stops historic designation by the Landmarks Preservation Board in response to complaints from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.1991
American Civil Liberties Union, American Jewish Congress, with Americans United for Separation of Church and State sue the city for ownership of the cross.1992
Judge John Vukasin rules for the city stating that while it is a religious symbol, it is also a secular landmark of historic value to the city's residents.1993
U.S. Court of Appeals rules against City of San Diego crosses as violation of the "no preference clause" of the CA Constitution.1996
Judge O'Scannlain grants appeal of Judge Vukasin's decision in favor of the SF plaintiffs based on the San Diego precedent. U.S. Supreme Court refuses to review the case for SF since it involves the CA and not the US Constitution. Mt. Davidson neighborhoods organize the Friends of Mt. Davidson Conservancy to prevent development of the park and preserve the cross during and after the transfer to private ownership.1997
In response to 8000 petitioners and the San Francisco Landmarks Board finding that the cross rates as excellent on the majority of their historic criteria, designation of the monument and park as a city landmark is recommended. City Attorney postpones final landmark designation until after voter approval of the sale. The .38 acre site of the cross is auctioned to the highest bidder and purchased by the Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California. The Council, City and the plaintiffs reach a tentative settlement on the lawsuit and agree to lighting of the cross two days a year. The Council signs an agreement with the Conservancy to grant them an easement that legally preserves the cross in perpetuity.
The Sherwood Forest/Westwood Highlands house, commonly referred to as the "KGO House", has an interesting history. The idea behind the design and development of the house originated from a well-known radio family of the era, the Edwards Family. This family of five, John and Edna Edwards and their children Jack, Sam and Florida all broadcast weekly radio shows nation-wide from San Francisco. In 1941, just after two bridges were built and The Magic City in the 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island was held, they decided to discuss and plan their dream home during their weekly "on the air" broadcasts. It was touted as one of the first San Francisco display homes actually planned by a family of five people. It was a time of hope for a new future after the Great Depression had ended.
Some of the unique features of this home included one of the first electronic security systems ever installed in a home in San Francisco, and a one-of-a-kind "machine-age" deco stair railing (reminiscent of a classic ocean liner of that era), metal kitchen cabinets built by General Electric, and a mechanical-relay buzzer system that notified the maid when services were requested. That system still works today and still shows the Edwards Family name monogrammed on the room display panel in the Kitchen. It had what was known as modern treatment with elaborate use of mirrors, unusual wallpaper and wall coloring.
Once they had discussed their design and wishes on their radio program broadcast for a 3-level house, the home was actually built! The upper level was for bedrooms, main level for entertaining, and lower level for garage and Family Room. One of the top builders of the day, Baldwin and Howell, in conjunction with W&J Sloane (San Francisco's best furniture and interior design firm) and American Trust Company built and furnished the home exactly to the specifications of this radio family. It was built as a four bedroom, 3-1/2 bath home, with Reception Hall, step-down Salon with walled Salon Patio and Front Balcony bordered by stainless steel ship's railing on the front of the house. The exterior ships railing can be seen from the street yet today and gives a feel for the interior. The tall Salon color sconces surrounding the Salon entry are reminiscent of the Magic City on Treasure Island. It also included breakfast quarters, large dining room with its own patio to the rear, family room on a lower level, maid's quarters with separate bath, and a new, "all electric" GE Kitchen designed by General Electric, novel for that era. In response to safety concerns of the time, it has a small cement enclosed bomb shelter for all five members of the Family. It also boasted panoramic views of parts of San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean, and has terraced front and rear yards.
The home was completed in October 1941 and the first Open House was conducted on Sunday, October 12, 1941. Representatives from General Electric, KGO Radio, their parent affiliate [then] NBC, and many radio stars of the day, including Helen Morgan, Will Aubrey, George Mardikian, and Rod Hendrickson were all present as well as KGO Commentator George Lee Layton. The Edwards family was there as well, doing the on-the-air radio broadcasts from the house which was then syndicated by NBC. On that day, several thousand people visited the home. It was one of the largest model home crowds in the history of display homes that year, over 12,000 people in the first day!
In conjunction with the KGO House, Baldwin and Howell presented other homes and some 140 building sites in Westwood Highlands on the Southeastern slope of Mt. Davidson just under the Easter Cross and above St. Francis Wood. Of these lots, eight sites near the KGO House had been prepared for immediate construction.
For the rest of that Fall, the home was open for tours. Every Sunday the Edwards Family broadcast from the home. Over 25,000 people visited the home up to Sunday, December 7 (the day Pearl Harbor was bombed). The home was then sold. The first owners lived there for 10 years, after which it was sold to a Dr. Hodgson and his family. That family lived there for forty years, selling the house in August 1992. The current owner acquired it in 2002 and has worked to recreate the atmosphere of the KGO House as reminiscent of The Magic City, another San Francisco treasure.
Scott Morse's KGO House: Completed October 1941
Machine Age Deco in the theme of a Luxury Liner Cruise Ship
Dramatic distinguishing feature is the Ship's stair rail made of a wood hand rail and other metal rails making the banister that ascends the staircase from the Entry Hall to the Second Story and then continues the full interior length of the hallway Promenade.
Developer: Baldwin and Howell
Builder: Adolph Anderson w/tile work: Gladding McBean
Decorator: Hubert Kautz of W & J Sloane
Designed by: The Edwards Family (nationally syndicated radio family)