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Categories FAQ

Do any furnishings from Elder’s bookstores still exist?

Bernard Maybeck designed wooden furniture and medieval-style chandeliers for the 1906 store on Van Ness. These were moved to 239 Grant in 1909, and later to 239 Post in 1921. Maybeck also designed Gothic-inspired window screens for 239 Grant (you can see some of them at the top of the stairwell); those pieces were moved to 239 Post in 1921. Only one or two pieces were then moved to the modern Sutter & Stockton store in 1948.

The question is whether any of the furniture, chandeliers, or window screens have survived. Personally, I doubt it. I have not heard of anyone who claims to own them. Arts & Crafts was out of fashion in 1948 so it’s likely all those pieces were discarded. Of course, it’s possible some have survived but their owners no longer know their provenance.

Categories FAQ

Welcome to the new

Today I am launching the newly-redesigned I have added several new features, including a blog, biographies of notable people and frequently asked questions. Please let me know what you think!

Categories FAQ

Do any of Elder’s bookstores still exist?

No. However, four buildings that once housed Elder’s stores still exist. Here are the details:

  • Mills Building, northeast corner of Bush & Montgomery, San Francisco. Elder’s shop was a room on the mezzanine. The building was burned out in the 1906 earthquake and fire, but the shell was saved and the interior rebuilt. The Mills Building still stands today.
  • 238 Post, San Francisco. Destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. The structure built in its place, numbered 250 Post, became the longtime home of Gump’s, the famous luxury furnishings store. Gump’s moved to 135 Post in 1995; today, a Zara store occupies 250 Post.
  • 22 Chapala, Santa Barbara. Demolished.
  • 1203 State at Anapamu, Santa Barbara. Uncertain, but probably not any of the existing buildings at this location.
  • Bush & Van Ness, San Francisco. Demolished. Now the site of a five-story hotel called the Calista Organic Hotel.
  • 43-45 East 19th St, 4th floor, New York City. The building has been converted to residential apartments, with a restaurant on the street level.
  • 239 Grant, San Francisco. Built in 1909 as the “Paul Elder Building,” it still stands at the corner of Grant and Campton Place, now numbered 233 Grant.
  • Booth at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Taken down at the end of the fair in November 1915.
  • 239 Post, San Francisco. Now numbered 237 Post, the building is a Graff Diamonds store.
  • Sutter & Stockon, San Francisco. Demolished circa 1969. Now the site of the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
  • Mills Building. Paul Jr. opened a small satellite shop at 228 Montgomery Street in order to serve the downtown business community. This retail space still exists today, to the left of the main entrance .

What is a tomoyé?

The Japanese word tomoe () refers to a comma-shaped symbol. There are hundreds of traditional Japanese tomoe designs. The most common variant is the three-tomoe design called mitsudomoe (三つ巴), which, according to Japanese tradition, creates the harmony of a perfect circle. Here are some examples of tomoe, taken from the book Japanese Design Motifs, by Fumie Adachi, Dover, 1972.

Examples of tomoe
Examples of tomoe
More examples
More examples

The tomoe has been a favorite symbol in Japanese heraldry for centuries. Today, the mitsudomoe has become popular with corporations and taiko drum troupes.

Elder first used the mitsudomoe design in 1900, which he anglicized as the word “tomoyé” (sometimes with the acute accent, sometimes without), and it became a logo of sorts for him. He used it in many books and magazines over the next two decades. When he hired John Henry Nash to run the new in-house printing shop in 1903, it was christened “The Tomoyé Press”.

Although it is unknown why Elder chose the tomoyé, he likely wanted to emphasize the connection between the Orient and his own book arts. Below are just a few of the many tomoyé marks Paul Elder used over his career.

Some of Elder's many tomoye marks
Some of Elder’s many tomoye marks
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