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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Some photos from ‘Raise Your Gladsome Voices’ at Sunnyside Conservatory

1908. California Historical Society.

As part of the Special Holiday Meeting on Saturday 2 December 2017, Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project presented a short play ‘Raise Your Gladsome Voices’ about the Glen Park women involved in the the first suffrage march in the US, written by Amy O’Hair and performed by Valerie Fachman and Haley Roth-Brown. The meeting and social began with a talk by Evelyn Rose about the subject of the drama, Glen Park activist and suffragist, Johanna Pinther.

“I was not altogether convinced … about women and the vote.”
“What is the women’s vote if you haven’t got but a dribble coming out of the taps?!”

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W.A. Merralls: Inventor and Entrepreneur of Sunnyside

WA Merralls, US patent no.827745

Sunnyside Conservatory is this neighborhood’s only city landmark, and certainly our premier historical treasure. People who have never heard of Sunnyside come from all over the Bay Area to get married or celebrate other events in its beautifully restored building and grounds. But who was the man who built it? Some history has been written about him, but not all of it has been complete or accurate; the roles his two wives played in the story have also not been fully told.

Sunnyside Conservatory, Monterey Blvd, San Francisco CA. Photo: Amy O'Hair.
Sunnyside Conservatory, Monterey Blvd, San Francisco CA. 2016 Photo: Amy O’Hair.

[See this page for all things related to Merralls and the Sunnyside Conservatory.]

William Augustus Merralls with his first wife Lizzie A. Merralls built the Sunnyside Conservatory about 1902. William was a prolific and creative inventor, turning his hand to everything from machinery for extracting gold to refrigerators to automobile starters, and registering over twenty patents in as many years. (Here is a full list.) The Conservatory was a special place to keep and display the many special plants he acquired on his travels.[i] He may have picked a modest neighborhood to settle down in, but his ideas and his ambitions knew few limits. Read more