The Russ Building is located in the heart of the Financial District on Montgomery Street between Bush and Pine Streets in San Francisco. The building was completed in 1927 and stood for 30 years as the tallest building west of the Chicago.
The Russ Building stands 31 stories tall with two basement levels and has a four level parking garage with the capacity of housing approximately 350 cars. The construction consists of a steel frame surrounded by poured concrete, brick masonry and a terra cotta façade. It is also noted that the building materials used in construction and building equipment installed were of the finest available in its time.
The building has five (5) fire rated stairwells strategically located throughout the building to be used in the event of fire or other life-threatening emergencies. Also provided is a comprehensive array of Life Safety Systems for the protection of life and physical assets. These include audio fire alarm, elevator earthquake seismic protection, instant floor communications and a back-up emergency power supply. There are fire hose cabinets and ABC fire extinguishers located throughout the building.
Monitoring and maintenance of the Life Safety System is under the direction and supervision of the Property Manager, Chief Engineer, and Security Manager. Constant 24-hour surveillance and supervision of the building Life Safety System assures your safety during your valued tenancy in the Russ Building.
Like thousands of others, you probably pass the Russ Building every day without realizing the fabulous history of the site is the history of San Francisco itself, from its pioneer foundations to its present great stature.
Samuel Dickson, author of “San Francisco Is Your Home,” has written the story of it.
Emanuel Charles Christian Russ came to San Francisco in March of 1847 and the week he arrived he bought the land on which the present-day Russ Building is situated, for seventy-five dollars. An industrious man and a wise parent of at least nine children, he had a sublime faith in the destiny of San Francisco.
Silversmith by Trade
He had been born in Germany in 1795, of Polish ancestry, his parents having been exiled from Poland when it was conquered by Russia. Following the trade of silversmith, Russ migrated to New York in 1832. He came to San Francisco by clipper ship in 1847, after a long and tortuous voyage around the Cape.
He bought the land on present-day Montgomery Street, but he still had no place to house his family. So he went back to the ship Loo Choo and, for a few dollars, he bought the wooden bunks that lined the hold of the ship. Up from the beach he and his sons carried the used lumber, and there, on the corner of what is now Pine and Montgomery, they built the Russ Mansion, a little two-story ramshackle affair. But it was a home. And in the front room of his new home he established a manufacturing shop and jewelry store. He and his sons built thirty small shacks of used lumber, and rented them all at high figures, since housing in San Francisco was even then at a premium.
Nine months after the Russ family had arrived in San Francisco, gold was discovered in California, and the boom was on. Some of Russ’ sons went mining, lured by the excitement and the irresistible cry of “Gold!” But Russ himself remained in the city, knowing there were harvests to be reaped at home, in city real estate. His sons found gold, and in the meantime, as a logical adjunct to his jewelry business, Russ became the city’s most respected assayer. And he was growing wealthy. His faith in San Francisco real estate was unlimited, and every dollar he and his sons could save went into adding property after property to the original fifty vara lot he had purchased.
But fate took a hand in the fortunes of the Russ Family, as it had with many of the pioneers and Argonauts who had come into the West. In 1852 the city had a great fire, and the thirty or more wooden shacks Russ had built on his property were burned to the ground. But Russ knew the property was valuable, and he built a brick house on the old plot, and erected the American Hotel—the original Russ House that was to become famous as the most colorful hostelry in downtown San Francisco.
Russ Family’s Fate
But then as he grew wealthy, Russ wanted something better for his family. Montgomery Street in the early fifties was a beehive of saloons, gambling halls, and places of worse repute. Montgomery Street was no place to raise a family that included four daughters. So Russ built a stately mansion on what were then the suburbs—at the corner of Sixth and Harrison streets. The house was surrounded by beautiful gardens, and they were so popular with the family’s growing circle of friends that Russ’ home was soon the center of San Francisco social life.
He grew still richer. The city had been kind to him, and he was the largest landowner and one of the richest and most respected citizens of the community. He was grateful to the city, and so when he saw how popular his gardens were with the public, he made a public park of them. And for years after that the Russ Gardens were the only suburban retreat for citizens on holiday and picnic days.
Today, the American Hotel, the original Russ House—has gone the way of the old color and romance that made San Francisco, and in its place stands: The Russ Building.