I really enjoyed this epic article on the history of San Francisco as seen through the windows of 140 New Montgomery, an Art Deco 26-story building in the SoMa district. The writer is Alexis Madrigal. Read it now!
The building looks like it is made of stone, perhaps granite blasted out of the Sierra Nevada range to the east. And at the very base, there is stone.
But it ends about five and a half feet up the facade. After that, it’s terra cotta to the top: clay.
The company that made it is called Gladding, McBean, headquartered in Lincoln, up north of Sacramento. They made the cladding for many of the buildings at Stanford. They’re still around.
Their work is ubiquitous in the old downtown core of the city. In the 1920s, Gladding McBean averaged work on more than 20 buildings a year in San Francisco. By 1928, the year after 140 New Montgomery was completed, the San Francisco Examiner declared “with clay from a hole in the ground in Lincoln, California, the modern city of San Francisco has come.”
Nonetheless, the point remains: the building isn’t made of stone. It just looks that way.
Recently, a company that makes software to manage computer memory moved its headquarters to the 15th floor. It’s called Terracotta.