Ver Planck Historic Preservation Consulting


Mechanics Institute

LOCATION: San Francisco, California

The current Mechanics' Institute building at 57 Post Street was not the first to hold the library. In fact, the Institute was originally established in 1854, earning it the title of the oldest library on the West Coast and one of the oldest chess clubs in the United States. Initially formed as a stock company, the Institute's first offices were located on the fourth floor of the Express Building, on the corner of Montgomery and California Streets. By 1866, the Institute needed to expand again, and purchased the site of its current home on Post Street. A three-story brick building was erected on the site and served as the Institute headquarters, until 1906, when it was leveled by the Great Earthquake and Fire. All 200,000 volumes in the library's collections were completely destroyed.

On September 18, 1906, the Mechanics' Institute board met to discuss the prospects of permanently rebuilding their library and office building on Post Street. Many wanted the Mechanics' Institute back downtown. The board of trustees voted on May 22, 1908 to rebuild on Post Street. A few days later, the trustees unanimously approved a motion to borrow $400,000 to build a new library and office building on Post Street. In the meeting, President Taussig stated: "We proposed to erect a nine-story building on the old site. The first floors will be devoted to stores, the two next floors for the library and the remaining six floors for offices, which will yield us a lucrative income." The board selected local San Francisco architect Albert Pissis for the commission, known for his classical Ecole des Beaux Arts training and proficiency with first-class office buildings. By July 1910, the new nine-story building at 57 Post Street was completed and on July 15, the Institute moved into it

Chris VerPlanck presented on the history of the Mechanics' Institute at the building's centennial celebration on July 15, 2010. A copy of the slideshow and its accompanying text can be downloaded below.

Mechanics' Institute Building Centennial Celebration (1910-2010)
The Mechanics' Institute, July 15, 2010 slideshow

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