Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Mahony Brothers, Building Contractors (firm); Jeremiah O. Mahony (building contractor); John J. Mahony (building contractor)

Dates: constructed 1878-1881, demolished 1906

6 stories

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760 Market Street
San Francisco, CA

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Located at the confluence of three streets, Market, Dupont (renamed Grant) and O'Farrell Streets, the Phelan Building #1 was one of San Francisco's most distinctive and prestigious business addresses of the 1880s, housing many lawyers and architects. (Five architects had offices in the Phelan Block in 1891, according to the San Francisco City Directory of that year.) The building had an ornateness and formal complexity appealing to tastes of the 1880s. Its dense and profuse aesthetic celebrated the productivity of steam-powered, post-Civil War factories churning out huge amounts of cast-iron ornament, carved millwork, and brick.

Building History

The Irish-born immigrant James Phelan, Jr., (1821-1892), arrived in the US and lived New York until news of the Gold Rush swept the East Coast in 1849. Phelan chartered three shiploads of provisions needed by miners and had them sail to San Francisco, intending to sell his cargoes at huge mark-ups. He arrived in San Francisco in 08/1849, although one of his shipments never showed up. He sold the contents of the remaining two ships at fantastically inflated prices, amassing a $100,000 profit in one year. A smart money manager, he diversified his assets, buying real estate, a wholesale liquor business, a machinery company, and interests in banks and insurance companies. James Phelan, Jr., married the Irish-born, Alice Kell (1827-1900) in 1858, with whom he raised three children, one of whom was James Duval Phelan (1861-1930), who would become the Mayor of San Francisco, a Senator from CA, a prominent banker and generous philanthropist.

Building Notes

According to an article in the San Francisco Call of 1906: "The plans [for the Phelan Building #2] were drawn by William Curlett and the contract has been awarded to Mahoney [sic] Bros. It was this same firm of builders that put up the old Phelan building twenty-five years ago." (See "Phelan Buildnig [sic] To Rise Again," San Francisco Call, vol. 101, no. 2, 12/02/1906, p. 41.) According to the San Francisco City Directory of 1887 (p. 773), the Mahony Brothers operated from an office at 330 Pine Street, Rooms #11 and 12.


The brick Phelan Building #1 burned following the Great San Francsico Earthquake of 04/18/1906.

PCAD id: 5378