In Prohibition-era San Francisco, bootleggers routed their liquor to speakeasies via tunnels underneath Barbary Coast, the city’s once-thriving red-light district. One of those passages led to the basement of 560 Pacific Avenue, a 1910 timber-frame structure that began its life as a supper club, saloon, and dance hall (and later served as a showroom and warehouse for the Amtico flooring company). Today that tunnel, long since sealed off, lies beneath the more rule-abiding neighborhood of Jackson Square, where spiffy law firms, antiques dealers, and ad agencies make their money in the daylight hours.
The latest renovation of 560 Pacific, by the San Francisco–based practice Huntsman Architectural Group, is an understated bookend to the block’s boisterous history. In January 2012 the creative branding agency Tolleson left a diminutive office a few blocks away and moved into the building’s top floor, tripling their original space. Principal and creative director Steve Tolleson selected the address, whose airy interior is dominated by an exposed-timber roof structure, in part for its unvarnished atmosphere—a favorite quality of his former office, also in a wood-and-masonry building, which the Huntsman group had adapted in 1998. “Once you go into a brick-and-timber building, it becomes part of your culture,” says Tolleson. “There’s a warmth to it.”