San Francisco Armory
|San Francisco Armory|
|1800 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103|
|Owner||SF Armory LLC|
|Materials||Concrete, brick facade|
San Francisco Armory
|Area||2.2 acres (0.89 ha)|
|Architect||Woollett & Woollett; McLeran & Peterson|
|Architectural style||Moorish Revival|
|NRHP reference No.||78000758|
|Added to NRHP||November 14, 1978|
|Garrison||United States National Guard|
The San Francisco Armory, also known as the San Francisco National Guard Armory and Arsenal or simply The Armory, is a historic building in the Mission District of San Francisco, California. As of 2018, it is owned by SF Armory LLC, an affiliate of AJ Capital Partners.
National Guard Armory
The building was constructed as an armory and arsenal for the United States National Guard in 1912–1914 and designed with a castle-like appearance in a Moorish Revival style. The Armory was built on part of the site of Woodward's Gardens (1866–1891), a zoo, aquarium, art museum, and amusement park which covered two city blocks, bounded by Mission, Valencia, 13th, and 15th Streets. The structure was built as a replacement for the old San Francisco Armory in the Western Addition, which had been destroyed by the 1906 earthquake. In addition to its role as an armory and arsenal, during the 1920s, it served as a venue for sporting events, such as prizefights.
The Armory served as a stronghold and rallying point for the National Guard in their suppression of the 1934 San Francisco General Strike (an event known as "Bloody Thursday"). The building closed as an armory in 1976, when the National Guard moved its facilities to Fort Funston.
From the 1920s through the 1940s, the Mission Armory served as San Francisco's primary sports venue, eventually earning the nickname "the Madison Square Garden of the West." For almost three decades, at least two prizefights were held in the Drill Court each week.
One very notable fight included a light heavyweight title fight between Young Corbett III and Jackie Fields. Other notable fights that took place in the Armory included matches between Mike Teague and Jack Thompson (both were welterweight champions); and Corbett and Pete Myers in 1929.
After 1976, the building was largely unused for the next 30 years, though in 1978 the building was registered as a Class 2 historical landmark in the National Register of Historic Places. Several spaceship-interior scenes in the Star Wars movie The Empire Strikes Back were filmed there, and the San Francisco Opera used the large inner court of The Armory for set construction and rehearsals until the mid-1990s.
By this time, The Armory was in a heavy state of disrepair. Various uses of the building were proposed from 1996 to 2006, including self storage units, a rehabilitation clinic, a gym with a rock wall, a dot-com office park, a telecommunications switching center, luxury housing, and low-income housing.
Many of these proposals were marked by acrimonious debates between various community interests. Concerns over gentrification, social and environmental impact or the unsuitability of the structure for various uses resulted in none of the various plans for the structure reaching fruition. The building eventually came to be described, variously, as "a herd of white elephants", "cursed", and "not a friendly building". The stairs in the main entrance of the armory also became a well-known skateboarding location referred to as "3-Up 3-Down".
In late 2006, The Armory was purchased for $14.5 million by Kink.com, a San Francisco-based internet pornography producer specializing in BDSM pornography. The company used the building as a studio for production of content for their websites, and began filming in 2007. Peter Acworth, the company's owner, stated that the structure suited the needs of the company very well without need for significant structural modifications to the building, and that the company would begin repairs to the decaying structure. It was also announced that Kink.com planned at some point in the future to rent out studio space for film production of all kinds within The Armory.
The sale was not announced until January 2007 as a result of a non-disclosure agreement with the previous owner. The sale drew a mixed response from the San Francisco community. Many people welcomed this use of The Armory as a way of revitalizing the structure and bringing back business to the area without altering the appearance of the historic building, as well as being in keeping with San Francisco's tradition of accommodating sexual minorities. Others were disturbed that a pornography studio would be located in the middle of a residential neighborhood near schools, or were opposed to the abandonment of plans for low-income housing at the site, as well as the lack of community input into this use of The Armory.
A group known as the Mission Armory Community Collective soon formed in opposition to Kink.com's use of The Armory; the group held a public protest in front of The Armory in early February 2007. San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom also expressed concern over the Kink.com purchase, and scheduled a special meeting of the San Francisco Planning Commission in March 2007 to review the company's use of the building. This public meeting was well-attended by both supporters and detractors of the Kink.com purchase. The Planning Commission for its part ruled that Kink.com was not in violation of any law or zoning requirement.
Although Kink.com stated that its activities would be invisible to the surrounding neighborhood, La Casa de las Madres, a neighboring women's shelter, announced in late March 2007 that they would be leaving the location. The shelter had planned on moving from that location in 2009 when their lease expired, but stated that they would be leaving the location because of the media scrutiny of Kink.com's presence.
As summarized in retrospect by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2018, after the initial protests "Acworth eventually won praise for the restoration work he did on the brick Moorish castle, which had long been empty".
In late 2007, Acworth approached the San Francisco Planning Commission with the idea of converting part of the Armory space into webcam-lined condominia. However, Acworth also described the plans as "extremely hypothetical" and stated that, "There is no firm plan for using the Armory for anything but a conventional film studio for now."
In May and December, 2008, the San Francisco Armory hosted Mission Bazaar, an all-ages arts fair featuring local artists and craftspeople selling their work, as well as performances. It was the first public event held in the Armory since the 1970s.
In 2011, Armory Events started work on the Drill Court, a multi-purpose event space. The venue is 40,000 square feet with an occupancy of 4,000 people, an 80 feet high dome ceiling, and 33,500 square feet of hardwood maple floating floor. As of 2018, the new owner was not intending to continue using it as an entertainment venue.
SF Armory LLC (2018–present)
In January 2018, the building was sold for $65 million to SF Armory LLC, an affiliate of the Chicago-based investment company AJ Capital Partners. The new owner stated it was planning to convert the building's top two floors to office space and to lease the rest to manufacturing companies.
The water in the sub-basement is groundwater which would have percolated through the soils into nearby Mission Creek during the time it existed as an open waterway. Any basement or excavation dug just as deep in the neighborhood would fill with water to a typical depth of many feet, the exact depth depending on season and rainfall factors. Pumps constantly running within the building prevent the groundwater from pooling in the sub-basement. According to Kink.com guides, groundwater completely filled the sub-basement at the time their company purchased the building.
- "SF Armory Window Restoration Project In Full Swing", BehindKink (website), November 16, 2007. Archived May 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- "As of Monday, Kink Can Officially Call its Castle 'Home'", BehindKink (website), December 18, 2007. Archived April 18, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
- "San Francisco Preservation Bulletin No. 9: San Francisco Landmarks" (PDF). City of San Francisco. April–June 2014. Retrieved 2012-10-21.
- Dineen, J.K. (2017-02-07). "SF Armory sells for $65 million — to be used for manufacturing and offices". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
- "Kink.com buys SF Armory", Bay City News, January 9, 2007. Archived January 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
- "Then: Old Armory; Now: Porn Studio by Jonathan Farrell, Mission Dispatch, February 15, 2007. Archived July 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
- Carol Lloyd (October 3, 2000), "Cursed Armory Has Hexed Developers for Over Twenty Years", SFGate.
- Emily Gurnon (February 24, 2000), "S.F. Armory to be reborn as high-tech office space", San Francisco Examiner.
- "3 Killed, 31 Shot in Widespread Rioting", San Francisco Daily News, July 5, 1934. (Archived at the Virtual Museum of San Francisco)
- "SFArmory.com - Welcome to S.F. Armory.com". 2007-06-13. Archived from the original on 2007-06-13. Retrieved 2018-08-07.
- "SF Armory – History" Archived 2018-03-31 at the Wayback Machine, San Francisco Armory
- Fresno Boxer too Much for Potrero Pete", and "Corbett Battles Myers at Armory", San Francisco Chronicle (April 29, 1929)
- "History". Armory Studios. Archived from the original on 2018-03-31. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
- Gerald D. Adams (July 24, 1996), http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/e/a/1996/07/24/NEWS5223.dtl "Armory sold for $1.25 million", San Francisco Examiner.
- Gerald D. Adams (September 13, 1995), "Redevelopment ponders fate of historic armory", San Francisco Examiner.
- Maitland Zane (January 28, 1996), "Waiting for a Miracle in the Mission", San Francisco Chronicle.
- Dan Levy (September 15, 2000), "Switch in Proposal For S.F. Armory", San Francisco Chronicle.
- Dan Levy (April 10, 2004) "Mission Armory plan sees condo complex" San Francisco Chronicle.
- Jesse Mckinley (February 12, 2007), "A Neighbor Moves in With Ropes and Shackles, and Some Are Not So Pleased" The New York Times, p. A14.
- "Armory". Skatespotter. 2014. Archived from the original on 2011-01-24.
- Steve Rubenstein (January 13, 2007), "Ex-armory turns into porn site" San Francisco Chronicle
- Jon Mooallem (April 29, 2007), "A Disciplined Business", The New York Times.
- Steve Rubenstein (February 9, 2007), "Porn studio says armory filming has begun", San Francisco Chronicle.
- Liz Highleyman (March 15, 2007), "Planning Commission hears Kink.com case" Bay Area Reporter.
- "San Francisco Planning Commission - Special Public Hearing", SFGovTV, March 8, 2007. (link to streaming Windows Media Video and downloadable MP3 audio)
- Marisa Lagos (January 26, 2007), No welcome mat for adult film studio" San Francisco Chronicle.
- "Kink hearing: The pornographer's purchase of the Armory faces more roadblocks"by Deborah Giattina, San Francisco Bay Guardian, March 7, 2007. Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
- "Service organization flees from kinky Mission neighbor"[permanent dead link] by Sarah Duxbury, San Francisco Business Times, March 23, 2007.[dead link]
- Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross (December 16, 2007) "Porn prince wants to build kinky condos in Armory" San Francisco Chronicle.
- "SF Armory Could Become 'Kinky Condos'", KNTV, December 17, 2007. Archived June 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- Scott Beale (May 16, 2008), "Mission Bazaar, a Unique Craft & Performance Expo at The Armory" Laughing Squid.
- Aaron Muszalski (December 1, 2008), "Mission Bazaar Returns To San Francisco's Historic Armory" Laughing Squid.
- "Events". Armory Studios. Archived from the original on 2016-03-21.
- Levin, Sam (January 25, 2017). "'End of an era': porn actors lament the loss of legendary San Francisco Armory". The Guardian.
- "Kink.com To Stop Filming In Its Controversial Porn Dungeon". Vocativ. 2017-01-17. Retrieved 2017-01-21.
- Bote, Joshua (2021-06-01). "The San Francisco Armory's kinky legacy lives on". SFGATE. Retrieved 2021-08-20.
- Lydia Chávez (February 16, 2011) "Mission Creek Runs Through the Armory, Now Kink.com", Mission Local.
- Joel Pomerantz (January 29, 2013), "The SF Armory's (Kink.com's) 'Mission Creek' Claim", Thinkwalks.
- Official website
- "Next meeting September 18th Victoria Theater". Mission District Info. Archived from the original on October 30, 2007.
- "The Future of San Francisco's Mission District" by Randy Shaw‚ BeyondChron, January 22‚ 2007.[dead link]
- Eric Quezada and Nick Pagoulatos (February 7, 2007), "The straight story on the armory" San Francisco Bay Guardian.
- Toby Levine, Sam Ruiz, Anita Correa, Roberto Hernandez (February 7, 2007), "Mission Armory in bondage" San Francisco Chronicle.
- Peter Acworth (February 12, 2007) "Come meet Armory's new owner", San Francisco Chronicle.
- Violet Blue (February 15, 2007), "Kink.com and Porn Hysteria: The Lie of Unbiased Reporting", San Francisco Chronicle.