A Heritage of Comfort in Hayes Valley

Painted portrait of the building: the McRoskey building at Market and Gough Streets, oil on canvas, by Jung Han Kim, November, 2011

By Larry Cronander

One of the oldest and most respected manufacturers in San Francisco, and one with a direct connection to Hayes Valley, is the McRoskey Mattress Company. Although technically just outside the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association’s boundaries, McRoskey has considered itself a part of the Hayes Valley community since the company built its landmark building at 1687 Market Street in 1925.

Today McRoskey mattresses are still handcrafted to order in San Francisco. The Company is now in the third generation of ownership by the McRoskey family (the fourth and fifth generations also work for the company). McRoskey maintains every order ever placed with it since 1921, and has customers all over the world.

When It All Began

McRoskey Mattress Company was founded in 1899 (112 years ago) by two brothers, Edward and Leonard McRoskey, who came from St. Louis by way of Chicago to sell to mattress manufacturers mattress- making equipment they had invented. Being unsuccessful in this, they decided to manufacture mattresses themselves in San Francisco. Their first factory in the City was located in a flatiron building at the corner of 16th and Harrison Streets, which still exists. Their first retail location was at 1506 Market Street near Van Ness.

Edward McRoskey (far left) and the Company staff, 1904

San Francisco in 1899 was a boomtown. With a population of over 400,000, it was the largest city west of the Rockies, thriving after the Gold Rush, the Comstock Lode silver bonanza, and the Transcontinental Railroad. It was the West Coast’s center of shipping, construction, finance and commerce.

In those days, there were literally dozens of local mattress manufacturers, but most were in the area destroyed by the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906. McRoskey was the only mattress manufacturer in San Francisco to survive the disaster, and with 225,000 people homeless, for months afterwards, crowds would gather around the factory and purchase any mattress as soon as it was completed. Everyone needed a new bed!

The brand new McRoskey Mattress Company building, 1925

Market and Gough in the roaring twenties was known as “the Hub” because four streetcar lines converged at the intersection. Gough Street did not go through to Mission Street then (that happened in 1949) and the Gough Street side of the building today was the McRoskey parking lot. Where Fast Frame now is was the Hub Pharmacy, the only 24-hour drug store in the City. The Gaffney Building on Market Street, which now houses the Green Arcade and Bedroom and More, was a meat market, grocery and feed store. The Flax building was the Hermann Safe Company.

Making Mattresses on Market Street

McRoskey mattresses and box springs were built in the Market Street building for 85 years, from 1925 to 2010. In 2010, the manufacturing facility was moved to the foot of Potrero Hill in the Central Waterfront District. The showroom remains to this day in the building at 1687 Market Street. The building is to be included in the new Market Street Masonry Landmark Historic District.

Drop by the Market Street showroom anytime and lie down for a snooze, or to see McRoskey history firsthand. Learn more about McRoskey Mattress Company at www.McRoskey.com.

(For the sake of full disclosure, Larry works for the McRoskey Mattress Company.)

A McRoskey billboard at Eighth and Market, 1905. Note the Hall of Records in the background, later destroyed in the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906