Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sunnyside Conservatory...

Sunnyside Conservatory (236 Monterey Boulevard) is located in a little known San Francisco neighborhood called Sunnyside and was built in 1898 by English inventor and stargazer William Augustus Merralls as a present to his wife.

Street view of Sunnyside Conservatory present day.
During November of last year, I moved to Sunnyside and had walked by Sunnyside Conservatory countless times before I actually decided to explore it. For whatever reason, the place seemed intimidating to me...maybe because of the creepy looking metal fencing and gate out front? It definitely gives off this spooky haunted aura.

Sunnyside Conservatory in 1919. This photo was derived from a glass negative found in the attic of Merralls’s home.
When I finally decided to tour the premises, I was a bit disappointed...just because I was expecting something akin to the only other conservatory in San Francisco, the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park which is amazing (I'll have to tell you about that place in another post).

Since a conservatory is a building used to “conserve” exotic and rare plants and fruits during the winter, I was surprised to find that there are no such items inside the Sunnyside Conservatory building present day...just a bare floor now so that special events can be held there from time to time. But apparently it did serve it's original purpose once.

Image Credit: Date taken is unknown but comes from a book published in 1968 entitled "Here Today"
(San Francisco Architectural Heritage by the Junior League of San Francisco, Inc.)
What you will find now is an empty octagonal faceted Victorian era structure designed to maximize natural light--renovation close to its original glory was completed in 2009. If you're only in The City a few days, this might be a destination to skip. But if you have the time, there are some reasons to visit. First, it's San Francisco Landmark #78.

Sign on entry gate noting historical significance.
There's a palm tree grove (some are over 100 years old, I guess these are the kind of exotic plants you would expect to find at a conservatory) including one Chilean Wine Palm which are pretty rare within our city limits. In Chile, they would use the sap from the trunk of this tree to make a fermented drink or a syrup called miel de palma. Chilean Wine Palm trees are now protected in Chile because you would need to cut them down to produce the two previously mentioned goods.

Palm Tree Grove at Sunnyside Conservatory. The Chilean Wine Palm trunk is visible on the far right of the above photo.
The branches of a towering Norfolk Island Pine.
There are two benches near the front entrance. If you're in the area (about a 10 minute walk from the Glen Park BART subway station) and looking for somewhere to relax for a bit, this is certainly one option.

Sunnyside Conservatory also has a back entrance off Joost Avenue and pedestrians can walk through to Monterey Boulevard if they wish.

I'm sure there are some good times to be had if you can make it to one of the special and often free (donation suggested) events (activities such as weddings, pumpkin carving, concerts and wreath making have taken place there in the past)...likely to be the next time I'll visit again!

Front entrance to Sunnyside Conservatory.

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