SAN FRANCISCO, CA – San Francisco hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony today to celebrate the completion of renovations to the historic Ruth Williams Memorial Theatre Bayview Opera House (BVOH). The extensive renovations break down barriers to the 128-year-old facility by providing ADA access and creating a new, adjacent plaza that serves as an inviting community gathering space for music and performing arts programs.
The BVOH has served as a cultural hub for Bayview Hunters Point since its construction in 1888 for San Francisco Masonic Lodge No. 212. Local architect Henry Geilfuss, one of San Francisco’s most prominent and prolific architects of the late 19th century, designed the one-story wood-frame building with horizontal drop wood siding and a gable roof in his customary blend of Italianate, Gothic, Eastlake, and Stick styles. Long beloved by its community, the facility is one of the city’s oldest surviving entertainment venues and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
TEF Design/Knapp Architects, Joint Venture, renovated the building to provide access and enhance functionality while remaining sensitive to its historic character. The design team added a contemporary, ADA-accessible exterior entrance to the historic Newcomb Avenue façade. The exterior entrance connects new accessible exterior elevated walkways to the side porch and the back exterior stage to increase the functionality of the venue. Water infiltration and dry rot were also addressed. Inside, enhancements include three ADA-accessible restrooms, new access to the main stage from the interior, and structural upgrades to the historic auditorium’s balcony.
To increase the cultural center’s programming potential, landscape architect and artist Walter Hood of Hood Design, in partnership with TEF Design/Knapp Architects, Joint Venture, oversaw the design of the site surrounding the building. The new plaza, with its inviting curvilinear fence, improves the streetscape at the intersection of Third Street and Newcomb Avenue. Elevated walkways and paths, accented with plantings, connect to new, dynamic landscaped spaces, including an outdoor stage, an amphitheater seating area, and a green lawn designed to host children’s activities and community-wide events.
The San Francisco Arts Commission, which owns the property, led the $5.7 million renovation in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office on Disability, San Francisco Public Works, and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority. Deborah Frieden & Associates facilitated the extensive public engagement process to identify the community’s priorities for the BVOH.
About TEF Design
Established in 1997, the San Francisco–based architecture and interior design practice serves clients throughout the Bay Area and California. Its diverse portfolio, distinguished by local, state, and national awards, encompasses projects for the education, civic/government, healthcare, housing, commercial, and corporate clients. Through authentic collaboration and a commitment to craftsmanship, performance, value, and sustainability, the firm’s staff of 35 creates enduring places where people come together to share ideas and build community.
About Knapp Architects
Knapp Architects provides full architectural services and specializes in historic architecture, preservation services, and consulting. Based in San Francisco, the firm has practiced throughout the Bay Area and Northern California since its formation in 2006. In addition to preparing customary architectural documents, the firm performs historical research and analysis, provides planning services related to historic buildings and resources, and consults on entitlements and environmental review of projects involving historical resources. The firm benefits from ongoing collaboration with allied professionals experienced in architectural history, landscape history, and architecture.
About Walter Hood
Walter Hood, an artist, designer, and educator, is the Creative Director and Founder of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, CA. He is also a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and lectures on professional and theoretical projects nationally and internationally. Hood Design Studio, founded in 1992, engages landscape, urban site design and planning, art installations and research, unveiling the emergent beauty, strangeness, subjectivity, and idiosyncrasies of place. Walter and his work have been featured in publications including Dwell, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fast Company, Architectural Digest, and Landscape Architecture Magazine.
About the San Francisco Arts Commission
The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC), the $24 million City agency that champions the arts as essential to daily life by investing in a vibrant arts sector, enlivening the urban environment and shaping innovative cultural policy. Established by San Francisco’s City Charter in 1932, the SFAC is charged with overseeing the design quality of all new public infrastructure, stewarding the Cultural Equity and Cultural Center Endowments (totaling over $6 million in annual grant investments) and implementing San Francisco’s “2% for Art” public art ordinance. Additionally, the SFAC manages San Francisco’s street artist licensing program as well as oversees the capital management of four city-owned cultural centers, three public exhibition spaces and San Francisco’s Civic Art Collection, which includes over 3,500 objects worth an estimated $90 million.
About Bayview Opera House Ruth Williams Memorial Theater
Built by the Masons in 1888, the BVOH, is the oldest standing theater in San Francisco and survived both the earthquake and fire in 1906. It is the first and so far only building in San Francisco’s District 10 to be included in the National Register of Historic Places. Run by the nonprofit Bayview Opera House, Inc., the facility is dedicated to providing arts education for at risk youth year-round for free or at a low cost. The organization also presents many cultural events throughout the year for all ages, including art exhibits, concerts, plays and community celebrations, as well as the recently established 3rd on Third event.