Albert Pissis (1852-1914)
The Health Sciences Library, located at 2395 Sacramento Street, is a designated historic landmark of the City. It was designed by one of the leading architects of his day, the San Franciscan architect Albert Pissis who changed the face of San Francisco in the two decades from 1890 to 1910.
The Architect of the Library Building
Albert Pissis was born on April 25, 1852 in Guaymas, Mexico to French parents. His father, Joseph Etienne Pissis, was a Paris-educated physician and native of Brioude in the Haute-Loire, France. Pissis' family moved to San Francisco in 1858. Having shown an early aptitude for drawing, he was among the first generation of American architects to study at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Pissis returned to San Francisco in 1880 and in 1882 formed a partnership with the pioneer California architect William P. Moore. Joining the ranks of established architects in San Francisco, Pissis quickly made his distinctive mark on San Francisco architecture beginning in the early 1890s.
Pissis died of pneumonia in 1914 at the age of 62. He was a great artist and a good businessman, well known for his incorporation of classical design principles in contemporary settings. The elegance of his design will insure that his legacy will be appreciated by generations to come.
Pissis designed the Lane Library, now Health Sciences Library of California Pacific Medical Center (1911, 2395 Sacramento Street) and the neighboring Sherith Israel Jewish Synagogue (1904, California at Webster).
The Hibernia Bank at 1 Jones Street, completed in 1892, is the oldest and one of the finest of San Francisco's unique collection of modified-temple-form banks. It was an advanced design that brought immediate fame to its designer and established Pissis as a leader of his profession.
The Emporium Building (Bloomingdales) completed in 1896, was a demonstration of Pissis' commitment to classicism. Built for the Parrott Estate at 835-865 Market, the building is a major architectural element of this section of Market Street, and related powerfully to his James Flood Building across the street at 870-898 Market.
The Hibernia Bank and Empoirum buildings were gutted and rebuilt behind their original facade after the 1906 earthquake. Pissis played a major role in the rebuilding of downtown San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake, drawing on his classical European education in his design work.
His style was well received by City planners, and he endowed the city with structures ranging from the magnificence of the immense White House at 255 Sutter Street at Grant (now a Banana Republic store) to small banks such as the Anton Borel & Co. Bank at 440 Montgomery.
Other commissions from this time include the Rosenstock Building (1908, 28-36 Geary Street), Roullier Building (49 Kearny Street), Charleston Building (1908, 251-255 Kearny Street), Mechanics Institute (1909, 57-65 Post Street), Rochat Cordes Building (1909, 126-130 Post Street), The Misses Butler Building (1909, 120 Ellis Street), Crocker Bank Building (1910, 1 Sansome Street), W. P. Fuller Building (1909, 301 Mission Street), California Casket Co. (1909, 965 Mission Street), Savoy Hotel (580 Geary Street at Jones), and the building at Baker and Hamilton (1905, 700-768 7th Street,) originally Miller, Sloss & Scott Building.