White House Department Store

Once one of the biggest department stores in the city, the firm officially known as Raphael Weill & Co. was born as Davidson & Lane in June of 1854.  Weill joined the firm the following year and became a partner upon Lane's retirement in 1858. In 1863 they moved from quarters on Sacramento to the Lick block on Montgomery.  Then in 1870 built their own building at Post and Kearny. 

In 1885 Lane retired, and Weill continued with his brother, Henry Weill, Eugene Gallvis and Albert Roullier as partners.  All four were French by birth and Jewish.  Weill was legendary for his generosity. When the city - including his store - was destroyed in 1906, he donated 5000 dresses and ladies' suits to the relief effort.  When a number of his staff were drafted in WWI, he kept them on his payroll at half wages for the duration.  His was one of the first firms to offer vacation and sick pay. He was also a founding member of the Bohemian Club, in which he was very active, and served for a time on the Board of Education.

The store's name appears to stem from a resemblance between the Kearny store and the Grand Maison de Blanc in Paris.  After the fire, Alert Pissis was hired to design the new building at Grant & Sutter.  He chose a Beaux Arts design with Federalist overtones, probably more than coincidentally recalling the President's house in Washington DC.

The Store closed in the 1965, a victim of changing times.  The building, however has survived.  In another example of adaptive re-use, the first floor continues in retail as the flagship of the Banana Republic Stores, and the upper floors now serve as a parking garage.