Celebrating the Centennial of the Mt. Davidson Easter Sunrise Service

I was honored to be invited to highlight the altruistic history of Mt. Davidson Park and Monument during this year’s 100th Easter Sunrise event on April 9, 2023 – including the story about where the Easter Bunny lives. Coverage of the event by KTVU.

Mt. Davidson Time Capsule Unearthed!

Iconic Design by Harold G. Stoner on the Market

On the market for $4,000, 000, this home was designed by Harold G. Stoner for Henry Stoneson, the developer of the surrounding Lakeside neighborhood and Stonestown Shopping Center. In 1941 The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Henry Stoneson had spent $60,000 for his own 12-room mansion at 100 Stonecrest Drive. The largest home in the neighborhood, it “was excellent evidence of the aristocratic, intelligently planned nature of the Lakeside development.” The home’s main floor included a game room “0f nearly ballroom proportions,” with its own cocktail bar which opened out into the rear terrace and badminton court. Described as a Moderne version of California Colonial, Harold Stoner’s balcony design is expanded here to four windows with a semi-circular porch roof supported by tall colonial pillars over a grand double-door entrance. “The luxurious entrance hall has as its outstanding feature a winding staircase with its hand-wrought railing,” leading to three bedrooms and two bathrooms – which appears to have grown in number – along with the cost of the house!

Mt. Davidson Cross Glows Blue Easter Eve 2020

For the first time in 97 years, the non-denominational Easter Sunrise service on Mt. Davidson was cancelled. Having once moved to a nearby church during a rainstorm, this historic cancellation was due to the prohibition of large gatherings to help stop the pandemic Covid-19 virus outbreak sweeping the world. But despite this setback, the cross attained another historic milestone – joining the LightItBlue campaign at dusk on Sat. April 11 in appreciation of healthcare, frontline, and essential workers who working so hard to keep us safe.

Photo Courtesy of Jayson Morris.

The light shining on this 103 foot high monument , atop San Francisco’s highest hill, has been a beacon of comfort and inspiration during some of the most challenging times of the 20th century. In the midst of the Great Depression, 50,000 people came to see the cross lit for the first time by President Franklin Roosevelt “for bringing light into many a darkened home” and “instilling the principles of the Golden Rule into American business … with his New Deal.”

March 24, 1934

During WWII, when attendance of the Sunrise Service reached its peak of 75,000, the lit cross shown on this postcard was sent by an enlisted man based on Treasure Island back home to Illinois. The caption noted “at night when it is brilliantly flood lighted, it is visible from many of the Bay and Peninsula communities and from ships miles at sea.”

During the Korean War, a soldier wrote home to San Francisco that the Easter week lighting of the cross was his last sight of home. This led to a campaign to light it full time to celebrate the United Nations 10th Anniversary meeting in San Francisco in 1955.

In the midst of the AIDs crisis in the 1990s, lighting of the cross became controversial and it led to the purchase of the monument by the Council of Armenian-American Organizations of No. California who supported this rainbow lighting of the cross for Easter Eve in 1998.

The light on this monument atop San Francisco’s highest hill continues to be a ray of hope for a better future and aglow with gratefulness to those who have taking care of us  – President Roosevelt during the Great Depression and WWII, and now the healthcare workers, frontline and essential workers who are risking their lives to help us survive this historic 21st century pandemic.

Harold G. Stoner Design Gets New Owner

Harold Stoner’s design at 170 Valencia St. has been highlighted in the National Trust Guide to Art Deco in America as “an elegant Art Deco perfume bottle that has been enlarged into a full-scale building. The street facade presents one of the country’s most elegant Art Deco designs.” With the new ownership by the Gay Men’s Chorus, it will be opened up more for the public to enjoy!

A Century Ago Today – Bessie Left her Heart in San Francisco

In 2001, when I embarked on what would become a very interesting and unexpected journey researching my father’s family , I realized that most of them left few clues of who they were or what they did. Information in various government records provide some idea, but not the whole story. Records of female ancestors are even more limited because of name changes from marriage. I have been especially curious about Elizabeth Clare Warriner, the sister of my great grandmother, Jennie Olivia Warriner Liggett. A family member called her Bessie Young and told me, “she could go to a musical program and play it back at home on the piano by memory. She eventually moved to San Francisco to perform.” As the only other family member to ever live in San Francisco, I have been hoping there would be more information about her right in my own city. The search has been fruitless until this year.

Born in Milford, NE on March 19, 1889, Bessie was the youngest of Harlan and Lucy Warriner’s three children. The family had a store in Utica, NE when her sister, Jennie, met my great grandfather, James Bela Liggett.

Jennie Olivia Warriner Liggett

Bessie was a young seven years old, when she and her brother, Harry, moved to San Diego with their parents around 1896. Harlan Warriner’s 1896 Voter Registration listed their address as 624 Irving Avenue. Business directories show them living here for many more years.

Bessie’s father, Harlan Warriner, in front of their San Diego home.

The family had a business, Warriner and Son Wholesale Notions, at 715 4th St. near G in San Diego, which is now called the Gaslamp Quarter. Business directories list Bessie Warriner living in San Diego through 1907, when she was 18 years old.

715 Fourth St. San Diego

Finding nothing about Bessie Warriner after 1907, I have found only one record of Bessie C. Young living in San Francisco. In the 1910 Census, she was living at 968 McAllister St. She told the census worker that she was married, but a Mr. Young was not listed in the names of fellow lodgers at this address. Apparently fulfilling her desire to be a full time musician, she listed that as her profession, and working as a piano player. The record also states she was out of work on the date of the census (April 15,1910) and had been out of work 9 weeks in the previous year.

McAllister St. near Buchanan 1927


This area of San Francisco, called the Fillmore District, was filled with beautiful Victorian homes and a lively musical scene. The National Theater, built at Steiner & Post, regularly featured the young Al Jolson, who sings there for $60 a week. The McAllister St. rooming house and much more of the area  was razed during a redevelopment of the area in the 1960s. The Fillmore Auditorium built in 1911 is still there.

San Francisco was booming in 1910 as it had successfully rebuilt even bigger and better after the devastating 1906 Earthquake. Plans were underway to create the gigantic Panama Pacific International Exposition to celebrate the rebirth of the city. Opening in 1915, it is likely that Bessie was one of the millions who attended the fair. Bessie may have hoped for many more musical opportunities in what was the largest, and likely, liveliest city on the West Coast. Did she come on her own or with her husband? Women were looking for opportunities to move beyond the role of homemaker during her time in San Francisco, when women’s suffrage was approved in 1911.

My great grandmother, Jennie Warriner Liggett, and her mother, Lucy Ware Warriner, both died in San Diego in 1912. I found notices in the San Bernardino County Sun and the San Francisco Call newspapers dated Nov. 16, 1912, asking for help to find Mrs. Bessie Young, who had been out of touch for four years. While the last named is listed as Warren, I believe it is an error because Bessie’s mother,  Lucy Ware Warriner died shortly thereafter – on Dec. 12 at the age of 60. It seems that Bessie’s life was just as illusive to her family as it has been for me.

A needle in a haystack unexpectedly turned up when a recent internet search led to a funeral record for Bessie in San Francisco under the name of Elizabeth Steward. The record confirms her 1889 birth in NE and the name of her parents, Harlan and Lucy Warriner. Her obituary said she was survived by her husband, Charles Steward. She had been living at 21 San Jose Ave. near 22nd and Valencia Sts. when she died on Sept. 26, 1918. The location is just 3 miles from where I live and next to the landmark Lucca Ravioli Company.

Old Hibernia Bank at 22nd St. and Valencia

I have not been able to find any record of a Mr. Young or Mr. Charles Steward. Was Charles fighting the last battles of World War I in Europe? Searches for marriage licenses or other records have not turned up a clue. No surviving children were listed in her obituary, only her brother, Harry Warriner, who died in 1948. A family tree diagram says her picture was in the paper – in San Diego or San Francisco? I have not been able to find it.

San Francisco banned burials within the city limits in 1900 and has relied on cemeteries in nearby Colma ever since. An apparent generous benefactor, John Maley Jackson, paid for her burial. A lithographer married to Orline Jackson and living at 3043 Steiner St., John paid for a lavender lined coffin from H.F. Suhr and Co. and internment at Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, CA on Sept. 28, 1918.

Former home of H. F. Suhr and Co.

Bessie did not die from the 1918 influenza pandemic, but of a disease that had no cure and was one of the leading causes of death until the discovery of penicillin in 1928. I went to visit her grave a few months ago and found it lacking a headstone. I had one made for her. Married twice and having just lived 29 years, I wanted to make sure the musically talented Elizabeth “Bessie” Warriner Young Steward, who followed her heart to San Francisco, was not forgotten.


Sutro’s Tropic Beach Coloring Contest

Original color scheme by Architect Harold Stoner.

Keeping Architect Harold Stoner’s Tropic Beach brilliant color scheme looking its best was a challenge according to a 1950 article in the San Francisco Chronicle recently shared with me by John Martini, the author of Sutro’s Glass Palace. The article describes the “modernistic towers” outside the entrance to the Sutro Baths with “their facets brightly colored in canary yellow, electric blue, apple green, and vermillion … as one of the most undiluted to be found outside a children’s crayon set. Anywhere else the pure colors might be said to look garish; but somehow out in front of the Tropic Beach, it is becoming.” Manager Robert A. Bratton explained to the reporter how difficult it was to keep the colors bright despite the fog and corrosive salt air. Because of the frequency of repainting needed, it was decided to hold a coloring contest for future color scheme ideas.


Mimeographed line drawings of the front of the building were handed out to children who were visiting and an astounding 540 variations were submitted.  The winner was a girl named Arlene Morris who trimmed her entry with lace and red silk ribbon. “Now,” Bratton beamed, “we have color schemes to last us indefinitely!” 1950 Sutro’s Ancient Attic, SF Chron, 8-13-1950

San Francisco Chronicle Aug. 13, 1950


NOAA Coast Survey Archive about George Davidson

San Francisco Presidio Tide Station – Courtesy NOAA

In response to my blogpost about George Davidson , Albert “Skip” Theberge kindly shared some interesting information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Archives. He has written a detailed history about San Francisco having the longest tidal record in the western hemisphere – over 150 years of data – and George Davidson’s role in the first Coast Survey work on the West Coast:

George Davidson Courtesy Wikipedia

“Because of immigration to the Oregon country, the Coast Survey had been making plans to survey the coast of Oregon Territory as early as 1846. In 1848, Congress authorized this work and the Coast Survey sent its first crews to the West Coast in 1849. Unfortunately, the gold rush was on; labor, transportation, and costs of supplies skyrocketed with an accompanying stoppage of field operations. One crew, under Assistant James Williams, was sent for the land operations and another, under Lieutenant William P. McArthur, USN, for the offshore hydrographic surveying operations. The Coast Survey Schooner EWING arrived in San Francisco after fighting its way around Cape Horn after a seven-month trip on August 1, 1849. The EWING was a topsail schooner 91 feet in length. For a variety of reasons including desertions and a mutiny, the EWING also was stymied in 1849 and retired with the land crew to the Hawaiian Islands for the winter of 1849-50 to obtain new crew members and to resupply at cheaper rates. Because of the above frustrations, Alexander Dallas Bache, Superintendent of the Coast Survey, decided that a crew of young energetic men with “reputation to make” and a desire to overcome all hardships should be sent to the West Coast in 1850. This group of four men was led by George Davidson, who would become the leader of the West Coast scientific community over the next half century. James Lawson, A. M. Harrison, and John Rockwell comprised the remainder. Davidson, Lawson, and Rockwell sailed from the East Coast on May 5 on the steamer PHILADELPHIA for Panama. They landed at Chagres, hired native Indians for traveling by canoe to the head of the Chagres River, and then joined a mule train to go the rest of the way to the city of Panama.

…  Of the four young men who came west in 1850, George Davidson (1825-1911) and James Lawson (1828 – 1893) would remain on the West Coast for most of the remainder of their lives. Davidson made his home in San Francisco and was by far the most well-known of the group as he was considered California’s most prominent scientist for many years and had many geographic features named after him including Mount Davidson in San Francisco and Davidson Seamount to the southwest of Monterey.”

Jame S. Lawson – Courtesy

James Lawson’s autobiographical detailed memoir  is also archived at NOAA and provides an amazing account of what it was like to attempt to map the west coast with George Davidson from 1850 onward. “We first held forth at the “St. Francis” Hotel, where Mr. Davidson has secured rooms; this was then the “nobby” hotel of the town. Just before turning the corner from Dupont St. into Clay St. I suddenly came face to face with my old friend O.P. Sutton, and never shall I forget the look of astonishment with which he greeted me. Such surprises became so common in those days, however, that the effect was but momentary. A couple of days’ experience at the St. Francis amply demonstrated the fact that such grand prices of living ($7.00 per diem) were not in keeping with our own pay, or with the purse and projects of Venerable Master (U.S.). We took a room in a small wooden building on the opposite corner from the St. Francis, and got our meals where we chose.” …  

“On July 12th we started on the Active, and in about 5 or 6 days arrived at Nee-ah Bay, 6 miles East of Cape Flattery, in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. The cape was really Mr. Davidson’s objective point, but the Bay presented the best location for camping, and from there all operations could be conducted. The tribe of Indians–Mah-Kah (See how Mr. J.G. Swan spells this name, and adopt his orthography) was not then particularly friendly towards the whites, and before going into camp it was deemed best to have an understanding with them. For this purpose a hy-as wah-wah (big talk) was appointed to take place with the Chief Clis-seet and his tribe at the Warm House (summer village) between Nee-ah Bay and Cape F., the next day.”


A Davidson Seamount map was produced by NOAA as a special edition for the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Located southwest of Monterey, it is nearly 8000 feet high – much taller than Mt. Davidson in San Francisco – yet remains submerged over 4000 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. According to information posted by the Monterey Aquarium, “seamounts—remnants of former volcanoes—are interesting not only for their geology but also for their biology. The water above seamounts are productive feeding grounds for a wide variety of fishes, marine mammals, and seabirds. The rocky surfaces of seamounts serve as habitat islands for deep-sea animals.” They have posted a video of the Davidson Seamount.

From Hanover, Germany to San Francisco, CA

Behrend Joost had high hopes in 1891 for his “creme de la creme” of subdivisions, naming the streets in the Sunnyside neighborhood he created in San Francisco after millionaires: Flood, Spreckels, Mangels, and Joost himself. Behrend Joost, Claus Spreckels, Claus Mangels, and his sister Anna Christina, were all from Hanover, Germany. Anna Mangels and Claus Spreckels were childhood sweethearts in Hanover and married in 1852. Anna’s brother, Claus Mangels, married Emma Zwieg.

Mangels house at 2518 Howard, taken about 1890. The partially visible house to the right belonged to J.D. Spreckels. Courtesy Tillmann Family Archives / Mark Reed.

Mark Reed, a descendant of Claus Mangels’  daughter, Emma,  recently shared more family history with me. “Claus Mangels arrived in San Francisco about 1860 (Spreckels arrived earlier, about 1856) and during his last years Claus Mangels lived at 2518 Howard near 20th (Howard was renamed S. Van Ness after 1906). Next door to Claus Mangels on Howard lived J.D. Spreckels, son of Claus Spreckels. Before 1896 Claus Spreckels also lived on Howard near 16th, and the Zwieg family also lived nearby. In 1896 Claus Spreckels moved to a new mansion on Van Ness. The Howard street houses are all long gone.”

Claus Mangels Home in Aptos

Mark Reed adds, “Claus Spreckels purchased the Aptos Rancho (about 5000 acres), and sold his brother-in-law Claus Mangels about 550 acres, now most absorbed by the adjacent state park. This is the Claus Mangels home in Aptos (left).  Claus Spreckels built a near identical house in Aptos too. Claus Mangels was closely associated with his brother-in-law in brewing, sugar refining, and shipping enterprises, and was a director of Spreckels’ Hakalau sugar plantation in Hawaii. However, Mangels also owned significant commercial property downtown (SF) in his own right, including a major hotel. I’m not aware of the exact relationship between Mangels and Joost, could be either social or business. However, I do remember reading somewhere that Joost held Mangels in high esteem. Claus Mangels died in 1891, and Claus Spreckels died in 1908.”

“The grandsons of Claus Mangels were Ernest & Oscar Hueter, and in the 1920s the Hueter brothers purchased and developed the area in Balboa Terrace surrounding the Aptos school. Boxton-Zwieg built the homes designed by Architect Harold Stoner in this neighborhood further west along Monterey Blvd. which includes a street named Aptos. Learn more about the Spreckels, Mangels, and Zwieg connections at

Original Sunnyside Neighborhood Map

Spreckels Avenue was later changed to Staples. Another millionaire was added to Sunnyside when Moulton was changed to Hearst. Weiland was changed to Judson, Milton became Marston, and Sunnyside became Monterey Boulevard.

Adolph Sutro’s Urban Forests: Influences and Lasting Benefits


I am pleased to announce that my research essay “Adolph Sutro’s Urban Forests: Influences and Lasting Benefits,”  has been published in the Summer 2016 issue of The Argonaut, Journal of the San Francisco Museum and Historical SocietyTheArgonautVolume27 No.1!