History

The California-Nevada Annual Conference established the Waller Center in 2012 at the site of the former Hamilton United Methodist Church, which closed in 2008. The Waller Center operates as a site of the Board of Camping and Retreat Ministries.

Organized in 1901 by the Methodist Episcopal Church (North), Hamilton had a long history of service in the Haight-Ashbury/Cole Valley neighborhood. Named after area Bishop John W. Hamilton, the congregation purchased property on Waller Street in 1903 and finished a new building of concrete and stone on December 10th, 1905. Five months later, the concrete and stone building was one of only a few structures in the neighborhood knocked down by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Hamilton Methodist Episcopal Church in 1930

Hamilton M. E. Church in 1930

Architect and civil engineer Julia Morgan completed work on the present sanctuary in 1908 in an eclectic mix of Spanish Mission, New England Colonial, and neoclassical styles. Morgan added a gymnasium and offices in the Craftsman style in 1923, bringing the church complex to its present form.

Founded as a ministry of Hamilton Church in 1961, the Earl Paltenghi Youth Center inhabited the building for many years before becoming a United Way Agency. The Paltenghi Youth Center commissioned the mural facing Belvedere Street, “The Spirit of Youth in America,” in 1977 from artist Charles D. Lobdell with funds from the San Francisco Art Commission. 

The Hamilton Family Center began as another church ministry in 1985, becoming the first family homeless shelter in San Francisco. Established as a separate non-profit in 1987, the Family Center hired health workers, counselors, and eventually built transitional and permanent supportive housing offsite. The Family Center maintained an emergency shelter at the church until 2006, when it moved to 260 Golden Gate Ave, where it continues in existence as the only 24-hour family emergency shelter in San Francisco.

The Haight-Ashbury Food Program began serving hot meals out of Hamilton UMC in 1983. For nine years, the program operated a job training program preparing low-income adults for employment in the food service industry. Though the hot meal and job training programs have ceased operation, the Food Program continues to operate a food pantry out of the building.

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