John Duff McGilvray III San Francisco

John Duff McGilvray II

This biography made possible by the contributions of Dr. Kathryn L. Sewell of San Francisco, California
who provided newspaper articles, the Sea Cliff house photograph,
and excerpts from John Duff McGilvrays book "The Shriners Finest Hour, 1955"

 The mark of a man's greatness is his ability to have compassion for those less fortunate.  John Duff McGilvray felt it his duty and obligation to provide protection and medical care for handicapped children. John "Uncle Jack" Duff McGilvray II, was on the original national board of governors of Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children. Under McGilvrays leadership, the San Francisco Shriners Hospital became one of the finest orthopedic hospitals in the country. 

John D. McGilvray toured the United States, consulting medical authorities and hospital managements everywhere to secure for the Shriners Hospitals the very latest in equipment and hospital technique.  He was a building consultant for each of the 17 hospitals and provided the cornerstones, being present at each ground-breaking ceremony. The hospitals were located in Shreveport, Twin Cities, Honolulu, San Francisco, Portland, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Spokane, Salt Lake City, Montreal, Springfield, Chicago, Winnipeg, Lexington, Greenville, Mexico City, and Los Angles.


John Duff McGilvray, son of John Duff McGilvray and Marion Beaton, was born November 7, 1875, in Chicago, Illinois. The McGilvray family moved to Denver, Colorado in 1879 where his father started a stone contractors company partnership with Thomas C. Hayes, building  some of Denver's finest stone structures.

John Duff McGilvray Senior moved the family to San Francisco in 1889. John Duff McGilvray Jr. worked with his father in the stone and masonry contracting business in San Francisco, Los Angeles,  and Palo Alto, California. Together they helped build many of San Francisco's best known buildings including the City Hall, the Civic Auditorium, the Public Library, the State Building, the St. Francis Hotel, the Emporium, the Flood Building, the Stanford University Chapel and the original buildings on the Stanford campus.

Following the death of his father, he became head of the firm, which shared in the construction of the San Francisco City Hall.  He became President of the San Francisco Builders Exchange, was a member of the San Francisco Board of Education and the State Prison Board.  During World War I he was a director of the American Red Cross.   John was on the original national board of governors of Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children starting in San Francisco.

Early in his career he became a Master Mason and member of both the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and of the Knights Templar.  He became an honored 33rd degree Mason and a Knight of the Red Cross of Constantine.   He was potentate of Islam Temple of the Shrine 1917-19.

John D. McGilvray Jr.  married Dottie Mira Sewell in 1895 in San Francisco. Dottie, born April 28, 1877 in California, was the daughter of  Daniel Sewell, born June 12, 1836 in Staleybridge, Lancashire, England and Lucie Elvira Worden of Sonora, Tuolumne County, California.  Mr. Sewell immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1847, first settling Wappinger's Falls, Duchess County, New York. He arrived in San Francisco, California September 29, 1859.

John D. McGilvray and wife Dottie Mira Sewell lived in the Sea Cliff  house, which  John designed.  Sea Cliff was ahead of its time with open floor plans, sweeping vistas, a three-car garage, and amenities in every room.

John Duff McGilvray died at Sea Cliff,  June 16, 1955.  The funeral was conducted by the Mission Lodge No. 169, F. & A. M. with burial at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Colma.  Dottie Mira Sewell died June 21, 1946.

Sea Cliff
San Francisco, California
The house is built on a commanding corner with magnificent scenic views of the sea and San Francisco in all directions

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