The site of the fire-damaged Fleishhacker Pool building at the San Francisco Zoo will most likely become open space, with pieces of the building possibly put on display to commemorate the site’s history, city officials said Tuesday as demolition crews worked nearby.
The building, located in the zoo’s parking lot, was damaged in a Dec. 1 fire. The roof collapsed, posing a significant safety risk to the public and first responders, Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White said. The department recommended that the structure be torn down.
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Further inspection by city engineers found that the building, constructed in the early 1920s, was in disrepair even before the blaze. Department of Public Works engineer Faud Sweiss said a portion of the roof had collapsed before the fire and the concrete was rapidly deteriorating.
“Our inspection, which was completed three times since the fire happened, has concluded that the building is in imminent danger of collapse, especially if a very minor ground-shaking or a minor earthquake happens,” Sweiss said. “So we strongly recommended demolition of the building as soon as possible.”
As crews demolish the structure over the next two weeks, they will work to save an entranceway that “has decorative cornice that is probably the most historically significant symbol of the great history that has happened here over the last century,” Recreation and Park Department chief Phil Ginsburg said.
That piece of the wall and some green roof tiles may be incorporated into the open space.
“We will have some interpretive panels to highlight and underscore the history of the site,” Ginsburg said.
The building was the last piece of the Fleishhacker Pool, which opened in 1925 and was the largest outdoor pool in the world. Seawater was pumped in from the nearby Pacific Ocean, then circulated through a broiler to heat it up and add chemicals to keep algae from growing.
By 1971, the facility closed due to dwindling use and damage to the water pipe. The City filled it in, and the space became a parking lot when the zoo expanded in 2002.
The building was used through the 1970s, first by the Recreation Center for the Handicapped, now known as the Janet Pomeroy Center, and then by a pottery studio and children’s craft camp. Since then, the boarded-up structure has become a magnet for graffiti artists and homeless people.
David Fleishhacker was on hand to see the demolition Tuesday. It was his grandfather’s brother Herbert Fleishhacker who spearheaded The City’s purchase of the land and the construction of the pool, zoo and playing fields.
“I think the fire is a fitting end,” he said. “I think they are doing exactly the right thing.”