Women's Building in the mid-1990s
Murals: Precita Eyes Mural Project; Photo: Chris Carlsson
The structure that is now known as the Women's Building was first known as Mission Turn Hall from 1910 to 1935, subsequently became the Dovre Hall, and took on its current name in 1978. The change in the name and use of this building is a clear expression of San Francisco's history as its neighborhoods have transformed in ethnic and social character.
After the 1906 earthquake, the German Turnverein Society commissioned the building but it was also used by other organizations, including the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West. Although the German Turnverein Society commissioned the building as an exercise club for "sound mind" and physical education, it may have served as a meeting place for German American radicals. The Turnvereine, or Gymnastics Unions were the largest and expression of German American radicalism in the 1850s.
As ownership changed in 1935 to the Sons and Daughters of Norway, the building had already established its continuing reputation as a community center for mixed ethnic and social groups. Now known as the Women's Building, it serves a variety of women's organizations and provides meeting and activity space to the community for events, meetings and support groups.
Reflecting the changes in the community, the Dovre Club, an Irish bar that has been in this site since before it became the Women's Building, fought attempts to close it, but finally the Women's Building prevailed and successfully evicted the bar at the end of 1997. The owners and some neighborhood residents argued for its historical and community value, while the Women's Building intends to use the space for a childcare center to reflect the needs of the immediate community, which has one of the largest populations of youth and children in the city.
--courtesy Northern California Coalition on Immigrant Rights