A Look Back in History: Mason Street Mural

In the October 1923 edition of “San Francisco Water,” a publication of Spring Valley Water Company (SVWC), the lead article is titled “A Home of Our Own.” That was the month that SVWC moved into the new Mason Street headquarters. In the article, the author outlines the series of locations that the company occupied from its inception in 1860 to the Mason Street opening day. This was the first self-owned HQ since the last one had burned down in the fire that followed the 1906 earthquake.

The Spring Valley Water Company Moved into 425 Mason Street in October of 1923.

The article also describes in quite some detail various elements of this Willis Polk building. For instance, the following is a description of the first floor:

“The first floor, given over to the water sales department, consists of a single, large, well-lighted room handsomely finished. The walls and ceiling are warmly tinted; the wainscoting is of travernel marble; the floor is of Napolcou gray marble with a border of black Belgian; the furniture is of oak. Over the elevators on the north side is a mural painting by Maynard Dixon, and a large clock framed in a sculptural setting, this latter the work of Miss Lucille Schoenfeld.”

The Maynard Dixon Mural at 425 Mason Street. Scudding Rain and Clouds with a Water Temple in the Background.

“The mural painted by Maynard Dixon for the new building of Spring Valley Water Company shows the Water Temple at Sunol set in a characteristic watershed landscape, a synthetic landscape that embodies the features found in Alameda and San Mateo counties, whence Spring Valley obtains most of its water supply.

“The Water Temple makes an accent of light among the gracefully rolling and barren brown California hills. These hills become golden as the sun sinks lower into the west.”

Close-up of Schoenfeld Clock Case.

Note that Lucille Schoenfeld also collaborated with Leo Lentelli on Designs for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

The description of the first floor continues. “On the wall is the Company’s seal, an Indian kneeling to gather water flowing from a spring, with the motto ‘Thirst no more.’ This large room is lighted by windows on the south and east, and by a skylight over a small mezzanine at the northwest corner. There is a special ventilating and heating system for this room.”

Spring Valley Water Company Seal – “Thirst No More”.

As the author stated, “The new building is everything that a water company’s main headquarters should be. No down-to-the-minute device for the dispatch of business and tile comfort of employees has been overlooked. And while consulting utility at every step, Willis Polk did not forget beauty.”

425 Mason Entrance – Sculptural Detail of Water Flowing.