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As soon as the positioning of a deadly bombing, Outdated Vedanta would be the most lovely constructing in San Francisco

Nobody will ever agree on which building in San Francisco looks best, and neither should they. From the city’s oldest surviving structure, the Mission Dolores, to the glass (some say hideous) areas of the Salesforce Tower, the city’s architecture has something for everyone.

Buildings often cited as the most popular – or at least most photographed – of residents include the creepy stick-style Italian William Westerfeld Victorian on the corner of Alamo Square, the Painted Ladies on the other side of the park , the copper-green Sentinel Flatiron Building on Columbus, or even the polarizing Transamerica pyramid that shadows them.

One building that is rarely mentioned but should be at the top of this list (according to this author) is a bewitching Hindu monastery on a quiet residential street in Cow Hollow – the Vedanta Temple. And in addition to its fascinating architecture, the building has a strange, bloody history and claims another title – the first Hindu temple in the western world.

The architecture of the temple at 2963 Webster St. is breathtaking and confusing at the same time, but somehow works. The brick-red minarets on the roof are reminiscent of Russian architecture, which is similar to the gold-domed Russian Orthodox Church in the Richmond District, while the crenellated European castle tower looks almost medieval. Below, the Victorian Queen Anne wood panels and bay windows on the first two floors are much more in line with the block of flats, and the Moorish columns and balconies in between would look more like New Orleans home.

The Vedanta Society, 2963 Webster St., San Francisco, California.

Andrew Chamings

This apparent mishmash of styles was intended, as the Vedanta Society describes the vision on its website, “The various towers, typically Indian, Mughal and Western, are to symbolize the harmony of all religions and the pointed arches and domes the aspiration to the top”. of the spiritual seeker. ”

Vedanta is one of the six systems of Hindu philosophy, and in 1905 the society decided that the first Hindu temple in the United States should be built in San Francisco. At the direction of Swami Trigunatita, who was a student of an Indian Hindu mystic from the 19th century and who spent a few years in San Francisco, the architect Joseph A. Leonard built the first two floors in 1905 years later.

Another visiting student, Swami Vivekananda, said of San Francisco, “If you stand on Market Street and wait for the car while meditating in the hustle and bustle around you, are you calm and peaceful?”

The interior of the temple was designed to bring this calm to the San Franciscans. But in order to attract new believers, the flamboyant towers were supposed to get residents talking about the religion’s new outpost, and those terraced towers filled the skyline when the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition was a few blocks down the hill and that Profile of Hinduism in San Francisco.

The front page of the San Francisco Examiner, December 28, 1914.

The front page of the San Francisco Examiner, December 28, 1914.

San Francisco Examiner

A year earlier, the temple attracted unwanted attention when a deadly bomb attack took place in the monastery. The story goes that Swami Trigunatita held a Sunday service three days after Christmas 1914 when a The former student named Varvara came in with a hatbox under his arm. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly happened, but according to some reports, the 14-year-old hit the side three times in the monastery and it exploded. According to other reports, the boy fired the explosives at the teacher. The student died on the scene, Trigunatita was seriously injured. Based on the empathy of the religion teacher, he is said to have asked on the way to the hospital: “Where is Varvara, poor guy?” Trigunatita died two weeks later of his injuries.

The Vedanta Society, 2963 Webster St., San Francisco, California.

The Vedanta Society, 2963 Webster St., San Francisco, California.

Andrew Chamings

The bombing was used in the typically racist fashion of the era to stir up fear of the East Temple in the quiet block. The following day, the San Francisco Examiner cited “An Explosion Amidst Occultists” and wrote about how a “mad follower of Vedantic teachings comes into the cult temple with a death rocket hidden in a hat while the service is on.”

This scaremongering and otherness of the new community apparently had its intended effect on the locals. In the 1960s, a man named Walter de Vecchi wrote a memoir about growing up in the Marina as a child, describing the temple as “the greatest, scariest, scariest oddity in all of Cow Hollow”.

“I always tried to forget it!” de Vecchi wrote, adding, “Once during the late afternoon service, a fanatic set off a bomb and the swami died from the trauma a week later. Not even the greatest clown among us ever joked about his strange signs and magical symbols; not even the bravest of us died to step on our haunted, threatening soil. “

The Temple of Vedanta at Webster and Filbert in Cow Hollow, 1915.

The Temple of Vedanta at Webster and Filbert in Cow Hollow, 1915.

Archive / Unknown

This 1915 photo is nominally a commemoration of the fire crew next door celebrating the introduction of cars instead of horses into their outfit, but it’s the weird architecture of the Vedanta Temple leaning against the steam that turns the spotlight on.

The beautiful building on the corner of Webster and Filbert weathered two major earthquakes and a bombing and still functions as a Hindu school today, but apart from its history, it’s worth a visit for the architecture alone, which San Francisco has nothing to do with compare is.

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