Recapping Our Kerouac@100 Open House

Photo by Michael Hruska
Photo by Michael Hruska

On Saturday, March 12th, the Beat Museum held an Open House in celebration of Kerouac@100. Not only did this event mark an historic occasion—the centenary of Jack Kerouac’s birth—it was also our first large gathering since closing our doors in March of 2020 on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was truly wonderful to see so many of you, our friends and neighbors from North Beach and beyond, coming together again after so long!

Happy Birthday Jack!
Happy Birthday Jack!

We also chose this occasion to announce some exciting news about our future—initiating an ongoing dialogue about our plans to build a new, permanent Beat Museum in the historic Buon Gusto building at 535 Green Street.

Architect Eugene Tssui and Jerry Cimino discuss plans for the future

Architect Eugene Tssui gave two presentations of his ambitious design ideas for a new building, incorporating the existing Buon Gusto Sausage Factory (which is on the National Register of Historic Places), expanding the building into a 4-story structure maximizing the parcel (currently a parking lot), and including an enhanced museum space, a café, and community theatre/auditorium, combined with several below-market-rate apartments. 

Speaking to a packed house, Eugene presented architectural drawings, digital renderings, and explained the details of his vision and its emphasis on seismic stability, environmental sustainability, and that the design should articulate the Beat Generation’s values of tolerance, compassion, and authenticity.

We very much appreciate those who participated in the open discussion following Eugene’s unveiling of a new Beat Museum concept. Nothing is certain at this juncture, except that having the enthusiastic support of the neighborhood before going forward with any design.

Here are some key points from the discussion:

  • Consensus seems to be that the location on Green Street is ideal.
  • People like the idea of incorporating the historical Buon Gusto building into a new design.
  • Several people told us they appreciated our collaborative approach to a new design.
  • The notion of a community theater/performance space received a resounding “yes!”
  • People liked the idea of a coffee shop/jazz café at the entrance level.
  • Adding eight units of below-market-rate housing was a popular idea.
  • The neighborhood approves repurposing a parcel that’s been inactive for 30+ years.
  • Our 4-story concept was better received, versus of a taller building in the same space.

Festivities throughout the day included pizza graciously provided by Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, musical performances from Scott Bird, Lewis Jordan, and George Long, and local poets reading selections from Kerouac’s body of work (and some their own), including:

Sharon Doubiago, Sarah Menefee, Sara Powell, Neeli Cherkovski, Kim Shuck, Judith Ayn Bernhard, Lisbit Bailey, Barbara Paschke, Lewis Jordan, Brenda Knight, Rebecca Peters, Kristina Brown, Bobby Coleman, Agneta Falk, and Matt Gonzales. Poet Bob Booker served as master of ceremonies.

Parked out front was the Beat Museum on Wheels, and Chris Buck brought his little red truck, which belonged to Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

We also exhibited some never-before-seen items from our archives, including original letters from Gary Snyder to John Montgomery, original letters and drawings from Gregory Corso, and correspondence between Neal Cassady and his godfather, Father Harley Schmitt.

Our Open House was one of many events in a packed weekend honoring Kerouac’s centennial from coast to coast. In San Francisco, the following day featured local artists in Kerouac Alley and an evening of poetry at Specs’, while from Los Angeles to New York, Denver to St. Pete, to Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, people came out in celebration of ol’ Jack.

We were pleased to do our part!