Shreve Building San Francisco, Calif. - 1910
The historic Shreve Building looks very much as it did on the day it was first occupied — March 19, 1906, just a month before the great quake and fire — because it is one of the few buildings that survived the catastrophe intact.
Standing 12 stories high, it is, with the nearby Head Building, the tallest building on Grant Avenue. Centrally located between Market Street and the Chinatown Gate, this structure is conspicuous in the skyline as a focal point at the heart of the retail district.
The Shreve Building is home to the eminent Shreve & Co., Jeweler, established in 1854, just four years after the discovery of gold in the California hills. The building was designed by William Curlett, one of the city’s leading Victorian-era architects; he successfully transitioned to the classically inspired style popular at the turn of the century, and this was the style employed for the Shreve Building. Its steel frame construction supports brick curtain walls sheathed in Colusa sandstone.
The two lower floors are occupied by the jeweler’s monumental salesroom with black marble Ionic columns and bronze entrances. A contemporary account described Shreve & Co. as “the Tiffany of San Francisco, with everything that the name Tiffany implies. Jewels, gold, and silver are on the first floor; china, bronzes, statuary, lamps, etcetera, above.” Today, you will still see the same exterior, the same graceful marble columns, and the mahogany cases installed during reconstruction after the fire. The original vaults also survived the cataclysm (with jewels of that time intact) and are still in use.
Shreve & Co. was a sponsor of the 2006 Centennial Ball, for which a thousand tiny sterling silver spades were made — replicas of one (also made by Shreve & Co.) used by President William Taft at the 1911 groundbreaking for San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.