One Woman’s Journey to Restoring a Historic San Francisco Building
Across decades and cities, Shaari Ergas has been restoring historic buildings. She’s returned run-down buildings to their former glory from Miami to San Francisco.
Biro & Sons is proud to be a part of Shaari’s great work by restoring, fabricating, and custom plating all sorts of different pieces.
“We love working with Shaari because she does restorations the right way,” says Rick Biro. “Not only does she make buildings more beautiful, but she also preserves history. We believe all restorations should be grounded in this principle.”
Shaari’s latest project was one of our favorites — restoring the main lobby of her 1920’s building at 1940 Broadway in San Francisco.
When it was built in the summer of 1924, the San Francisco Examiner claimed 1940 Broadway would “stand as of one of the city’s most magnificent edifices.”
“It was sponsored and designed by Quandt and Bos, architects, and will be occupied by fourteen families. There are two apartments on each of the three lower floors and one apartment to a floor above the third story. Each apartment is privately owned. Each is being finished to suit the individual taste of the owner. No two are in any way alike but instead, vie with each other in [the] beauty of finish and appointments.”
Set apart by its garden entrance, “a new conception for city apartments,” as they claimed at the time, 1940 Broadway still stands out on its block with almost a Park Avenue feel.
A 100-year-old Lobby
For such a gorgeous and notable building, the state of the main lobby was slightly shabby. As Shaari notes, it felt a bit like a boiler room.
“It’s an old building, and people don’t know what to do with it,” Shaari explains. “They’re just so accustomed to using the door from the garage and that space, that no one ever thought twice about it.”
When Shaari brought us over, we saw a handful of glaring problems.
Back in its day, the building’s front door featured original metal and decorative work, which is pretty typical for these kinds of buildings. While the doors remained beautiful, there were spots of disrepair and rust.
One exciting feature on the doors was that the glass frames were hinged to make it easier to wash the windows. However, the brass hinges hadn’t worked properly for years due to rust and wear.
Handmade brass hinges circa 1920 aren’t just laying around at the hardware store down the road, especially ones that would line up precisely to the holes already in the door!
Beyond the door, the once proud and beautiful entry lamps were covered with unsightly paint.
It was quite a mess!
We had a lot of work to do to deliver on Shaari’s vision, and we were excited to get to it.
“This was a 100-year upgrade to the building,” Shaari remarks. “We went so far as to tie in the basement and an odd hallway to make a proper lobby. We created a new entry door that matched all of the other elevator and entry doors in the building, with the porthole and brass kickplate.”
The Biros’ first project was to fabricate a custom brass porthole and kickplate for the newly painted doors leading to the garage.
Next, we turned to the front doors.
Shaari recognized the beauty of the decorative metal and wanted to keep the design of the original work.
To make that happen, our team stripped the doors of all its paint, cleaned and repaired the brass hinges, restored the function of the hinges, and then applied clear-coat to hold off any tarnishing.
“Now, we have metal that looks like it’s brand new! You can actually open it and wash the windows,” Shaari exclaims.
The last order of business was the lights on the front of the building, which Shaari thought had some beauty hiding underneath the old paint. And she was right.
The crew at Biro & Sons stripped off the old paint, polished the underlying brass, and then rewired each light.
“It turns out they’re beautiful graphite with the original Amber glass,” she explains, “and when you clean up the glass and put the proper light bulb inside, they look like two little dancing chandeliers on either side of the front door.”
“They were ready to go back on the wall as if they were made yesterday,” Shaari recalls. “I love what these guys do. They’ve been doing work for me for twenty years. I’m a fan.”
Now, the lobby at 1940 Broadway matches its building’s elegance and history.
Shaari got her start during the 1980s, focusing on the Art Deco section of Miami Beach. She’s got decades of experience by now in the field.
“I restore old buildings and bring them back to the way the original architect intended,” she says, “while trying to update them for today. That’s what I do. That’s how I see buildings.
Each new building teaches and shows her something new. One of the most valuable lessons she’s learned is exploring the property and its history before tearing anything apart. Take the entry lights on the Broadway building as a prime example.
“People don’t know what’s under the paint,” she says. “They don’t even think that there might be something under there. You have to have done this a while to know to explore that. Let’s explore and see what it is, and then make a decision about it.”
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