A newly formed neighborhood historical preservation and representation group is campaigning to get Stern Grove’s distinctive Victorian roadhouse, Trocadero Clubhouse, recognized as an official San Francisco landmark.
The group Parkside Heritage was founded in response to the neighborhood’s under-representation in city landmarks. By elevating the Trocadero Clubhouse’s status, the group hopes it would be a first step toward many preservation projects and help people see the Parkside in a more culturally significant light.
“If you look at a map of the city’s 288 landmarks, you won’t see one in Parkside,” Parkside Heritage member Natalie Simotas said. “Yet, we have one of the most historic buildings in the entire city.”
Built in 1892, the Trocadero Clubhouse is the oldest building in the Parkside District as well as the last surviving roadhouse among those built in the early days of The City in the western and southern neighborhoods, according to the nonprofit San Francisco Heritage.
“It’s definitely the most significant building of its era in southwest San Francisco. To many in the neighborhood, they think it’s already a landmark,” said Woody LaBounty, the vice president of advocacy and programs at San Francisco Heritage and a Parkside Heritage member. “The Trocadero was originally part of a big open area for people to stop by in. People usually don’t think of San Francisco like this.”
During the Trocadero Clubhouse’s time, it was a place to rest before any long drive, since the space now known as Stern Grove was far away from The City itself, according to historian and Western Neighborhoods Project Executive Director Nicole Meldahl.
Meldahl created a video with filmmaker Joey Yee to outline the Trocadero’s history, explaining that sporting men who visited engaged in activities such as daytime drinking, dance parties, gambling on boxers or watching tamed bears that were brought on-site for entertainment.
In a later iteration, the video explains the Trocadero was also a respite for women, functioning as a women’s outdoor club and gathering place for suffragette meetings around the time women obtained the right to vote in California, nine years ahead of the rest of the U.S.
To get the clubhouse to landmark status, the proposal must go through city agency approvals. Parkside Heritage has reached out to Supervisor Gordon Mar, who represents District 4, to get the ball rolling.
“We’ve already heard his reply and he’s supportive,” LaBounty said. “He’s going to have someone from his office work with Parkside Heritage to help.”
Other organizations supporting Parkside Heritage’s campaign are the Pine Lake Park Neighborhood Association, Sunset-Parkside Education Action Committee and Western Neighborhoods Project.
“Some neighborhoods in San Francisco have already become iconic for different reasons, whereas the west side of town gets a reputation that because they’re newer and the architecture is similar-feeling, people think there’s nothing interesting culturally about the neighborhood,” LaBounty said.
“These neighborhoods have all sorts of interesting stories and important places to San Francisco’s history; the Trocadero is a great example. By giving it an official landmark status, it makes people rethink the neighborhood, plus it provides some protection for the buildings we’d like to keep,” LaBounty added.