Aeroplanes, automobiles, and alternative medicine: The love story of William and Temperance Merralls

Photo from prospectus, Merralls Safety Aeroplane Company, 1910. Courtesy Allan Merralls.

The story of William Augustus Merralls (1852–1914) and Temperance Laura Clarke Neely Merralls (1865–1930) during their life together. Related posts on main Merralls page.

William Augustus and Temperance Laura Merralls were remarkable and eccentric residents of early Sunnyside. William left a legacy to the neighborhood—the Sunnyside Conservatory, a city landmark on Monterey Boulevard, which he built about 1902.

When they married in 1909, they were both in middle age, William a widower, Temperance a divorcee. William’s inventions were innovative, and wide-ranging; Temperance brought an interest in alternative medicine and healing. They were devoted to each other, but had just five years together. Rare photographs from their last year together are first seen in this article.

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1914c. Temperance Laura and William Merralls, with unknown woman in bed. Location unknown. Courtesy Hartsough family.

The match was anchored in a deep love, but it was also a meeting of minds. They shared interests and beliefs, rooted both in the Baptist faith and a complete confidence that human progress was positively furthered by new discoveries and ideas.

Dreaming on Sunnyside Avenue
Living in the house at 258 Sunnyside Avenue (now Monterey Blvd)—with its extensive grounds surrounding the Conservatory, the couple were outliers in an otherwise working-class neighborhood.

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1905c. Portion of panorama, altered to show Merralls’ house, Conservatory, and grounds on Sunnyside Ave (now Monterey). Original: Western Neighborhoods Project.

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A Bridge between Neighborhoods: the Santa Rosa Underpass

OpenSFHistory.org

A now-lost bit of infrastructure connected two neighborhoods for six decades, an underpass below the Southern Pacific railroad tracks that extended Santa Rosa Avenue to meet Circular Avenue and Congo Street.

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1927, Santa Rosa Bridge. Circular Ave at Congo Street. Southern Pacific railroad tracks running at crest of embankment. Houses on left located on Flood Ave. OpenSFHistory.org wnp36.03489

In the usual way of things then, Sunnysiders asked for this relatively minor, yet vital link for many years before the city built it. From the neighborhood’s beginning in 1891 and for decades to come, Sunnyside was hemmed in.[1]  Sutro Forest blocked the west, Phelan Ave was not yet built through on the south, there was no road over the railroad tracks on the east, and no passage over Mt Davidson on the north. You came in via Chenery or San Jose Road, and left the same way, usually on the electric streetcar.    Read more

The Sunnyside Crossing

SFMTA.photoshelter.com

Although a sparsely populated neighborhood during the decades around the turn of the last century, Sunnyside had both a streetcar—San Francisco’s first electric car—and the Southern Pacific San Francisco-San Jose steam train running along its eastern border. The two lines crossed at an oblique angle, just south of Monterey blvd and Joost Ave—an area now disappeared by the excavations for I-280. It was referred to as the Sunnyside crossing, and was a notorious site of fatalities and injuries during these years.

The Sunnyside crossing, 1912. Looking southwest, down San Jose Ave. Altered to show route of Southern Pacific steam train and SFSM Electric streetcar. Gatehouse marked blue. Sunnyside Powerhouse smokestack marked on right hand side. Photo courtesy SFMTA sfmta.photoshelter.com.
The Sunnyside crossing, 1912. Looking southwest, down San Jose Ave. Altered to show route of Southern Pacific steam train and SFSM Electric Railway streetcar. Gatekeeper’s house marked blue. Sunnyside Powerhouse smokestack marked on right hand side. Photo courtesy SFMTA sfmta.photoshelter.com.

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