Parties: Still Nifty At Fifty

by Catherine Bigelow

SF Heritage 50th Anniversary

Attendees: 175 drive-in guests; 65 cars; online participation from 160 households
Impact: $206K was raised to support Heritage’s educational programs, preservation advocacy and publications, walking tours, artist-in-residence programs and its museum-rental space in the 1886 Haas-Lilienthal House.

For all that SF Heritage — the historic preservation and urban renewal advocacy nonprofit that champions the unique architectural history and cultural identity of San Francisco — has accomplished, its 50th Anniversary Soiree (June 12 at Fort Mason Center for the Arts) may as well have been celebrating 100 years for the sedulous, and mostly volunteer, work Heritage has expertly accomplished since its founding by Charles Hall Page and Harry Miller. The vibe at Fort Mason was appropriately funky for this crowd: multigenerational EssEff natives mixed with architects, engineers, contractors and those who cherish the City’s unique quirkiness on every corner — from grand Victorians in the Western Addition, out to the Excelsior, where the 1928 Italian American Social Club was recently approved by the City’s Small Business Commission to join Heritage’s Legacy Business Registry.

The fundraiser, both virtual and in-person, was masterfully organized by soiree chairwomen Elisa Hernández Skaggs and Katherine Petrin — with expert assists from Heritage’s Lilienthal Society and Heritage Board chair Courtney Damkroger.

As guests arrived, they were greeted with a Heritage goody bag and McCalls’ car-friendly boxed meals before claiming their spot at the Fort Mason FLIX drive-in. But prior to the big-screen program (emceed live by historian-author Woody LaBounty,

Heritage interim president and CEO) guests mingled — outside their cars — at pre- and post-event receptions. Heritage also partnered with Bread & Butter Films to produce a showstopping documentary (available online at about the places, cultural districts, arts organizations and people who have benefited from Heritage efforts.

“When we started Heritage, we had no idea how successfully this idea would develop and engage supporters,” recalls Miller. “All the credit belongs to Charles Page. Heritage wouldn’t have lasted all these years, and into the future, without his vision.”

Miller supplied Page with his legal acumen, but some early losses remain bittersweet. “Especially downtown, a few beautiful build ings disappeared forever from the City’s fabric: City of Paris, the Fitzhugh Building. But the work we did to inventory the resources of these buildings was valuable in getting the City on board for a more informed review process,” says Page, another City native. “But when I walk by these places we did save, I’m delighted they remain for future generations to appreciate.”

Interior designer Stewart Morton, who rented an open-air bus for his guests to watch the program, was a founding board member of Heritage.

“If it wasn’t for Heritage, I think San Francisco would look like any other city in the country, with a lot of new ugly buildings,” notes Morton. “I put San Francisco in the category of Boston and New Orleans as the unique three cities that are very humanscaled and enjoyable — because of architecture, attitude and pride in our City.”

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