Friday, September 5, 2008

Neighbors and historians rush to save landmark

Neighbors worry that a charming symbol of the shipbuilding industry and the working class heroes who shaped San Francisco’s India Basin will be lost in the shuffle of advancing development. They have urged making the Hunters Point Shipwright’s House at 900 Innes Avenue a city landmark.

On Tuesday, March 31st at 1pm, the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use Committee will hold a hearing about the issue. The issue is more urgent given a major developer’s sudden donation of land on which the Shipwright House sits to a nonprofit organization.

The Shipwright’s House remains unchanged since it was built around 1870 when wooden boat-building flourished along the southern waterfront. The house is all that remains of a cluster of structures, including a blacksmith shop and water tower, that once formed the heart of union and trade activity.

“The Shipwright’s House should be saved,” stated Kristine Enea, “for its historic value, as a symbol of the neighborhood’s working class roots, and for the useful role it can play in the area’s future. Enea lives near the cottage, and is Chair of the India Basin Neighborhood Association which works to preserve what is unique about their vibrant mixed-use neighborhood.

900 Innes is near the Bay Trail, which is planned to run through India Basin, and less than half a mile from the gate to Hunters Point Shipyard. Residents envision the cottage as a tourist and recreational resource in an area preparing for a population boom and a steady stream of visitors.

In 1998, the Recreation and Parks Department listed 900 Innes as a desired acquisition for a maritime recreation center. In 2004, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell asked the Board of Supervisors to declare it “worthy of historic preservation.” In 2005, the Landmark Advisory Board and Planning Department staff recommended designation of the property as Landmark #250.

900 Innes is an Italianate cottage which housed shipbuilders known as “shipwrights.” Shipwrighting traces its roots to before recorded history. The Alma, now a tourist attraction at the National maritime Museum, was built at Hunters Point, as was Jack London’s adventure boat, the Snark.

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