Funds needed to restore 1906 relic

San Francisco’s Portals of the Past monument, a marble column entrance to a mansion demolished by the 1906 earthquake, received a $36,000 makeover earlier this year, but city officials say they need to raise enough money to finish the job.

The mansion, which belonged to Southern Pacific Railroads vice president Alban Nelson Towne, stood at 1100 California St., which is now home to the Masonic Auditorium. The mansion’s elaborate doorway was the only part of the home to survive the earthquake and subsequent fire, according to city documents.

The portal was donated to The City by Towne’s wife; in 1909, it was placed next to Lloyd Lake, in Golden Gate Park, near the corner of John F. Kennedy and Transverse drives.

“It was installed at Golden Gate Park as a folly,” said Susan Pontious, The City’s public art program deputy director, “and it has been the site of weddings and wedding pictures, and a destination point for visitors ever since.”

Earlier this year, contractors working for The City took the portal apart, reinforced the rear and base of the relic, then put it back together again using $36,000 raised by The City from a California Department of Parks and Recreation grant, according to Pontious.

“It was going to fall down otherwise,” she said. Work finished in May.

Pontious said she hopes now to raise $65,000 to replace a missing column and to repair some of the cornices — “that’s a fancy word for a fancy corner,” she said. A wooden pole stands in the place of the missing marble column.

Bamboo, tree branches and other vegetation were recently cleared from paths that lead to the portal, and volunteers are expected to help clear more of the vegetation this weekend.

“It’s about time,” said San Francisco resident Abby Abelone, who has taken photographs of the birds at Lloyd Lake. “They’ve been neglecting it for a while.”

jupton@examiner.com

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