Original Coppa's Restaurant was a legendary bohemian gathering place in the Montgomery (Monkey) Block where the Transamerica Building now stands. Its crowning glory were the wild murals, created by the artists and writers who made the place their second home sitting for hours at the center table in a long, narrow room with 21 tables.
The leader of the San Francisco Bohemians was Porter Garnett, a writer, editor, designer and co-creator, with Gelett Burgess, of the 1895 literary magazine The Lark. The group also included the painters Xavier Martinez, Ernest Peixetto, Maynard Dixon, poets and writers George Sterling, James Hopper, sculptor Robert Aiken, Willis and Dan Polk were also frequently in attendance along with many others. The late evening libations were decidedly misogynistic and never included wives. Women were included on occasion if they were pretty enough, or a current girlfriend for a one time review.
Years earlier, Bohemians frequented the The Bohemian Saloon* in Monterey which had walls covered by Bay Area artists, but they were painted over when the bar was sold. Maybe with this in mind, or because Burgess had started to scribble some of his characters in chalk, Papa Coppa agreed to let them create a permanent mural on the wall. They started on a Sunday in 1905, for a free lunch and all the wine they could drink. Giant lobsters, self-portraits, black cats - a nod to the Chat Noir in Paris, and cryptic quotations in many languages adorned the walls. The Oscar Wilde's quote “Something terrible is about to happen.” was prescient in that less than a year later the terrible did happen. On April 18, 1906, the earthquake and fire spared the Monkey Block, but looters broke into the cafe and destroyed everything. The now legendary mural only lasted one year.
Coppa opened the ruined restaurant and served a last supper by candlelight for the Bohemians and their families who gathered to share earthquake memories. Here is a memory recorded by Xavier Martinez's wife Elsa Whitaker Martinez*;
Papa Coppa tried to recapture the magic with several reincarnations of his cafe in new locations with new murals, but it never regained the same caché.
* Elsie Martinez is quoted from a longer transcript which includes more Coppa stories.
* The Bohemia Saloon was run by Adulpho Sanchez, brother-in-law of Robert Louis Stevenson. Article here!
Title: San Francisco Bay Area writers and artists: oral history transcript
By: Martinez, Elsie, 1890-1984
Copyright: The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000; http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
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WR HEARST PLANS
HOT SPRINGS 1882
A WILLIS POLK GIFT
THE RLS CONNECTION 1896
EARTHQUAKE TALES FROM COPPA
PANDEMIC OF 1889
THE BOMB THAT SHOOK SF
MILAN:CITY OF WATER
POLK ON THE MAP
FEATHERS, FASHION & FLY FISHING
RARE AVIATION FILM - WWI 1914-17
1906 SAN FRANCISCO
WTF FILES - TECHNOLOGICAL
GET ME OUTTA HERE!
NO HORSES, NO TENTS, NO $
DAISY IN FRENCH LITERATURE
DAISY ON FILM!
THE WHITE DEATH
THE SYMBOLISM OF FLOWERS
POSTE DE SECOURS WWI
TRAVEL 1900: LONDON TO PARIS
DAISY: REST IN PEACE
KEITH'S, DRANE'S & KENTUCKY
MOTHER: MISSOURI COMPROMISE