owner welcomes visitors into SF Armory


When it was completed 1914 the imposing armory at the corner of 14th and Mission streets was designed to keep San Francisco safe from an enemy attack. The National Guard stayed until the early 1970s. It left the building all but abandoned as investor after investor failed to turn it into housing or convert it for business uses.

"The windows were all boarded up, there was graffiti on the outside and it was basically left to decay on the interior," owner Peter Acworth said.

Acworth is king of the castle now and owner of, a video production company that specializes in X-rated fetish films.

"I think it was the character of this building that brought me to it; it's a historic landmark in its own right and it has enormous amount of character and we didn't have to do a great deal to the interior to make it suitable for our productions," Acworth said.

Despite opposition from some people in the neighborhood, bought the building in 2007 for $14.5 million and immediately started cleaning-up the outside of the building.

"The building has been a place for homeless and criminal activity and very unsanitary for many years so, I think Peter has done a good job cleaning up the building," David Klein said. Klein was the broker for the building for 15 years.

Klein says that clean up, 24-hour security and the comings and goings of the more than 100 people employed there has lead to a turnaround in the neighborhood.

Now Acworth wants to invite the community into the building by converting the largest part into a community center. Where soldiers once practiced formations, Acworth hopes to see basketball hoops for neighborhood kids and a venue for community events.

The center would be separated from his other business, but there are certainly people who do not seem to mind what is happening next door.

"We've had a continual stream of people come to the front door asking what are doing in there, we want to come look around and we thought why not start hosting public tours," Acworth said.

Two to three times a week, employees lead a tour of the building. It includes visits to the elaborate sets and shows visitors a long forgotten creek that runs directly under the building.

But it is the kinky side of that has visitors raving about a chance to what happens inside the building.

"It's been amazing, it's five levels of just hedonism and interesting architecture and we got to see a live film shoot which is just amazing," tourist Ramona Tumber said.

"I think it's great that something that is controversial and typically viewed negatively by society is helping preserve this building and being open with the community and providing a resource and I think that's great," Acworth said.

Tours are restricted to visitors 18 and older.

Written and produced by Ken Miguel

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