ap-ART-ment is taking place in the Ben Hur Apartments building in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. According to the website for the Uptown Tenderloin Historic District (All or part of 33 blocks roughly bounded by Market, McAllister, Golden Gate, Larkin, Geary, Taylor, Ellis Sts.- listed as an historic district in February of 2009), the Ben Hur Apartments were built in 1926. The apartment building was built with 69 2-room units. The owner and builder was Louis Johnson. As for the building specs: 7B stories; steel frame and reinforced concrete structure; stucco facade, chariots on spandrel panels, 5-and 6-story bay windows, cornice; 2-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; vestibule: arched entry surround with decorative panels, marble floor, decorative side and ceiling moldings; lobby: decorative column order with beamed ceiling; alterations: none.
As stated above, what makes this building very unique are the chariot panels marking its facade. The building was built the year after the release of the 1925 silent film version of Ben-Hur, the third highest grossing silent film of all time. With its over the top sets (exoticism anyone)and mesmerizing chariot scene (disturbingly, I don't know how many horses were injured or killed during the filming because it is quite a messy scene), I can only imagine that Ben-Hur was on the minds and lips of many people in 1925 and 1926. The fact that a year after the movie's release a building was named in its honor, is testament to the film's influence at the time.