Great Old Houses: 1900 Pierce


A year after the Queen Anne house at Pierce and Pine was built — we’re talking 1887 — it was photographed for a newspaper series titled “Artistic Homes of California.” Except for minor details, the picture might have been taken today: It shows the same sinuous brackets at the entry and in bay windows, the same unusual fern relief in gables galore, the same elaborate roof with wavy dormer, and so on.

The house lost a tall brick chimney along the way (probably in ’06), a rear porch, square upper sash panes on the parlor’s bay windows facing Pine Street, stained glass in an adjacent window and a few entry details. But what would you expect in a century and more? Meanwhile it’s managed to acquire a flagpole, fire escapes, basement window bars and the wrought iron fence on Pine.

Aesthetics here, security there: A house walks somewhat in step with changing times.

Now with that photograph from 1887 came a quaint description of the interior, a sort of architectural laundry list. “The main hall is nearly square, finished in redwood, with wax polish. The hall fireplace cuts off the further right-hand corner. The chimney-piece, supported on Corinthian columns, is very effective. The staircase rises from the left. The dado is paneled, with a circle in each square. The side walls are terra cotta, and the ceiling is marked off by deep mouldings. The staircase makes one turn and then is walled in.”

The 1887 picture and text reveal changes at the entryway. Originally there were double front doors with little squares of leaded glass, and on either side of the marble steps the porch had a long bench sheltered not only by the gabled door hood, but also a pair of L-plan balustrades.

This inglenook effect, and the curious brackets, adventures-in-roofing and unpainted redwood interior relate 1900 Pierce to turn-of-the-century Craftsman houses by Julia Morgan, Bernard Maybeck and lesser architects. Basically a Queen Anne, but designed on the cutting edge of style for 1887, it draws these new elements to its bosom with flair and a good feeling for continuity. 1900 is complex, but not too busy for its own good.

This article originally appeared in the November 1986 issue of the New Fillmore and is included in Gables and Fables: A Portrait of San Francisco’s Pacific Heights by Anne Bloomfield and Arthur Bloomfield.