Sutter & Stockton (1948-1968)

The main book room. On the far wall and lower stairwell you can see some of Maybeck's gothic decorations (1909)
The main book room on 11 Apr 1950. On the far wall and lower stairwell you can see some of Maybeck’s gothic decorations (1909)

In 1931, Paul Elder Jr. began working in his father’s bookstore. He gradually assumed management roles as his father’s health declined, becoming president and manager in 1943. Paul Jr. was joined in the business by his wife Eloise (1909-1973). Eloise was a former artist, and she coordinated the continuing series of book readings and art exhibits at the Paul Elder Gallery.

After many months of ill health, Paul Elder Sr. died on 23 January 1948. Four months later, on the first of June, Paul Elder & Company moved for the final time, a block-and-a-half away to the southwest corner of Sutter & Stockton. Paul Jr. and Eloise were putting their own stamp on the fifty-year-old business.

The front entrance, as it appeared on 8 March 1951
The front entrance, as it appeared on 8 March 1951

The new bookstore was a marked departure from the previous shops, where atmosphere had been the overriding concern. Gone were the smaller rooms, dark walls, and an Arts & Crafts emphasis on unpainted wood. Post-war Mid-century Modern ruled the day: architect Bolton White created a modern, open design, using extensive street-front windows and a bright—one might even say gaudy—color scheme.

As happened in 1909 and 1920, some furnishings were brought along from the old stores in a nod to the long history of Paul Elder & Company. Two of Bernard Maybeck’s carved screens from the 1909 store were installed at the base of the stairway, and a row of gothic windows from the 1920 store were placed on the wall above. The heavy wood bookcases and medieval chandeliers were no longer wanted.

The British Book Center visits Paul Elder Jr at the Sutter-Stockton store
The British Book Center visits Paul Elder Jr and his wife Eloise at the Sutter-Stockton store

In October 1968, Paul Elder Jr sold the two remaining bookstores to Brentano’s. “My wife Eloise and I have been working too hard, too long,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. He decided to sell “because of an accumulation of things: the field is overcrowded, the competition is tremendous… automation calls for big-business organization.” He wouldn’t say what he had in mind, but “it won’t be another bookstore. But I’ll be enjoying myself. I always do.”

A puppet show conducted by Baron Wolff Erhardt Anton George Trutzschler von Falkenstein (1902-1989), popularly known as "Wolo."
12 Oct 1948: a puppet show conducted by Baron Wolff Erhardt Anton George Trutzschler von Falkenstein (1902-1989), alias “Wolo”
window shoppers 1
A carefully posed group of male shoppers, each with his own personally styled fedora
Sutter & Stockton today: the Hyatt Union Square tower.
Sutter & Stockton today: the Hyatt Union Square tower.