The story of William Augustus Merralls (1852–1914) and Temperance Laura Clarke Neely Merralls (1865–1930) during their life together. Related posts and information on main Merralls page. This post from 2018 was updated in 2023 to reflect new research.
By Amy O’Hair
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. 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.
As part of the next meeting of the Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project, an original short monologue will be presented. Saturday 10 December 2016 at the Sunnyside Conservatory, 3 – 5 pm, with a social hour to follow. Newly discovered materials about the Merralls also presented during the meeting.
The Sunnyside Conservatory is this neighborhood’s only city landmark, and one of San Francisco’s historical treasures. 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. Some of the palms and monkey puzzle trees are more than a century old.
Who was the man who built it? William A. Merralls (1852-1914) was a prolific inventor and inveterate entrepreneur, and built the unusual octagonal structure about 1902. His wide range of hobbies extended to collecting exotic plants, and this was an oasis of lush beauty in which to show them off.
After coming to the US from England as a young man, Merralls, with some training in engineering and a restless, creative mind, turned his hand to everything from machinery for extracting gold to refrigerators to automobile starters. He registered over twenty patents in as many years. He may have picked a modest neighborhood to settle down in, but his ideas and his ambitions knew few limits.
Ad from SF Call for Merralls Milling Machinery. 23 May 1905. From newspapers.com.