From Vermouth to Vaudeville

1918 | Golden Gate Building


PRISM stands on a site that has stories to tell

This location flourished as a lively destination within the historic Theatre and Loft District, and contributed significantly to San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ community.

Following the earthquake of 1906, a new era of entertainment was ushered in with the Golden Gate Building. Since that time, the site has been home to theaters, movie houses, restaurants, and night clubs. From gastronomic delights to gay vaudeville, names like the PIG’N WHISTLE, CRYSTAL BOWL, and KENO’S 47 CLUB have become an important part of San Francisco history.


1930 |

Pig’n Whistle

Leo & Keno

1936 |

Leo Deslys & Keno Clark

From 1907 to 2019, the Golden Gate Building at 1028-1056 Market Street housed an evolving mix of businesses that reflected Market Street’s era as a destination for great entertainment and shopping, and later as a hub of adult entertainment. The building’s social history is entwined with that of San Francisco’s LGBTQ community largely due to its proximity to the Tenderloin. Market Street is now drawing crowds to its renovated historic theaters, opulent hotels, and new residences lining the City’s grandest boulevard.


1028 – 1056 Market Street, 47 Golden Gate Avenue

Earthquake and fires of April 1906 destroyed downtown San Francisco.
In 1907, real estate investor Morris Siminoff commissioned architects Shea & Shea to design a two-story commercial building at 1028-1056 Market Street historically known as the Golden Gate Building.
The 1914 Red-Light Abatement Act shut down the city’s brothels, forcing prostitution into the streets, which led to the Tenderloin becoming the center of San Francisco’s sex trade – for straight, gay and transgender prostitutes.
In the early 1920s, several important theaters and movie palaces developed in the neighborhood and a portion of the Golden Gate Building was converted into a second-run movie theater.
1925 – 1936
The Pompeii Theater, 1046 Market Street (this site), opened with 398 seats and operated from 1925 until 1933. After an Art Deco style remodel in 1935-36, the theater was renamed the Regal.
The Pig’n Whistle, a restaurant chain with locations throughout the West Coast, opened at 1032 Market Street on September 12, 1930 until in 1941.
Following the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, queer bars and nightclubs proliferated in San Francisco, similar to national trends.
The Crystal Bowl restaurant was opened at 1032 Market Street, by owner Sidney E. Wolfe, a notorious figure nicknamed the “Tavern King of San Francisco” who also had interests in numerous gay businesses in the Tenderloin and around town.
The Golden Gate Building housed as many as 12 businesses, including the theater, a billiards hall, and numerous stores and restaurants.
After favorable California State court rulings which essentially legalized gay and lesbian bars in San Francisco, proprietors were more openly serving the LGBTQ crowd and the atmosphere became more open.
Keno Clark, a former vaudeville performer, operated several LGBTQ nightclubs and restaurants, including Keno’s 47 Club (47 Golden Gate Avenue) located at the rear of the Crystal Bowl at 1032 Market Street. It was one of many gay bars that had front and back entrances to allow exits in the case of a police raid.
An amendment to the California Business and Professional Code allowed authorities to investigate any bar functioning as a “resort for sexual perverts.”
The Crystal Bowl closed after losing its liquor license amid other legal troubles. Keno’s 47 Club also closed, likely due to a lost liquor license that would have been shared with the Crystal Bowl.
A bookshop specializing in Western Americana and rare books opened in the former Keno’s 47 Club space.
The demolition of the 1929 Fox Theater, the West’s finest movie palace with 4,650 seats, marked the beginning of the end of Market Street’s great entertainment era.
The Market Street Beautification Project began. The multi-year refurbishment introduced brick sidewalks, granite crosswalks, sycamore trees, kiosks, benches, bus shelters, and domed phone booths.
1974 – 1989
In late 1974, the former Regal Theater space was taken over by X-rated film moguls, the Mitchell Brothers, who reopened it as the Bijou Theater, also known as the Mitchell Brothers Bijou.
The Market Street Theatre and Loft National Register Historic District is designated. The district was determined to be significant for its association with the development of motion picture houses, as an important commercial corridor, and for its impressive architecture.
1989 – 2005
The Bijou Theater shut down operations in 1989, but the space reopened in the mid-1990s with a live show and video booths before finally closing for good in 2005.
2005 – 2017
The former theater space at 1046 Market is converted to use as a food hall and bar.
Demolition of the building at 1028-1056 Market Street begins in October 2019, replaced by Prism – a new mixed-use apartment building