Before thick glass, reclaimed wood, and casual minimalism became de rigueur San Francisco style, Timothy L. Pflueger, a working class kid from the Mission who didn't even attend college, drenched the city in his signature mix of California Art Deco, using a mix of Streamline Moderne, neo-Mayan, Beaux-Arts, Mission Revival, and Neoclassical. Pflueger is responsible for some of the choicest skyscrapers, bars, clubs, and movie theaters in San Francisco. You may not be familiar with the name, but you know his work.
Photographer Gerard Livernois snapped a series of exclusive shots of Pflueger's work for SFist.
"My favorite piece is the El Rey Theatre," Livernois tells us regarding his favorite Pflueger work. "Sadly the current owners are doing little to restore it. I've been in there a couple of times and many areas of the interior are draped in plastic under large holes in the ceiling. I know the church means well but I doubt they have the budget to preserve this great piece of history."
Pflueger's San Francisco-based work includes (but hardly not limited to): the Bay Bridge, the Castro Theatre, the Mark Hopkins Hotel, 450 Sutter (commonly referred to as "the dentist building"), the New Mission Theatre, Pacific Stock Exchange, and more. Much, much more.
Here are just a few pieces of Pflueger to admire over and over. Enjoy.
(For more details and insight on Pflueger's work, be sure to check out timothypflueger.com)
Update: SFist reached out to Therese Poletti, founder of timothypflueger.com, to give us more details on Pflueger. When asked what drew her to his work, she explains:
"I learned about Timothy Pflueger while researching a walking tour I conduct for San Francisco City Guides, called Downtown Deco. The Telephone Building, now officially named 140 New Montgomery is the first building on our tour. Before it was restored by current owners Wilson Meany, it had both a little museum on the history of Pacific Telephone and a mini exhibit in the lobby on the history of the building and photos of Pflueger taken by Ansel Adams. He fascinated me because he looked more like a rumpled football player in those photos, and not the architect of the stunning building commissioned by Pacific Telephone & Telegraph.
"He learned his trade just after the 1906 earthquake, working in an architect's office, where his talent as an artist easily transferred to drafting designs of buildings or their details. He never went to college, yet he became one of the city's best-known architects of his era. His work is stunning and original, he did not resort to the oft-used motifs of the Jazz Age and Moderne period (the 1920s and 1930s respectively) and instead found his own inspirations, often influences that tied back to the city of San Francisco, such as the Asian figures in the canopy ceiling of the Castro Theatre. Pflueger said he got the idea for them when he was walking around Chinatown.
"He also brought artists into almost all of his projects, starting very early on in his career. Thanks to Pflueger, who first hired Diego Rivera to paint a mural in the San Francisco Stock Exchange Luncheon Club (now the City Club), San Francisco has three murals by Rivera, two which can be seen by the public."
Poletti also authored a book about Pflueger, which, as she tells SFist, also prompted her to start her blog:
"My blog is an extension of my book, 'Art Deco San Francisco: the Architecture of Timothy Pflueger' and I created it to provide news or updates or other goings-on in Pflueger's buildings. When I have time I also try to write a post on something interesting I have discovered in my architectural research or other local architectural preservation news, even if it does not involve Pflueger."
She also give walking tours of of Pfluegers work over at City Guides.