Twin Walls Mural Co’s mural aims to celebrate the life and legacy of William Alexander Leidesdorff, a founding father of San Francisco and the Bay Area. A biracial man, he was an exceptional social, economic, and political leader in the pre-gold rush era of San Francisco. We wanted to celebrate his legacy and passion for community, innovation, and adventure as it lives on through the city’s diversity and spirit.
The mural starts with his birth on the island of St. Croix and the beginning of his incredible journey with his 106lb Schooner “Julia Ann” on abstract waves of the Pacific Ocean currents that flow throughout the composition. A ship’s steering wheel acts as a halo behind Captain Leidesdorff and above, a map with fleur-de-lis which depicts his journey to New Orleans. It is there that he became a master of vessels. He often sailed between New Orleans and New York. Eager to head west, he purchased the Julia Ann, which took him on his voyage to the Pacific into a beautiful cove, that was then known as Yerba Buena cove, but would later become San Francisco. It is here that he begins his trade route. The sugar cane to his right represents some of the trade to and from Hawaii, Yerba Buena, Panama, St. Croix, Brazil, Chile, and Sitka, Alaska.
The compass symbolizes his life and travels as a master sailor and merchant. The map of Rancho Rio de los Americanos represents his connection with California, which was, at the time, still Mexico, the land the Mexican government gave him, and his title and position as Vice Consul to Mexico. Captain Leidesdorff purchased the “Sitka” from Alaska. She was the first steamboat to sail on the San Francisco Bay and in California. Later becoming “Rainbow,” the Sitka followed the Sacramento River even after discovering gold.
The mural then flows to Leidesdorff’s legacy and poignant events in US history before and after his death. These include the building of the first hotel in San Francisco, the land he donated to open the first public school there, having the Declaration of Independence read for the first time in California, and the Gold Rush, as depicted by Black and Asian men at a site. This includes one of the three black 49ers who came over as slaves and created their own successful business hauling supplier to remote mining camps. Chinese and Philippine railroad workers are included to honor those who helped to build California and acknowledge the proximity of the mural to Chinatown.
After his death, Leidesdorff’s remains were placed in the front entrance of Mission Dolores. From there, the journey continues to present-day San Francisco and into our future. The three individuals in the boat depict a future where San Franciscans can steer their own futures, the future looking brighter, more open and green.
Elaine Chu and Marina Perez- Wong are the dynamic duo behind the mural arts collaboration Twin Walls Mural Company (TWMC). They believe in the power of visual narratives to capture and reflect a community's history, struggles, dreams, and intentions. San Francisco natives, Elaine and Marina, met at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts in 1997 and instantly formed a friendship. They began painting murals with Precita Eyes Muralists Association under the guidance of muralist Susan Kelk Cervantes. Each mural they worked on collaboratively made them realize that they work like twins when painting.
They formed TWMC in 2013 and have since designed and painted over 40 murals in the Bay Area and New York City. Elaine and Marina are both motivated by the healing of current and generational trauma and the transformation of the viewer and themselves through visual language, color, and collaboration. Together their partnership continues to flourish with intricate visual stories of hope, balance, and community. Their work reflects growing up in the Bay Area, celebrating the women and individuals who inspire them and the changes they wish to manifest through bright colors and semi-realism.