The Swedish American Hall in San Francisco was officially designated City Landmark No.267 in 2015, but passersby had no idea — until May 11, 2017, when the first of the city’s new landmark plaques was unveiled.

A small ceremony was held in front of the hall before the Swedish Society of San Francisco, owner of the building, held its annual meeting inside. Attending the ceremony were many of those who played a prominent role in this achievement.
Ted Olsson, whose grandfathers were both involved in the building and early life of the Swedish American Hall, convened the small ceremony in front of the hall, leaving space for pedestrians, who wondered what celebration they were passing through. He thanked the early members, not merely for founding this association, but who, immediately following the 1906 earthquake and fire that destroyed almost half the city, bought this property and erected this building, the masterpiece of Swedish-born, San Francisco master architect August Nordin.


Remarkable location
The hall's very location is remarkable in San Francisco history. On this single block in the city are examples of the three types of meeting halls constructed after the catastrophes of 1906. Recovering from the earthquake and fire, San Francisco still intended to host the world’s fair of 1915, celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal. To rebuild the city in preparation for welcoming visitors from around the world, the city took over all municipal transit, built many hotels to accommodate guests, and built many meeting halls, where fraternal, ethnic, and beneficial societies could meet. During this period many, if not most, San Franciscans were living in tent cities and were standing in long bread/soup lines.
On this block, what is now the Lucky 13 bar was then a small, street-level gathering hall. Across Market Street on the same block was another type of meeting hall — a two-story building, with commercial space on the ground floor and one or more halls on the second story; it is another of the 400 local buildings designed by August Nordin. An example of the third type of building is the Swedish Society’s Swedish American Hall, also designed by Nordin, who thus had two buildings, across the street from each other on this same block.
The Swedish American Hall had two retail units at street level (now combined into a single restaurant) and one of San Francisco’s oldest bars beneath the sidewalk level, as well as multiple meeting rooms and halls above. Also included was a private dining room and kitchen on the mezzanine, and board- and reading rooms on the third floor. The reading room is where many immigrants would gather to read books and periodicals in Swedish as well as to converse with other immigrants in their native language.

Returning dignitaries
At the ceremony were California State Senator Scott Wiener, who carried the legislation for this building in his district and California Assemblyman David Chiu, former president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. Both of these state legislators had been present when we celebrated the landmarking itself a couple years ago.
Senator Wiener recognized Olsson’s passion and civic leadership, and spoke of his own memories in the Swedish American Hall, including the celebration of his senatorial election victory.
Assemblyman Chiu thanked Wiener for leading the designating of the hall as a landmark, then revealed that it was Wiener’s birthday. Well, that was opportunity for everyone to break into song, singing Happy Birthday — in both English and Swedish.
When Swedish Consul General Barbro Osher was called upon to speak, she congratulated the Society for building the hall, which has hosted so many significant Scandinavian events. Originally a men’s society, she reflected that the hall is equally, if not more indebted to the Swedish Ladies Society of San Francisco, the women’s auxiliary and complementary organization, that contributed so much to the building, to hosting events at the hall, and to its mission.
Nina Webber, president of the Swedish Society of San Francisco (now fully integrated), also spoke, thanking all past and current members and board members who have made the hall historic and home to so many organizations.
With that, Enrique Landa and Dylan MacNiven, the Upper Market Vikings, were called upon. As the master tenant of the hall, their business acumen and investment made it possible for the Society to renovate the hall and retain its reputation as a beloved city nightspot, now for concerts in the main hall as well as for more intimate concerts in Café Du Nord.
Finally, Consul General Osher and President Webber unveiled the landmark plaque, while she read the plaque’s inscription:

San Francisco Landmark No.267, Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market Street
Built in 1907, Swedish American Hall is home to the Swedish Society of San Francisco, founded in 1875.
At the turn of the 20th century, this neighborhood was a large Scandinavian enclave. The hall housed businesses serving the community, including Café du Nord, opened in 1908, which today is among San Francisco’s oldest saloons and restaurants.
Designed by Master Architect August Nordin in the Arts and Crafts style, the architectural finishes demonstrate a superior level of craftsmanship in a rich palate of materials and ornament. Interior lodge rooms named after Norse gods feature soaring truss work and intricate wood detailing.
Designated May 8, 2015 [seal of the City and County of San Francisco], Historic Preservation Commission

Everyone was invited inside for a Swedish skål to toast the occasion and more than three dozen members sat down to an enjoyable meal prepared by local Chef Pelle. The unhurried meal lasted a couple of hours with many toasts, snapsvisor, and other singing.
By Ted Olsson

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