Chronological listing of 10 selected architectural works in the San Francisco Bay Area (1892-1892).
1892, Presidio Heights, Joseph Batten house,
116 Cherry St., San Francisco.
1892, West Mission, Alfred Clarke house,
250 Douglass St., San Francisco.
This imposing pile was built with the earnings of 30 years' service as clerk to the chief of police in the Vigilantes era. It originally had 17 more acres (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 139).
Nobby Clarke's folly, built in 1892 on what was originally a 15-acre lot on Douglass Street above Eureka Valley, cost $100,000, a princely sum for the time. The materials were the finest available, and the result simply defies description. The entrance doors (right) feature magnificent stained and etched glass panels. Despite all this luxury, Mrs. Clarke refused to live in the house (Alexander and Heig 2002: 146).
Among the surviving mansions of the general Mission area, the Alfred Clarke house, at 250 Douglass Street, is particularly interesting, both because of its style and the style of its original owner. "Nobby" Clarke was an Irish sailor boy who put into San Francisco aboard the American ship Commonwealth in the fall of 1850. Naturally, he tried his luck in the gold mines but soon returned to the city, where there was more money to be made as a stevedore.
Clarke's up-to-then unpromising career improved when he joined the police force during the 1856 Vigilance excitement. By 1887, when he resigned from his position as clerk to the Chief of Police, he is said to have saved some $200,000. He bought seventeen acres at the head of Eureka Valley, and there erected the mansion known at the time as "Clarke's Folly."
The four-story, multi-towered house cost around $100,000 to build in 1892. The architectural style reflects the frequently eclectic fashion of the day, but may most briefly be described as Baroque-Queen Anne. Of interest is the shingle pattern, in which bands of plain shingles are alternated with bands of scalloped shingles. The interior decor is best judged by the photograph on page 109.
The Clarke family did not live in the house for long, and by 1904 the building was the "California General Hospital," advertised as "an Elegant and Commodious Hospital" with large grounds, no other buildings in the block, and "Sheltered from the Cold West Wind." At a later date it was a rooming house for Standard Oil Company employees; at present it is an apartment house (Olmsted and Watkins 1969: 110).
1892, West Mission, 31-33 Liberty St. house,
31-33 Liberty St., San Francisco.
Julius E. Krafft.
One of the Mission's best groups of Italianates and one imposing Queen Anne line a street that was obviously a choice place to live from early on. The houses on the south side are set high on the hill to catch the view (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 142).
This Stick-Eastlake home has a false gable (above the bays) which creates the illusion of a tower. Fantastic panels of decorative wreaths, ovals, and arches are highlighted in white (Olmsted and Watkins 1969: 278).
1892, Presidio Heights, 3198 Pacific Ave. house,
3198 Pacific Ave., San Francisco.
An outstanding example of the plasticity often achieved by wrapping with shingles the curved and angled forms of houses that mixed various Queen Anne and Colonial Revival style elements (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 98).
This Shingle Style house, also owned by the Sheppards, has a fascinating central section on which each story overhangs the lower one (Olmsted and Watkins 1969: 285).
1892, Union Square, Hibernia Bank Building,
1 Jones St., San Francisco.
The city's oldest Classic Revival style bank had a colonnade splayed to fit the triangular site and articulated like a folded-out Roman temple. The domed rotunda recalls parts of the Paris Opera House, which Pissis surely saw during his student days at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. The interior is also notable (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 11).
The Hibernia Bank, One Jones Street, is yet another delightful and scholarly effort by Albert Pissis. At the time of its construction in 1892, the bank was lauded by Willis Polk and like-minded admirers as the "most beautiful building in the city." The building "clearly declares its purpose and the interior arrangement is plainly expressed by the exterior," Polk wrote. Polk's admiration has not been entirely displaced by time, for the Hibernia, like the Flood, is elegant and powerful (Olmsted and Watkins 1969: 87, 90).
The oldest and one of the finest of San Francisco's uniquely superb collection of modified temple form banks. Also one of the best designs for the numerous irregular Market Street intersections. Built as a narrower structure along Jones in 1892; the building was enlarged to its present size in 1905 and was rebuilt after the fire. It is the earliest surviving building in the city in the strictly classical idiom, a style that did not sweep the country until after the Chicago World's Fair held the year after this bank was completed. The building was widely admired among local architects of the day. In composition, it is a hybrid of a modified temple form and a variety of Baroque elements, notably the domed entrance corner and the fine entrance stairway. Its steel frame is clad in carved granite. Its interior is a richly detailed space dominated by a large stained glass dome. The building occupies its Market Street corner with unusual control. Its columned sides present rich textures to the street. The copper crowned entrance dome provides a focal point which is simultaneously the most massive part of the building and a 2-story open entranceway. A (Corbett 1979: 77).
On this stretch of Market, one of the saddest sights is Albert Pissis and William Moore's beautifully proportioned deserted masterpiece, the Hibernia Bank (7) at the corner of Market, McAllister, and Jones. Pissis and Moore used only the most expensive materials in the building, which has granite exterior walls with an interior of marble, wrought iron, bronze, and mahogany. The building was gutted in 1906, then rebuilt, and became the headquarters of the police chief for a time (Wiley 2000: 194).
The Hibernia Bank [founded by Joseph Tobin], also by Albert Pissis, was regarded in its time as a gem. In his praise of this new structure, architect Willis Polk complimented Pissis "for defying popular taste by not employing every material and known style into one commission." The bank, completed in 1890 at the corner of McAllister and Jones Streets, was the first structure of any kind in the city to follow the Beaux Arts disciplines. Albert Pissis was the first graduate of the Ecole des Beaux Arts to work in San Francisco since Belgian architect Peter Portois came here in the 1850s. Pissis could never have foreseen that his beautiful temple of finance would be used as a Tenderloin police station in the 1990s (Alexander and Heig 2002: 196, 333).
1892 (circa), Western Addition, Chateau Tivoli,
1057 Steiner St., San Francisco.
At 1057 Steiner Street is the most elaborately restored house in San Francisco, with 17 paint colors, three roofing colors, and $6,000 worth of gold leaf. Architect William Armitage designed it for lumber baron Daniel B. Jackson in 1890. For many years it was a school for Yiddish drama and music; it later became a new-age commune. After meticulous restoration it is now a bed and breakfast inn called Chateau Tivoli (Alexander and Heig 2002: 126).
The magnificent Chateau Tivoli, at the corner of Steiner and Golden Gate, has a history almost as arresting as its gold leaf decorations, its 22-color exterior paint scheme, and its roof of colored slates laid out in diamond patterns and stripes. Even the iron roof cresting, removed from Victorian houses for scrap during World War I, has been replaced on this house. Painted Ladies Revisited describes the house as "one of the finest Victorians in the city, as well as being the greatest painted lady in the world." (See page 126)
Daniel Jackson, an Oregon lumber baron, commissioned William Armitage, a leading San Francisco architect, to design this house and two adjoining apartment buildings to the west in 1892. Jackson and his wife Maria lived here until 1898. In 1905, Mrs. Ernestine Kreling, widow of two Kreling brothers and owner of the Tivoli Opera House, bought the 22-room house and lived in it until 1917. In this interim she married William "Doc" Leahy, who succeeded her late husband as manager and operator of the Tivoli. Many world-famed opera singers, including Luisa Tetrazzini, were among Leahy's discoveries.
In 1917 the mansion became a center for various Jewish cultural organizations. In 1929 the Yiddish Literary and Dramatic Society established a cultural center, school, and restaurant in the house, where members of the Jewish intelligentsia who had fled Russia during the revolution could preserve their culture in America. For the next 32 years the house was filled with music, art, and drama, maintaining an operatic tradition originally established by Mrs. Kreling. Bernard Zakheim, painter of the Coit Tower murals, taught art here.
From 1961 to 1975 the building was a rooming house. Then it was purchased by a New Age psychologist, who built a hot tub in the basement and established the Center for Release and Integration, with training in such disciplines as postural integration, rebirthing, and pelvic release. Since 1985 it has been meticulously restored as a bed-and-breakfast inn, with public rooms available for weddings and events (Alexander and Heig 2002: 239-40).
1892, San Anselmo, Andrew Carrigan house,
96 Park Dr., SE corner, San Anselmo
A restrained Shingle Style house appropriately chosen by the North Shore Railroad for use in its brochure of 1902 as an example of the stately manor presiding over the open countryside (Gebhard, Winter and Sandweiss 1985: 226).
The mannered forms and spatial freedom of the Churchill house are developed within a more historicizing, English-inspired framework for the residence of Andrew Carrigan, which was probably designed a few months later.12 Located atop a grassy knoll amid open fields in the Ross Valley, the exterior composition is controlled, with an eclectic assemblage of elements subordinated to the long, rectangular block (Fig. 102). A deep side porch both extends and erodes this mass. An enormous adjacent bay bulges out to provide a focal point, agitated by stepped windows that march up to the far corner, there to be halted by a sham buttress. The rest of the composition is calm and almost symmetrical, with a small Tuscan portico affording a focal point for this unobtrusive ordering of elements. The Carrigan house conveys a sense of age to a greater degree than in Coxhead's previous designs. The eccentric Tudor bay, capped by a Georgian cornice and braced by a medieval buttress, the Tuscan columns, and the bowed dormers are all actors in a pictorial play, as if a simple English barn had been modified and transformed into a small manor house over the course of several centuries. Coxhead had produced such cumulative effects in some of his ecclesiastical buildings, but never in so forthright a manner. Here, each part remains a fragment, and cohesiveness is expressed as an artful, understated collage, possibly influenced by the example of Phillip Webb and other English arts-and-crafts architects. Little precedent existed for this approach in the United States, where the Shingle Style and other contemporary rustic modes tended to unify rather than particularize diverse historical references.
The plan employs a linear arrangement of rooms off a long gallery that was no doubt inspired by published work of Voysey (Figs. 103, 104). Yet the handling of the space is entirely different, emphasizing an American taste for openness. Wide thresholds, large banks of corner windows, and an angled fireplace contribute to the sense of continuity (Figs. 105, 106). Restrained, elegant, and classicizing redwood panels form a thin membrane that enhances this effect. The living and dining rooms are essentially a single space, partitioned only by removable panels set between carved posts. Slight changes in level and window height differentiate the two zones; however, the glazing also forms a band that ties the zones together and, projecting out as a voluminous bay at the juncture of the two rooms, implies an extension of space into the landscape. The ground floor's pervasive horizontality continues up to the stair landing, glazed as if it were a porch and sufficiently large to accommodate a secondary sitting area (Longstreth 1998: 153-57).
c.1892, Napa, Cedar Gables,
486 Coombs St., Napa
Nearly identical to a house that Coxhead designed at the same time for David Greenleaf in Alameda, this Queen Anne house is one of Napa's great treasures; it displays the architect's skillful handling of shingled surfaces (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 242).
A classic Coxhead production combining in an impossible fashion elements of Classical architecture with the vernacular Shingle style. The central round tower with its conical roof supported by four short columns is similar to several other houses designed by this architect (Gebhard, Winter and Sandweiss 1985: 369).
Coxhead buildings appeal to both connoisseurs and casual passers-by with their sensuous, enveloping shingle roofs and amusingly incongruous details, like the immense medieval tower of the Churchill House (today the Cedar Gables Inn in Napa) delicately poised on four slender classical columns.
His homes are remarkably modern in their use of space. Open the pocket doors to the dining room in the Churchill House of 1892 and you have a living area as free flowing as anything sold by Joseph Eichler in the 1950s.
"The sophistication of this open plan would seldom be matched until Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie houses after the turn of the century," scholar Richard Longstreth wrote.
The home won praise at the time as well. "Novelty worthy of imitation," a newspaper observed (Dave Weinstein, Saturday, June 5, 2004, Ernest Coxhead: Strange talents: Idiosyncratic homes helped define bay tradition San Francisco Chronicle).
Among Coxhead's early suburban house commissions was the residence of a young Napa banker, E. Wiler Churchill (1892) (Fig. 98).11 The scheme is a picturesquely composed, mannered tribute to the Shingle Style, with open, flowing spaces inside. The departures are just as pronounced. On the facade, overscaled elements depart from precedent and resist the confines of the building's form. The elevation is horizontally divided into two disparate zones. At the lower level, herringbone brick panels with molded wood surrounds and delicate lead-pane windows form a tapestry of rectilinear patterns. A hulking, barnlike mass looms overhead, topped with a bowed roof that laps around the dormers like a thatch roof. A sense of vertical continuity is provided by the tower, but even it is tenuously poised on a base of four Tuscan columns. At the other end, a large window panel is at once a projecting bay and an extension of the upper zone. Its ambiguous role is heightened by the lateral continuation of the wall plane as an enclosed porch that otherwise seems incidental to the mass.
The emphatic division of the facade into two zones does not correspond to the floor levels inside. The main rooms are raised several feet above the entry, a device Coxhead sometimes used to enrich spatial sequence and to secure privacy from the street. The second story is placed well above the exterior projection. Only the height of the tower soffit matches the spatial disposition behind it. The plan is hardly an afterthought; it is the most remarkable feature of the design (Fig. 99). A single bi-level space, serving as hall, stairwell, and living room, extends the length of the front. Broad flights of stairs run from the cavernous vestibule up to the hall and then back to the mezzanine above, where the tower becomes an expansive, semicircular alcove. Another flight of steps passes along a glazed bay up to the bedrooms (Fig. 100). Sheathed in unmolded redwood paneling, this main room is like a great Tudor hall that has been abstracted and given a relaxed spatial flow. At either end, window bays extend nearly from floor to ceiling. The wall plane in between is penetrated by stretches of windows and by the mezzanine alcove to form alternating bands of solid and void. Wide thresholds connect to the dining room and study, where the woodwork stops at the lintel so that the partition walls read as screens, defining, but not fully enclosing, the space (Fig. 101). The sophistication of this open plan would seldom be matched until Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie houses after the turn of the century (Longstreth 1998: 150-53).
With the Churchill and Carrigan houses, Coxhead showed his mastery of the open plan, but he did not pursue this manner of arranging space as an end unto itself (Longstreth 1998: 157).
An extensive search conducted by John Beach and myself failed to uncover written documentation that Coxhead designed the Churchill house. However, careful examination of the building's design, including its details, reveals too many similarities in personal style for the house to have come from another architect's hand (Longstreth 1998: 378 n.11).
(Longstreth 1998: 379 n. 15, 423).
Now a Bed and Breakfast:Cedar Gables Inn, a Bed and Breakfast.
1892, Mission, Speculative building for Geo. Whittell,
Park St., San Francisco
Extant? (Longstreth 1998: 424).
1892, Telegraph Hill, Cowell family warehouse,
1075 Front St., San Francisco
The distinctive red brick warehouse at 1075 Front Street was built in 1892 (gutted in 1906 and subsequently rebuilt) for the Cowell family of Santa Cruz and has been used until recently to store quarried materials. The most unusual features of the building are the cast iron shutters and the complementary massive iron doors at street level (Olmsted and Watkins 1969: 65).
Abbreviationsadd = Additions; nm = No Mention; rem = Remodelled; rest = Restoration