Structure Type: built works - public buildings - hospitals

Designers: Huerne, Prosper L.E., Architect and Engineer (firm); Prosper Louis-Etienne Huerne (engineer)

Dates: constructed 1853

901 Bush Street
Lower Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA 94109


In nineteenth-century San Francisco, the French-American community in the city was particularly cohesive and influential. They founded this hospital, designed by the French-born architect, Prosper L.L. Huerne (1820-1892). This was the second building occupied by the French Hospital, accommodations it utilized between 1853 and 1857.

Building History

In the early 1850s, San Francisco had a lawless and cutthroat character. Saloons and brothels became centers for social interaction, attracting the cunning and unsuspecting. Flooded with men from around the world seeking gold, about 20,000 French Immigrants joined the melee between 1849 and 1851. Inflation ran rampant, meaning that the majority who did not find gold usually fell into impoverished and desperate conditions rapidly. A French newspaper writer, Etienne Derbec, of the local French newspaper, the San Francisco Daily Evening Picayune, made a plea to his countrymen to form a mutual aid society to assist these unforturnate minors, both of French and non-French extraction. In 12/1851, they agreed to form the "Society de Bienfaisance," a welfare society that could provide assistance to the needy. The group also decided to create a small hospital, where the many ill could be treated. The rented a wood-frame house on thenortheast corner of Jackson Street and Mason Street in Nob Hill. The facility proved popular and plans began in 1853 for a larger hospital.

The group began calling itself the "Society de Bienfaisance," but reconceived itself as a mutual-aid society known as the“Societe Mutuelle et de Bienfaisance" on 04/23/1853. By 1855, it again reconsidered its name, settling on “La Societe Francaise de Bienfaisance Mutuelle."

The group commissioned the architect of French descent, Prosper Louis-Etienne Huerne (1820-1892) to design their new facility, located in Lower Nob Hill.

Building Notes

According to multiple sources, the French Hospital #2 was situated at or near the corner of Bush Street and Taylor Street in San Francisco. A classified advertisement in the Daily Alta California, vol. IX, no. 42, 02/12/185, p. 3, provided some clarity about the hospital’s precise location. It stated: “50-Vara Lot, on Bush street, near Taylor street, I will sell the easterly half of 50-vara Lot No. 1035, situated on the south side of Bush street, commencing 137 ½ west from Taylor street; in size 38 feet 9 inches front on Bush street, by 137 ½ feet in depth. Said lot is adjoining the French Hospital on the west. City Title. Terms Cash.”

PCAD id: 20534