The interior of the only San Francisco building designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright is on its way to achieving landmark status.
The Historic Preservation Commission on Wednesday unanimously supported designating the interior of the V.C. Morris Gift Shop at 140 Maiden Lane as a landmark to help preserve its historical significance. The outside of the building was designated as a city landmark in 1975.
Built in 1911, the building was remodeled by Wright in 1948 and 1949 with Wright’s “first realized exploration of the internal spiral concept” that was later shared with the Guggenheim, according to city planners.
“Upon its completion, it electrified the architectural world not only for its architecture, but for its radical interpretation of a retail store,” city planners wrote in a staff report.
The building’s exterior boasts a brick, windowless façade with a recessed entry and curved glass tunnel. Inside, curved walls and a spiral ramp with circular wall openings and various historic finishes contribute to what Commissioner Jonathan Pearlman of the Historic Preservation Commission called, “Probably one of the best interiors in The City.”
The building itself offers a rich history as well. After operating as a restaurant, the shop was purchased by Allan Adler, known as the “silversmith to the stars.” His clients reportedly included Errol Flynn and Michael Jackson, as well as Presidents John F. Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower.
Helga Howie, a women’s clothing shop, operated at the site beginning in the late 1970s. Many of Wright’s designed fixtures were removed while the store was open, and while some of their original locations were catalogued, it remains unknown what happened to those that were removed.
Currently owned by Downtown Properties IV, LLC, the building ran a gallery called Xanadu Gallery until last June. A pop-up business is scheduled to open there Thursday.