The Department of Personnel and Economic Business on January 24, of the last year, No. 217, forwarded to me a copy of a letter from the Ober-Procurator of the Holy Synod to the Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs No. 263 requesting the fulfillment of the described demands of the Synod on the subject of the purchase in San Francisco of a parcel of land for building there an Orthodox church.
The Most Holy Synod did not indicate the sum, that is considered as allocated for building the church. It is unknown to me also if there will be a need at the church for the Bishop and clergy. Therefore I have difficulty in selecting the lot; I transmit the information to the Most Holy Synod for them to make a decision; also considerations concerning the value of land in San Francisco and also the cost of building a church. This will enable the Synod to calculate the necessary sum for the described subject and to supply me with definite instructions for the mission entrusted to me.
With this is enclosed a list of eight designated lots of land, and the dimensions of each one. All these lots are suitable for building an Orthodox church; the selection depends on the sum which will be allocated and the size of the building. The area of each lot is shown on the enclosed map of San Francisco with designations of B, C, D, E, F, H, I, and K. Letter A is designated as the location of the private building occupied by the church at the present time.
To make clear the location of each lot, it would be useful in my opinion, to even make a brief description of the city itself.
The line O-P represents the main street Market Street, which divides San Francisco into two parts. The length of the street is about 3 miles. The center of the city can be considered point L, where the Palace Hotel is located; which was built at a cost of 5 million dollars in gold. In the direction from P to O on the right side of Market is located the best part of the city. The blocks between PL and Montgomery St. (across from the Palace Hotel), and also on the left side of Market (in the direction from P to O), with the exception of the area outlined by an arc from China Basin to Rineon Point, is the business district of the city; all kinds of sales offices, warehouses, factories and companies are located there.
The position of blocks in the arc from China Basin to Ricon Hill is explained below. The right side of Market St. from Montgomery to Van Ness Avenue is occupied almost exclusively by private houses. This part of the city is considerably elevated, consists all of hills, the bottom of which curves by the line MN with a slope to the inlet and to the Golden Gate where there is an entrance to San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean.
The blocks in this part of the city are elliptical (Y6). The highest point is 550 feet above sea level and the houses of rich people, the best Protestant churches are located there; the land in these blocks is very expensive. Van Ness Avenue comprises, it could be said, the finished part of the city, since outside of this street there are a lot of empty lots. There are indicated on the plan by the color green, next to Van Ness Avenue is Lafayette Square, Alta Plaza, Hamilton Square and Alamo Square and they are, in reality, only planned squares. Up until now they are hills of sand surrounded by desert-like places, with poor vegetation. Part of Van Ness Avenue, closer to Market is occupied by very nice houses; but as you go farther from Market the buildings are more scarce. Ten blocks separate our church (A) from that street; in the present condition of the city, these blocks are not suitable for transportation. (Every block on the right side of Market St. in the direction from P to O consists of 6 square lots 137 feet each; on the left side of Market the blocks are twice as large. The dimension of the lot, 137 feet (a fifty vara lot) came from the Mexican Government after the requisition from them of California. A vara is almost equal to a yard or a meter; therefore a fifty vara lot is a square lot of 50 yards or meters that comprise a square of 137 feet). Behind the church building there are no buildings. Presidio Reservation consists of a field of 800 acres (about 150 disiatin), which was kept for a military post for San Francisco. At the center of the field is a barracks built for 300 soldiers.
Parcel No. 1 (K on the plan) with its size can be used to build a church; it is not expensive and it can be reached from all parts of the city a horse-railroad passes it on the side. This parcel is cheaper than the others; as can be seen on the plan, it is not located in the best part of the city; therefore it should be considered only in case it is decided to build only a church without a house for the Bishop and clergy.
Two lots No. 2 and 3 (H and I on the plan) also are suitable for the church without a house, or at least with a house for only one priest. The blocks where these lots are located, are in the curve of China Basin and Rincon Hill, they have a special locations they are on a hill (Rincon Hill), and even though they are in the business district there are many good private houses there. Both parcels are located at a small South Park. In the blocks of Rincon Hill there are no companies, or factories, and therefor that part of the city is kept quite clean. A the bottom of the hill, a 3rd St. horse-railroad passes and the connection with the downtown is quite convenient..
Four lots No. 4, 5, 6, and 7 (on the plan C,D,E,F) are located in the best part of the city and they can be used for building a church, and also houses for the Bishop and clergy. Lot E has some advantages over the others, since it has a finished and good house, with is suitable for the Bishop and one priest.
Lot No. 9 (B on the plan), in my opinion, is the most suitable, for the planned goal. It is located in a good part of San Francisco and because of its size, houses for the Bishop and two priests could be built on it: besides there remains land 100 feet long by 39 feet wide to build the church.
Lets assume, that this lot would be acquired for building the church. I asked an architect to make the plan enclosed herewith. According to its size, the Orthodox Church in San Francisco would have enough room for the parishioners, to satisfy the ceremonial needs of the services to the Lord, and to accommodate the Bishops cathedra in case the Most Holy Synod would wish to keep it here. Without a doubt a church built according to the enclosed plan, could not be compared to the Orthodox churches in Russia and in Western Europe; but since the American architects here do not know such types of buildings at all, it is therefore not possible for me to present a better plan. The building of the church on this plan is 77 feet in length and 40 feet in width; the building is made of wood on a stone foundation, which according to usage accepted in the United States can be used also for the Sunday School and meetings of the Society (the local Slavic Society). (The information about this society was reported by me to the Department of Personnel in my report of August 28, 1876, No. 151). In the church there would easily be room for about 400 people, counting one square arshin for each one. It will cost about 20 thousand dollars in gold to build such a church. It is understood naturally that this sum does not include the Iconostas; this can not be made in America; it has to be sent from Russia.
Concerning the plan for the church in San Francisco I would allow myself to make the following remark: if the Most Holy Synod will decide to build an Orthodox church here, it would be better to send a plan for it from St. Petersburg; adjusting it to the lot size which is included with this report. I think that the church, like that one which is built on Kamenyi Ostrov, in the park of Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Catherina Michailovna would be the most suitable here in San Francisco since in its architectural simplicity it corresponds to the local Protestant churches. As much as I can remember that church on Kamenyi Ostrov is made of bricks. Here any stone building is twice as expensive as a wooden one, and therefore the plan has to be made for a wooden building.
The city taxes for lots in general in California are not defined positively by the law. Value is determined yearly by a special office (the Assessors Office for the City and County of San Francisco), which is guided by the planned expenses for the improvement of the city when deciding the tax rate. These taxes are somewhere between 2 1/2 to 3% of the value. This is the amount of the tax for private property in San Francisco. The land that is occupied by churches, without regard of religious affiliation, is taxed considerably less it never reaches more than 2% and besides this the land occupied by the church at the time of the 2% valuation collection of the city tax, is evaluated by %40 less. This way lot No., 9 as long as it belongs to a private person, is taxed higher according to the assessed value of 32,000 dollars from 812.5 dollars to 975 dollars a year. If it would be occupied by the church, then the city taxes of %2 that normally would be collected would not by of 32,500 but of 19,500 dollars, which will result in 390 dollars a year. The buildings that would be erected there on the lot would be assessed separately; churches and clergy houses with them are equally reduced by 40%. It would be necessary to not, that besides the usual yearly tax, there are also additional one-time taxes to build a street, a sidewalk or a canal for a sewer outlet. San Francisco is a new city; therefore sidewalks are also made along many streets; the streets are covered with stones and pipes for sewers are laid while the buildings are being constructed. A one time tax for example for lot No. 9 comprises 1276 dollars.
The Slavic Society, to whom I have announced at their general meeting, the intention of the Most Holy Synod to build a church here, has decided to accept in their expenses the payment of the city taxes, and also the upkeep of the church building and the houses that belong to it. With this I feel obligated to report to the Department, that there is no reason to have any doubt that the Society will fulfill fully the promises that they accept upon themselves. This obligation could be even easier for the Society to fulfill, since the church now has some income from the collection even though it is unsuitable for visitation by its parishioners. When the church is located in the central area of the city, the income from the collection plate will increase. Since the Society takes on itself the expenses for the upkeep of the church, then by the example of the parish churches in Russia, it seems to me, that the church out to give them the right of control over the church income through a church elder elected by them.
In conformity to all circumstances described above, I have the honor to present for the decision of the Department the following conclusion. After the allocation of the noted sum to build an Orthodox church in San-Francisco, there will be no additional expense to the Most Holy Synod for the upkeep of the church, nor for the upkeep of church buildings, if these will be necessary. Considering a) that a smaller amount will be allocated, the expense of building the Orthodox church in San-Francisco would include:
Lot (H or J according to the plan) 15000 dollars
Cost of building the church 20000 "
House for the priest 8000 "
Other expenses 2000 "
Total 45000 dollars
b) with a larger allocation the expenses will be as follows:
Lot No. 9 (B on plan) 32500 dollars
Cost of building the church 20000 "
House for the Bishop 8000 "
2 Houses for two priests 16000 "
Other expenses 2000 "
Total 78500 dollars
In conclusion I must explain to the Department, that with the differences in American life it is almost necessary to purchase a larger lot for building a church with the idea that there will be some distance between the church building and neighbors houses. Here in America in general the authorities do not look either for stability, or for the character of buildings in the cities. We have it by law, that a tavern or restaurant may be opened only a certain distance from the church. But here there is no such thing and therefore no one will prohibit anyone to open a so-called saloon (as a drinking place is called) next to the church. In view of that it would be better to spend less for the decoration of the church but to purchase a larger lot. The lots designated in the list as B, C, D, E, & F, can be said with certainty to be satisfactory to these needs in that respect.
The original is signed by the Consul General V. Veletskii
Correct with the original
Department manager (Signature not clear)
For section chief A. Chalazev.
From The Right Reverend Nestor, Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska. 1879-1882. Selected letters, documents & Diary. Compiled, Translated and Edited by George Soldatow. Vol. I. AARDM Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota .