Before + After…We Did It!

The story of the restoration interweaves the Friends’ decade of advocacy, pilot programming, and inventive, can-do spirit with the Merralls’s original vision.

Friends had to build a coalition of many constituencies (including immediate neighbors, area residents, city employees, elected officials, the design team) and navigate the inevitable trying moments, delays, and bureaucracy that come along with a large public works project.

We had to educate ourselves about the design process–from the drafting of the conceptual design (drawn by Vera Gates), through the development of the design and construction documents and extensive series of design and public meetings. We learned from Vera and Edward Chin–our welcoming landscape architect from DPW–how to scrutinize site, grading, and planting plans, view elevations, work with story poles, and think hard about material specifications, and hardscape/landscape proportions. Making the tight, steeply sloped lot of the Conservatory grounds ADA accessible was no easy feat.  More broadly, we learned about adaptive re-use and community building: how to preserve the Conservatory grounds, develop a new garden, and create a new event and community space out of a dilapidated shell.

And did we say meetings–over the back fence, out on the street, in the community, with RPD, with our pro-bono angels, in city hall, before the Board of Supervisors, its various subcommittees, the Recreation + Park Commission, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission.  We shared our vision, lobbied for our cause, and bent every ear we could find. Our work stands on that of earlier generation of activists in the 1970, including Ken Hoegger and Betty Landis.  It was Landis who slept in her car to prevent further demolition of the building after the east wing and windows were removed.

We couldn’t have been more pleased when the renovation of the Conservatory was awarded Project of the Year Award 2009 for Historic Restorations (under $5 million) by the Northern California chapter of the American Public Works Association covering 11 counties.

Here’s a Photograph by Kurt Rogers of the Conservatory Early in Construction (SF Chronicle February 2009).

Here’s a dramatic shot of the restored Conservatory–a bit further along in the construction process.

The Conservatory during Restoration, as seen from the roof of Merralls’s home.

Photo of Sunnyside Conservatory, c. 1975

Featured Post Photo: Liz Mangelsdorf

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