Thursday, May 27, 2010

Timothy Pflueger - San Francisco Architect

"No architect made a richer mark on San Francisco than Timothy Pflueger..." That's the opening of an appreciation of the native San Francisco architect written by Jesse Hamlin for the San Francisco Chronicle Datebook of Sunday, February 29, 2004. While his architecture and design are still an integral part of our City, Pflueger's name and career are not well enough known to most of us.

Art Deco San Francisco: The Architecture of Timothy Pflueger by Therese Poletti, published in 2008, is a needed corrective to this undeserved obscurity. Poletti surveys Pflueger's career and work starting with his San Francisco roots continuing with his early work and apprenticeship with J. R. Miller through the end of his prolific career.

The Castro Theatre (all images in this entry are from the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection)

Poletti divides his work into various architectural forms that he worked in. Pflueger designed many movie theatres, but his work should be familiar to all San Franciscans through the legendary Castro Theatre, and the opulent Paramount Theatre in Oakland.

Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Headquarters

Two of San Francisco's most architecturally significant skyscrapers were designed by Pflueger - the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Headquarters on New Montgomery Street, the Medico-Dental Building at 450 Sutter Street, and the William Taylor Hotel at 100 McAllister Street.

William Taylor Hotel (designed by Pflueger, realized by Lewis P. Hobart)

Countless thousands of San Francisco children have walked the halls of Pflueger-designed school buildings - the Alamo School on 23rd Avenue, the Roosevelt Middle School on Arguello Boulevard, George Washington High School on 32nd Avenue, and Abraham Lincoln High School on 24th Avenue. He even designed the inaugural buildings on the San Francisco City College campus - the Science Hall, Men's and Womens' Gymnasia and the Athletic Field.

Science Hall at San Francisco City College

Some of his most striking art deco work was realized in bar and nightclub settings. Much of his design has regrettably not survived, however Poletti includes many striking images of what once was.

The x-shaped diagonals on the Bay Bridge were one of Pflueger's design features

Pflueger was one of the architects involved in the design of the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge. Poletti details the struggles Pflueger had with the project's engineers in order to get creative design elements incorporated into the final design. She does show how he made a difference in small ways -- with the diagonal bracing on the towers, and with the portal at the east side of Yerba Buena Island. He also helped to override the engineers' original plans to paint the bridge black. Pflueger also designed the Transbay Terminal at the San Francisco end of the structure.

Bay Bridge Transit Terminal

Pflueger also designed a considerable number of structures on Treasure Island for the Golden Gate International Exposition. He was central to bringing about Mexican artist Diego Rivera's involvement with the Exposition. Pflueger personally met Rivera in Mexico City to offer the commission for the work that became Pan-American Unity now displayed in the Diego Rivera Theatre building at the City College of San Francisco.

Timothy Pflueger shaking hands with Diego Rivera (1940)

Other aspects of Pflueger's career covered in this book include his design of houses and department stores (his final completed project as the I. Magnin store in Union Square). Pflueger also contributed significantly to the design of the now renovated Union Square. He even designed the underground parking garage.

Interior of Union Square Underground Garage

Other books about Pflueger in our collection include a study of the Oakland Paramount Theatre published by the Theatre Historical Society of America and Time and Tim Remembered by his brother Milton Pflueger. This latter work is a survey of the work of the larger Pflueger clan, Timothy, Milton and Milton's son John, who collectively have done a staggering amount of architectural design in our City.

We also have newspaper clipping file on Timothy Pflueger in our Artists File. Our subscription database Art Index Online (accessible with a San Francisco Public Library card) includes citations to many articles about Pflueger and his work.


Art Deco San Francisco: The Architecture of Timothy Pflueger by Therese Poletti, photography by Tom Paiva (Princeton Architectural Press, 2008).

Oakland Paramount prepared by Lucy Pope Wheeler; edited for publication and with new material by Steven Levin (Theatre Historical Society of America, 1991).

Time and Tim Remembered: A Tradition of Bay Area Architecture: Pflueger Architects, Timothy, Milton, and John, The First Seventy-Five Years, 1908 to 1983 by Milton T. Pflueger (Pflueger Architects, 1985).

The Timothy Pflueger Blog - maintained by Therese Poletti

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Miss Peggy Lee: There's More!

"Is That All There Is?" - words and music by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (Trio Music Co., Inc., 1969) [from the Dorothy Starr Collection].

An Associated Press news story published today reminds us of the splendidness that is Peggy Lee. The article, "Peggy Lee takes another turn on the pop charts" by Michael Cidoni, reports that eight years after passing away and in time for her 90th birthday Peggy Lee has returned to the record charts of the United States and Europe.

Peggy Lee was born Norma Jean Egstrom in 1920 in Jamestown, North Dakota. She published her autobiography Miss Peggy Lee in 1989 where she writes about her difficult childhood, her discovery by Benny Goodman and the experiences of her life and career. Peter Richmond has written the only other full-length biography of the singer to date with his 2006 book, Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee. Richmond's book both aims to establish her importance and originality as a singer and interpreter and looks deeply into the complexities of her life and personality.

Many jazz critics have weighed in on Peggy Lee's musicianship:

According to Gene Lees: "No singer in American music has shown the ability to play so many different 'characters' in song form as Peggy Lee."

Whitney Balliett writes that "She is a stripped-down singer. She keeps her vibrato spare and her volume low... Peggy Lee sends her feelings down the quiet center of her notes."

According to Henry Pleasants: "No other singer in my experience has asked less of a voice while using it so much. No other has done more with what the voice has given her... And yet, within a precariously narrow range, both of vocal compass and of vocal amplitude, she has mined a wealth and variety of color, inflection, eloquent lyricism and even grandeur hardly matched by any other singer..."

The March 1963 issue of Current Biography states: "[A] perfectionist approach to her programs is typical of Miss Lee. She polishes and perfects aspect of her performances-her special coiffures, her costly wardrobe, her lighting, her entrances and exits, and her musical arrangements... Rejecting the improvisatory approach of most jazz singers, Peggy Lee plans every detail of her delivery in advance, including even the movement of her hands."

In a more recent appraisal, Roy Hemming and David Hajdu write: "Once she's pulled you in, Peggy Lee is able to communicate much more intimately and subtly than singer who belt out tunes the big, broad theatrical style. There she is, nose-to-nose with you... All Peggy Lee needs to do is pause a half-beat on a lyric or bend a note a quarter-tone and she has you intrigued. One of the most hypnotic of all pop singers, she know the power of suggestion."

Peggy Lee songbooks in our collection:

Music Of The Stars. Volume 7, Songs Recorded by Peggy Lee: Rare Jazz and Popular Songs from the American Songbook (Professional Music Institute, 2005).

The Peggy Lee Songbook: 18 of Her Greatest Hits (Hal Leonard, 1997).

Songs For Singers (Denslow Music, 1967).

Walt Disney's Lady and the Tramp; Vocal Selections (Walt Disney Music, 1998).

We also have many recordings of Peggy Lee (follow this link) to be found in the AV Center or our branches.


American Singers: Twenty-Seven Portraits in Song by Whitney Balliett (Oxford University Press, 1988).

Current Biography Yearbook (H.W. Wilson Co., 1963), 237-239.

Discovering Great Singers of Classic Pop: A New Listener's Guide to The Sounds and Lives of The Top Performers, and Their Recordings, Movies and Videos by Roy Hemming and David Hajdu (Newmarket Press, 1991).

Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee by Peter Richmond (H. Holt, 2006).

The Great American Popular Singers by Henry Pleasants (Simon and Schuster, 1974).

Miss Peggy Lee: An Autobiography (D. Fine, 1989).

Singers and The Song by Gene Lees (Oxford University Press, 1987).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Play Ball: New Books for a New Baseball Season

The coming of spring means the return of baseball. It also heralds the arrival of a new batch of baseball books. Here is a selection of new titles at the San Francisco Public Library for lovers of America's pastime.

One tradition of baseball fandom and its literature is to identify the superlatives of the game. Top of the Order: 25 Writers Pick Their Favorite Baseball Player of All Time is an eclectic mix of essays about these writer's often unlikely choices of favorites. High Heat is Tim Wendel's quest to settle the question of who has pitched the fastest in baseball history. He interviews many baseball greats, studies the historic record and considers the pictures of today to reach his conclusions.

Mark Kurlansky's Eastern Stars is a study of how the town of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic became a hotbed of baseball talent, baseball providing a lucrative alternative to the poverty of the sugar cane fields. In Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert, Timothy Gay unearths a little known history of the early integration of baseball in off-season contests known as barnstorming. He retells head to head contests and legendary pitching match-ups between black and white teams of the 1930s and 1940s.

The Baseball Codes by Jason Turbow is about an aspect of the game that is often a fascinating mystery to its fans, the unwritten code of honor that players insist that they should and do follow. In Mint Condition, Dave Jamieson gives us a history of the business and hobby of collecting baseball cards. Entitled after a Yogi Berra-ism, 90% Of The Game Is Half Mental by former Village Voice sportswriter Emma Span is a collection of thoughtful and humorous essays from her time covering New York's teams.

In addition to books written for the fan, we also have many books in our collection for those who wish to play the game. One of our newest titles is Play Ball by Tom O'Connell. Written for the baseball manager or coach, O'Connell presents 100 different team drills to incorporate into practice and teach fundamentals.

The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, and Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America's Pastime by Jason Turbow with Michael Duca (New York : Pantheon Books, 2010).

The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macorís by Mark Kurlansky (Riverhead Books, 2010).

High Heat: The Secret History of The Fastball and the Improbable Search for The Fastest Pitcher Of All Time by Tim Wendel (Da Capo Press, 2010).

Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession by Dave Jamieson (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010).

90% Of The Game Is Half Mental: And Other Tales from the Edge of Baseball Fandom by Emma Span (Villard Books, 2010).

Play Ball: 100 Baseball Practice Games by Tom O'Connell (Human Kinetics, 2010).

Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball before Jackie Robinson by Timothy M. Gay (Simon & Schuster, 2010).

Top of the Order: 25 Writers Pick Their Favorite Baseball Player of All Time by Sean Manning, editor (Da Capo Press, 2010).