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Friday Slide Show: Sunnyside Conservatory Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

23 January 2015

A city whose official bird is the phoenix, depicted on its flag and badges, can hardly be unfamiliar with renovation. It's the name of the game. So when we tell you the Sunnyside Conservatory is over a century old, don't misunderstand us. It's been rebuilt, like everything else around here.

The octagonal Victorian Conservatory sits on a quarter acre owned by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, the garden is open to the public everyday from dawn to dusk. The building itself can be rented.

What remains is only half of the estate of William Merralls, who built it in 1898 to house his collection of exotic plants. He built an observatory next door

William Augustus Merralls, a British engineer and inventor, built this Victorian oasis next to his home on an old dairy farm, in the new Sunnyside District in 1898. Merralls's original vision was to gather up exotic treasures for his own private delight. His home (now 258 Monterey) still stands today. A serial entrepreneur, Merralls made his money in the invention and sale of power mining equipment; he also had shipping interests and shopped proposals for flying engines.

Most of the palm trees, including some rare Chilean Wine Palms, and pine trees were planted by Merralls and his wife Temperance.

By the time the Van Becks bought the place in 1919, it had been overrun with brush. Only after clearing the the site was the Conservatory and Observatory rediscovered.

The property was subdivided and sold in 1970. The new owners built a home on the Conservatory grounds before selling the property in 1973.

Two years later the City and County of San Francisco declared it a landmark. But in 1978 a permit to demolish it was granted in error. By the time it was revoked a month later, 30 percent of the demolition had been completed.

The city bought the property and did a partial reconstruction from 1987-1988. In 2001 a renovation project was initiated by the Recreation and Parks Dept., Department of Public Works and the Friends of the Sunnyside Conservatory.

The renovation was completed in 2009.

When we visited earlier this week, there was no one around but a few mythical creatures guarding the plants. The door was locked so we shot through the windows on an overcast day using a wide angle zoom on a Micro Four Thirds camera.

We shot Raw, converted to DNG and played with the images in Lightroom 5, as we have been for most of this series. We tapped into the Upright tool a bit but not as much as we expected.

Some distortions seem to hold the place up.

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