Documenting the Mother's Building for Women's History Month

by Cynthia Audet
March 27, 2017

March is Women’s History Month and to honor local women’s history and female artists everywhere, CyArk headed across the Bay to San Francisco to document the historic Mother’s Building.

Tucked away inside the San Francisco Zoo near the Sculpture Learning Plaza, the Mother’s Building is the sort of place that once you walk up the front steps, you find yourself immediately excited and curious, slowly turning around again and again to take it all in—the Italian Renaissance architecture, the 1930s mosaics, the flowered wood paneling and the amazingly detailed murals that cover all four of the interior walls.

Built in 1925, and designed by noted architect George W. Kelham, the Mother’s Building was the only building on the west coast at the time solely dedicated to the comfort of mothers. It’s a significant building for a variety of reasons: its unique dedication to mothers, being home to some of the best examples in San Francisco of Works Progress Administration (WPA) art, and for the fact that all of the art at the Mother’s Building was created by female artists.   

Today, the Mother’s Building is cracking and crumbling, a normal but unfortunate condition of age and sandy soil. Without major renovations soon, the building and the historic mosaics and murals that adorn its walls could be lost forever.  

CyArk, always on the lookout for endangered historical sites and ways to give back to our local community, was happy to partner with the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department who manages the Mother’s Building in partnership with the Zoo, to digitally capture this important part of local history. The documentation efforts will guarantee this unique historic structure will be secure into the future, continuing to ignite curiosity and wonder in current and future generations.

CyArk would like to thank the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, the San Francisco Zoo and the National Trust for Historic Preservation for their assistance and continued support of the CyArk mission. 

Photographing the mosaics
The CyArk team
Mother's Building