May 4, 2012

In The Land of Rising Sea Green Rents

1550 Bryant

Built in 1915 for the Rainier Brewing Company, the "Hamm’s Building" at 1550 Bryant operated as a brewery from 1915 to 1975. Vacant from 1975 to 1985, the 182,669 square foot building has since been converted to office space, just sold, and is about to undergo an "interior renovation program to further reposition the building’s creative space."

1550 Bryant Interior

UPDATE: When the brewery was shuttered in 1975, the iconic Hamm’s sign atop the building was removed. And while the buyers of the building have expressed interest in returning the sign to its place of prominence, its whereabouts are unknown. Readers?

San Francisco Hamm's Sign

What happened to the Hamm’s Brewery sign? [SFGate]

First Published: May 4, 2012 9:00 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

"creative space"? That's an interesting way to spin that this building has some of the most funky awkward floorplans in the city. And then add narrow winding hallways with random step-up and step-down's here and there.

Hopefully the interior renovation can solve some of these issues. There's little risk of destroying the industrial heritage of this building since that was already stripped out during the 1980s conversion.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at May 4, 2012 9:17 AM

The best part of the article:

"TMG executives would love to find and put back in its rooftop prominence the famous 13-foot Hamm’s 3-D neon beer chalice that continuously “emptied” and “filled” with light. The sign was built in 1954 and was the largest commercial sign on the West Coast, appearing in movies like “Dirty Harry.” It was removed from the building in 1975."

Posted by: gellan at May 4, 2012 9:57 AM

The Hamms building was a big party place with a ton of squatters actually living there when I was a senior in high school back in 1981. I actually spent the night in the building once (after a Black Flag/Flipper show at the Mabuhay)...

Posted by: FormerAptBroker at May 4, 2012 10:03 AM

I always wondered about that place

Posted by: Bernie Hill at May 4, 2012 10:03 AM

@gellan

That sounds like the dumbest idea I've heard in a long time (and that's saying a lot).

Posted by: sf at May 4, 2012 10:58 AM

@sf

Dumbest idea? Really? I don't understand San Franciscans (if you are one)...they don't want anything to change but when someone wants to restore a piece of it's history they balk at that as well. Maybe I'm just bias since a lot of my family worked at that brewery and had nothing but fond memories of it and it's sign. Yes, even the sign.

Posted by: gellan at May 4, 2012 11:26 AM

I kind of like the retro beer sign idea but would be concerned that it could establish a precedent for converting the tower signage (which currently doesn't exist) into a defacto billboard. It has happened in the past where older large retro-neon signs were converted into modern logo signage that exceeded the current code constraints for height and size, probably because it was already grandfathered in. Using the space as neon art is good. As advertisement, bad.

Here's an interesting prospective tenant: neighbor Anchor Brewing that seeks to expand.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at May 4, 2012 11:31 AM

I agree Milkshake. I perceived it as TMG only bringing back the chalice aspect of the sign which would leave it a little less ad-like and a little more 'art'-like. I'd be surprised if they actually find the thing anyhow.

Posted by: gellan at May 4, 2012 11:37 AM

I don't get the point in trying to recreate the past. How about installing another sign that actually has a function? Hamm's beer does not even exist anymore. I liked the Yahoo sign, why can't we put that back up? Why don't we raze the Sunset and convert it to sand dunes and allow ATVs?
I know that senior San Franciscans try to grasp desperately to the past as they grow more conservative. It was a cool sign, but it's over. And it's just a sign.

Posted by: sf at May 4, 2012 12:12 PM

"And it's just a sign."

Exactly. So if they want to put it back up, who cares?

Posted by: R at May 4, 2012 12:46 PM

"I liked the Yahoo sign, why can't we put that back up"

Yes, tho it will read "AirBnb - rooms available tonite" and it will appear on 888 Brannan where they just signed lease to house anticipated 800 employees.

Posted by: invented at May 4, 2012 12:55 PM

I'd always hoped that the top floor was someones home.

Posted by: ph_goat at May 4, 2012 12:57 PM

Milkshake of Despair, you talk so much that it begs the question about whatever you say. Do you truly even pause to think about things? Certainly doesn't come across that way.

Posted by: anon1 at May 4, 2012 1:04 PM

Yes, this unique building has tons of "creative space". The non traditional floor plans, ins and outs, ups and downs, really make for a more enjoyable workplace..and most high tech, young firms welcome that kind of work environment.

@ anon1:....wow! yes!

Posted by: futurist at May 4, 2012 1:10 PM

"I know that senior San Franciscans try to grasp desperately to the past as they grow more conservative. It was a cool sign, but it's over. And it's just a sign."

This sign was taken down before I was even born. I just thought it was a cool nod to the building's past while simultaneously embracing its future. Whatever though, to each his own.

Posted by: Gellan at May 4, 2012 1:11 PM

Can you be more specific anon1?

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at May 4, 2012 1:17 PM

Best photo is the black and white one taken at dusk, scroll down:

http://blog.sfgate.com/thebigevent/2012/04/10/what-happened-to-the-hamms-brewery-sign/

Posted by: tipster at May 4, 2012 1:18 PM

Doesn't anybody else find it rather insulting that all of the major industry has left the city and we install hallow signs and "landmarks" in their place to rub salt in the wounds and remind us of our once robustness?

Oh, what do you all care, you commute in your BMW 325s to Mountain View everyday.

Posted by: sf at May 4, 2012 1:19 PM

@sf

"grasp desperately to the past"

Posted by: gellan at May 4, 2012 1:53 PM

FAB used to go to punk shows back in the day? What happened to you man???

I was going to Clash and Circle Jerk shows about the same time down in LA. Now, with apologies to The Clash:

----

Now every cheap hood strikes a bargain with the world,
Ends up making payments on a sofa or a girl.
Love 'n hate tattooed across the knuckles of his hands,
Hands that slap his kids around, 'cause they don't understand how,

Death or glory, becomes just another story.
Death or glory, becomes just another story.

'n every gimmick hungry yob digging gold from rock 'n roll,
Grabs the mike to tell us he'll die before he's sold,
But I believe in this and it's been tested by research,
He, who fucks nuns, will later join the church.

Death or glory, becomes just another story.
Death or glory, becomes just another story.

Fear in the gun-sights,
They say lie low,
You say ok,
Don't wanna play the show,
Now all you're thinking
"Was it death or glory now?"
Playing the blues of kings,
Sure looks better now.

Death or glory, just another story?
Death or glory, just another story?

From every dingy basement, on every dingy street,
Every dragging handclap over every dragging beat,
It's just the beat of time, the beat that must go on
If you've been trying for years, we 'ready heard your song

Death or glory, becomes just another story.
Death or glory, just another story?

We gonna march, a long way,
Fight, a long time,
We got to travel, over mountains,
Got to travel, over seas,
We gonna fight, your brother,
We gonna fight, 'til you lose,
We gonna raise, trouble,
We gonna raise, hell.

We gonna fight, your brother,
Raise, hell.

Death or glory, becomes just another story.
Death or glory, becomes just another story.

Death or glory, just another story?
Death or glory, becomes just another story.

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at May 4, 2012 3:19 PM

NoeValleyJim wrote:

> FAB used to go to punk shows back in
> the day? What happened to you man???
> I was going to Clash and Circle Jerk
> shows about the same time down in LA

I actually got in trouble in High School for typing Circle Jerks lyrics in typing class when we had "free type" (from memory after not hearing this song for 20+ years):

I'm really queer sitting here, so sincere, daughter flips the burgers as you reach for a second beer.

Wife says grace she's in her place, all of her years are on her face, a two car garage, a master charge, wife's t*ts aren't firm, at least they're large.

Murder the disturbed, and all those purturbed
kill the democrats, support tuition tax.

P.S. Believe it or not I was listening to Agent Orange earlier today (when I flipped over to my iPhone that was on shuffle when NPR started asking for money)

P.P.S to ph_goat I remember as a kid thinking that the top floor of the building would also make a nice home something like the one in this movie:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Omega_Man

Posted by: FormerAptBroker at May 4, 2012 5:38 PM

Before Suzie Thompkins and Ruben Glickman bought the building in 1985 from the RTC, (Resolution Trust corp) for 2.5 million after it was foreclosed on, it was know as the Tombs or Catacombs.

The building back then was derelict and filled with rocker & rollers and artist types living in the honeycombed interior.

Someone should research the SF Guardian archives to see if there are any stories about the building.

In the meantime go ask Esprit's Susie Thompkins what she did with the sign.....maybe it's in one of her warehouses covered in tarps........

Posted by: SFer at May 4, 2012 9:14 PM

I remember the pre-1985 period and like others I visited several times, usually late at night, after Mabuhay or Kabuki shows or last call at the Rite Spot.

I remember meeting one of the pre-foreclosure "owners" and was offered title to my choice of floor levels for $50K cash, which I passed on ($50k still got you a lot of real estate opportunities back then).

Most of the floors where subdivided into huge concrete floor to ceiling beer vats that lined both sides of an double loaded access corridor. You got into the beer vats by way of round, submarine style waterproof doors. Inside the entire vat was lined in very deep, very black rubber. They apparently made great rehearsal spaces at least until the air gave out.

I am sure they removed at least half of the building in volume and weight to create the somewhat usable floors they have now.

Posted by: redseca2 at May 7, 2012 12:01 PM

This is my studio building. It's artist spaces now - mostly welders and jewelers. It's fun.

Posted by: Meryl at November 24, 2012 1:14 AM

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