Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - saloons; built works - performing arts structures - theatres

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

Dates: [unspecified]

803 Kearny Street
Financial District, San Francisco, CA 94108


The Bella Union Saloon/Theatre was a center of gambling and drinking in San Francisco, CA, for at least 40 years, from the 1850s-on.

Building History

In 1873, Samuel Tetlow operated the Bella Union Theatre at 803-805 Kearny Street. (See San Francisco City Directory, 1873, p. 96.) A note in the book of photographs by George Robinson Fardon, San Francisco Album: Photographs, stated "Both the Bella Union and the El Dorado were probably designed by the noted French architect Prosper Huerne, who was force on the San Francisco building scene for three decades." (See George Robinson Fardon, Rodger C. Birt, Marvin R. Nathan, Peter E. Palmquist, and Joan M. Schwartz, San Francisco Album, San Francisco and New York: Chronicle Books, Fraenkel Gallery and Hans P. Kraus, Jr., Incorporated, 1999], p. 151.)

Building Notes

In 1896, the address of the Bella Union Saloon was 712 Kearny Street in San Francisco. By this time, the saloon had acquired an unsavory reputation within the San Francisco Police Department. An article in the San Francisco Call reported: "The Police Commissioners at their meeting Wednesday afternoon refused to grant a license to the Bella Union saloon, 712 Kearny street. In August last, when Whittingham & Mosher applied for a license, it was refused by the Commissioners. They then got the signatures of twelve property-owners on the block to a petition for a license, and the Commissioners were compelled to grant it. The license expired a few days ago, and meantime Whittingham & Mosher had sold out their interest to Thomas H. Phillips and Joseph J. Casey, and it was the application of the two latter that was refused Wednesday night. The Commissioners had reports before them on the conduct of the saloon from the policemen on the beat, and had also in mind the action of Justice of the Peace Groezinger in bringing the saloon to the attention of the Grand Jury on Monday last. The Judge had listened to the evidence in the case of Frank Wilson, a sailor, who was drugged and robbed in the saloon, and retaliated by stabbing the bartender, S.J. Smith." (See "Bella Union Saloon," San Francisco Call, vol. 80, no. 173, 11/20/1896, p. 8.)

PCAD id: 20536