The long-running dream of transforming the 1901 Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse into vibrant community space got a $3 million boost, making it far more likely to become reality.
As reported in Hoodline, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission, which bought the building in 2004 from Muni, appropriated the $3 million at its June 15 meeting, bringing total approved funding for the project to $11 million.
The project involves two structures that sit next to each other, both originally built for the San Francisco and San Mateo Electric Railway Company but incorporated into the private United Railroads within a couple of years of being finished. The Office Building at the southwest corner of San Jose Avenue and Geneva Avenue housed workers for the adjacent streetcar storage area (now Muni’s Cameron Beach Yard, to which the historic E and F line streetcars will return later this year). The powerhouse housed large electric generators for the line. Both are built of brick, both suffered damage in the 1906 earthquake, but survived. Muni took them over in the 1944 merger with United Railroads’ successor, Market Street Railway Company, our namesake. Together with the adjoining tracks, they served as Muni’s only streetcar facility from 1957 until the Green Light Rail Division was opened across the street in the late 1970s.
The 1989 earthquake damaged the two buildings further. Muni abandoned them at that point and wanted to tear them down. But community pressure to preserve the historic buildings led then-Mayor Willie Brown to direct Muni to sell them to the Recreation and Parks Department. A very active non-profit preservation group, Friends of Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse, sprang up, led by Dan Weaver. We have had preliminary discussions about providing historical displays in the restored buildings to interpret their importance to transit.
But the Office Building (confusingly referred to as the Car Barn) still awaits funding for restoration. The current funding will finish design plans for both buildings but only provide construction funding for the large open space of the Powerhouse, which will be turned into a multi-purpose community performance and meeting space.
We salute Dan Weaver and all the supporters of this great project. We hope the remaining funds can be found soon to restore the Office Building too.