Anne Bloomfield’s archives go to Heritage

Anne Bloomfield's research was the foundation of Gables & Fables.

Anne Bloomfield’s research was the foundation of Gables & Fables.


My predecessor in writing about neighborhood architecture for the New Fillmore, the respected architectural historian Anne Bloomfield, was an amazing researcher and a passionate advocate for maintaining the character of Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights. She died in December 1999, but her life’s work of helping preserve San Francisco’s past lives on.

Anne collected vital information on individual buildings, architects, and builders that led to the designation of many landmarks and historic districts. Her ground-breaking detective work on the building collaborative called The Real Estate Associates, who in 1875 claimed to have built more detached houses than any other company in the U.S., revealed a sophisticated San Francisco building practice.

Her research was the foundation for Gables & Fables: A Portrait of San Francisco’s Pacific Heights, the book her husband Arthur Bloomfield published after her death.

Recently I had the opportunity to review and organize Anne’s research files on Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights for inclusion into the collection of San Francisco Heritage at its headquarters in the Haas-Lilienthal House. The files will be invaluable to future researchers and aficionados of San Francisco’s early architecture.

A pair of important homes

The Vedanta Society's "new temple" at Fillmore and Vallejo.

The Vedanta Society’s “new temple” at Fillmore and Vallejo.


The Vedanta Society of Northern California was founded in 1900 by visiting Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda, who earlier gained fame and admiration at the Chicago Parliament of World Religions in 1893. The society owns two neighborhood landmarks: the “old temple” at 2963 Webster at Filbert, completed in 1905, then further expanded in 1908; and the “new temple” at 2323 Vallejo at Fillmore, dedicated in 1959.


A home for the telephone king

Both client and architect of this corner house shared a fascination with telephones.

Both the owner and architect of 1900 Pierce Street shared a fascination with telephones.


The wonderfully designed corner house at 1900 Pierce Street was built in 1887 for John I. Sabin, an early investor and proponent of the telephone, under the direction of architect William F. Smith.

John I. Sabin

John I. Sabin, first owner of 1900 Pierce

Both architect and client appear to have shared a fascination with telephones. In 1877, Sabin founded the American District Telegraph Co., the first telephone company on the west coast. Later he became the president of the Pacific States Telephone Co. and acquired the nickname the “Telephone King.” In 1901, architect Smith filed for a patent for a “message transmitting and recording mechanism for telephone systems.” This device was capable of passing a message from one switching station to another and recording it on paper tape at the receiving end.


An architect’s classic but understated homes

An attractive grouping of E.E. Young’s work graces the southwest corner of Octavia and Jackson.

An grouping of E.E. Young’s work graces the southwest corner of Octavia and Jackson.


Architect Edward Eyestone Young became known for his collaborative work with speculative housing developers during the first few decades of the 20th century. Designing and building houses primarily on San Francisco’s north side, with a particular focus in Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights and along Lake Street, Young established strong relationships with some of the city’s important developers. Several homes were often crafted in a small group, each with a similar floor plan but with varying facades.

Three of Young’s more distinctive Pacific Heights collections still stand at the corners of Octavia and Jackson, Divisadero and Green, and Presidio and Jackson.


An Art Deco treasure is diminished

The original blueprints from 1932 show the elaborate Art Deco detailing of the facade.

The blueprints from 1932 show the elaborate Art Deco detailing of the facade.


In the spring, neighbors and patrons of the Elite Cafe were dismayed to hear that the 35-year-old restaurant had been sold, fearful it would fall victim to the current depressing trend in San Francisco of gutting historic interiors down to the studs.

But news that the buyer was a group headed by San Francisco restaurateur Andy Chun, who was responsible for a sensitive 2014 remodel of the historic German beer hall Schroeder’s in the Financial District, reassured patrons who cherished the Elite’s Art Deco interior. Chun said his plans were to keep much of the Art Deco interior intact, but with a contemporary interpretation of the decorative style popular in the 1920s and 1930s.


First a Masonic meeting hall, now a church

The brick and stone building at 2135 Sutter was completed in October 1907.


Built as the Golden Gate Commandery for the Knights Templar, the distinctive structure at 2135 Sutter Street between Steiner and Pierce Streets was under construction when the 1906 earthquake struck, delaying its completion. Claiming to descend from the Knights Templar of the Crusaders, who in the 12th century served to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land, the Masonic Order of the Knights Templar built the meeting hall there after outgrowing an earlier structure.

When the brick and stone building was finally completed in October 1907, the San Francisco Chronicle reported: “The hall is said to be one of the finest and best appointed temples in the land.” Designed by the architectural firm of O’Brien and Werner, a partnership known for other Masonic-related projects, the building has been an important neighborhood landmark for a century.


An anti-Victorian pair of townhouses

The Tudor style townhouses at 3356 and 3362 Jackson Street are a perfectly matched set.

The Tudor style townhouses at 3356 and 3362 Jackson Street are a perfectly matched set.


The two English-inspired Tudor style townhouses at 3356 and 3362 Jackson Street are a perfectly matched set. Built for George and Ruth Beveridge in 1898, this charming Presidio Heights ensemble was designed by the short-lived architectural partnership of Newton J. Tharp and Edward L. Holmes.

George Beveridge, a successful miner who made considerable investments in Mexico, married Ruth Coffin in 1895. Two years later, he purchased the double lot on Jackson Street and commissioned Tharp and Holmes to design two abutting, well-appointed townhouses — one for the Beveridges to occupy and the other to sell or rent.


One twin without the other

Photograph of 1969 California Street by Shayne Watson

Photograph of the Tobin house at 1969 California Street by Shayne Watson


Something appears to be missing from the house at 1969 California Street.

Indeed, the other half of the intended complex was never built. Originally conceived to have a twin to the west, the half arch that would have accessed a center drive between the two houses terminates mid-air and crashes into a mismatching building next door.


‘Petit Trianon’ sells for a petite price

The 14-bedroom chateau at 3800 Washington Street sold in a foreclosure sale.

The 14-bedroom chateau replica at 3800 Washington Street sold in a foreclosure sale.


The recent sale of the mansion known as the Petit Trianon in Presidio Heights highlights the importance of realistic pricing and proper maintenance, while another sale just a block away underscores that today’s high-end San Francisco homebuyers gravitate toward modern architecture.

In mid-July, the 14-bedroom, 20,000-square-foot French chateau replica at 3800 Washington Street sold for $15,750,000 in a foreclosure sale — 12 percent less than the listing price. It took 442 days to find a buyer. Designated as a national historic landmark, the home sits on three lots totaling almost 29,000 square feet in one of San Francisco’s most desirable neighborhoods.

However, the grand home had not been staged to showcase its livability, its exterior and grounds were in disrepair, a squatter had taken over the guest house and skateboarders made the marble steps their personal park — all of which substantially reduced the home’s curb appeal. Additionally, the property had been overpriced in multiple sale attempts over the past few years. Despite the long marketing time, arranging tours proved difficult. And at least one offer higher than the final sale price was not accepted.

The contemporary home at 101 Maple proved to be more desirable.

The contemporary home at 101 Maple proved to be more desirable.

Compare that sale with neighboring 101 Maple Street, which fetched just under $10 million at the end of June. That five-bedroom home sits on a single lot about one-tenth of the size of its neighbor and sold in a relatively speedy 54 days. The Maple Street property resonated with home shoppers due to its sleek, contemporary design and open floor plan, which are favored by many of today’s younger San Francisco homebuyers.

Patrick Barber is president of Pacific Union.

Moved from Union Square

The home at 2355 Washington was moved from its original location near Union Square.

The home at 2355 Washington was moved from its original location near Union Square.


“The large frame dwelling which for so many years stood at the northeast corner of Sutter and Mason Streets has been removed to the south side of Washington between Buchanan and Webster, where it is being remodeled and improved by Dr. Merritt, daughter of the late Adolph Sutro.” So reported the Chronicle on July 7, 1900.

That handsome residence now sits at 2355 Washington Street. Constructed around 1870, the house changed hands at least one other time before coming into the possession of Emma Sutro Merritt and her husband, George Washington Merritt, who was also a doctor. The wood-frame, Italianate and Second Empire influenced house with an unusual mansard roof originally sat a few blocks below the apex of Nob Hill.