2007 SAN FRANCISCO DECORATOR SHOWCASE – Featuring Broadway Mansion Atop Pacific Heights

Annual Benefit for San Francisco University High School through Monday, May 28, 2007


By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

As a young vocal student I was privileged to study with one of the most gifted and beloved figures on San Francisco’s musical/cultural scene – Mr. James H. Schwabacher. Walking towards his home on Broadway, just a few doors down from 2901 at the corner of Baker (note the NE corner of aerial photo) – with opera scores in hand and crooning a few scales to be all nice & ready for the Maestro – I often wondered if the music we generated in his grand studio breezed-up to the tennis court at the mansion on the corner. With definitions of “racket” in mind, I smile at the fact that both houses are currently for sale, the larger of the two (also with a great music room) sporting a tag of $55 million.

The Air over Broadway & Baker

San Francisco Decorator Showcase is an annual benefit for the financial aid program of San Francisco University High School. Since the first Showcase in 1977, more than $9 million has been raised, benefiting thousands of students.

The San Francisco Decorator Showcase will celebrate its 30th year in grand style by remaking the stunning four-story mansion at 2901 Broadway Street (at Baker) on top of Pacific Heights. Designed in 1927 by award-winning architect Henry Clay Smith for industrialist Milton S. Ray, the mansion is being opened to the public for the first time ever.

For the past three decades, the San Francisco Decorator Showcase has featured the work of the West Coast’s most distinctive interior and landscape designers, and has included such luminaries as John Dickinson, William Gaylord and Michael Taylor. The San Francisco Decorator Showcase is widely considered to be one of the premiere showcase events in the country. For its 30th anniversary, the San Francisco Decorator Showcase will invite back veteran alumni from past Showcases for “A Celebration of San Francisco Design.” This year’s Showcase will be a must-see for design aficionados as well as for people who want a rare look inside one of San Francisco’s most architecturally significant residences.

STEVEN MILLER DESIGN – Details of Dining Room

This year’s home at 2901 Broadway is steeped in local history and lore. Herbert Hoover’s wife, Lou Henry Hoover, bought the uneven and rocky lot in 1912. The Hoovers eventually sold the lot to family friend, Milton S. Ray, an engineer who created a new kind of oil burner that revolutionized the shipping industry. Ray hired Henry Clay Smith, well known as San Francisco’s “hilltop architect”, to design the house and solve the problem of the uneven lot. Eventually, the home was built on a cantilever grade beam grounded in two rocky outcroppings. The Ray family lived in the home until Milton’s death in 1946, when the home was sold to local businessman Mitchel Mitchell, for $93,000. Mitchell’s daughter, Gladyne Mitchell, still owns the home today.

KENDALL WILKINSON DESIGN – Detail of Master Bedroom

The classic four-story mansion at 2901 Broadway Street boasts 10,000 square feet of living space in addition to one of the only private outdoor tennis courts in Pacific Heights. Designed in the Renaissance style, the ornate exterior friezes and entablature were recently restored by the same craftsmen who restored San Francisco City Hall and War Memorial Opera House. The home has seven bedrooms and 6 ½ bathrooms on four levels of living space that include a mezzanine. A grand formal entrance opens to formal dining and living rooms and a bright music room.

The mansion at 2901 Broadway is being offered on the real estate market by the real estate team of Dona Crowder, Peggy Economos and Constance Heldman. Interested? Visit www.2901broadwaystreet.com.

The San Francisco Decorator Showcase is open to the public until May 28th:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday: 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Sunday and Memorial Day: 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Thursday: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Showcase is closed on Mondays (except for Memorial Day). An audio tour is included in the price of admission. Tickets are available at the door for $30; $25 for seniors. For more information and to schedule group tours, call (415) 447-5830, or visit decoratorshowcase.org. Parking is extremely limited; all visitors are strongly encouraged to take the Showcase Shuttle.

See Seán’s recent articles and reviews:
SPIDER-MAN 3, An All-American Cinematic Marvel
DON QUIXOTE – An Impossible Dream at SF Ballet
THE DAMNATION OF FAUST – Absolute Heaven at Davies Symphony Hall
RIGOLETTO – SF OPERA Broadcasts on Classical 102.1 KDFC
JEANETTE MacDONALD – First Lady of “San Francisco”
ALTAR BOYZ – In San Francisco
An Interview with PASCAL MOLAT – Principal Soloist, San Francisco Ballet

San Francisco Sentinel’s Fine Arts Critic Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Ask him a question on AllExperts.com . If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: seanmartinfield@att.net.

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