Oldest Victorians: Leal House 1860

San Francisco Landmark #45
Leale House
2475 Pacific Avenue Between Fillmore and Steiner
Pacific Heights
Built 1860

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Scholars disagree on the exact provenance of the Captain Leal House, but it is certainly one of the oldest residences in the Cow Hollow neighborhood of Pacific Heights. The structure was originally the main house for a dairy farm and may have been built as early as 1853. Captain Leale, a ferry boat captain, bought the house in 1883, and either he or the previous owner remodeled the façade with a false front in the popular Italianate style. In the back garden, the Captain built a little study, nautically furnished and fitted to resemble a pilot house.

Oldest Victorians: House of the Flag 1860

San Francisco Landmark #46
House of the Flag
1652-1656 Taylor Between Broadway and Vallejo
Russian Hill
Built 1860

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This First Bay Area Tradition style house is located at the southeast corner of Vallejo and Taylor. It is best known for being dramatically rescued from the 1906 earthquake fire. As the fire approached, the occupant, a flag collector, raised the American flag on a staff beside the house. A company of soldiers spied it from below and were inspired to charge up the hill to fight the fire. It is reported that they found a bathtub full of water, sand from a nearby construction project, and soda siphons to squirt into hard-to-reach places. The soldiers are credited with saving the house and protecting the rest of the hill.

Source: Russian Hill Neighbors

Oldest Victorians: Feusier Octagon House 1858

San Francisco Landmark #36
Feusier Octagon House
1067 Green Street Between Leavenworth and Jones
Built 1858

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The Feusier Octagon House is one of only two surviving houses in San Francisco built on the octagon plan. The other is the Colonial Dames Octagon on Gough Street. Both houses retain their original exterior construction and reflect their eight-sided shape in the interior. The original two-story house was modified (not to its detriment) late in the century when the Feusiers added a third story with Mansard roof, surmounted by an octagonal cupola. Like other buildings on Russian Hill, the Feusier House escaped the 1906 Earthquake but was menaced by the Fire; the outbuildings were dynamited but fortunately the main house was saved.

Oldest Victorians: Tanforan Cottages 1853

San Francisco Landmark #67
Tanforan Cottage 1
214 Dolores Street Between 15th and 16th Streets
Mission District
Built 1853

This is one of a pair of redwood cottages built by the Tanforan ranching family on land that lay within the 1836 Mexican Grant to Francisco Guerrero. Located only half a block from Mission Dolores, the oldest building in San Francisco, these two cottages are probably the oldest residential buildings in the Mission District.

It is thought that the Tanforans built 214 and 220 Dolores as farm houses. 214 was built first, and 220 followed a year or so later.  The homes are simple frame structures with classic revival facades (an architectural movement based on the use of pure Roman and Greek forms in the early 19th century). Their false fronts, full width porches with square posts, and four-over-four window sashes (four panes of glass on the top frame and four panes of glass on the bottom frame of a double hung window) are common features of the 1890s. The deep-set backyard, another feature of that era, holds a carriage house that contained a Tanforan-owned carriage until 1940.

Oldest Victorians: Atkinson-Escher House 1853

San Francisco Landmark #97
Atkinson-Escher House
1032 Broadway Between Jones and Taylor
Built 1853

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The following is excerpted from the San Francisco Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board Final Case Report dated 19 January 1977:

Purported by many to be one of the oldest standing houses in San Francisco, this Italian Villa was built in 1853 by Joseph H. Atkinson, as his own home. It was remodeled around 1900 by Willis Polk. Particularly in this area of the city, it is remarkable that the dwelling, located within walking distance of the original settlement at Yerba Buena Cove, has survived for 124 years. An incised stone plaque above the front door reads:

EXCEPT THE LORD BUILD THE HOUSE
THEY LABOR IN VAIN THAT BUILD IT
EXCEPT THE LORD KEEP THE CITY
THE WATCHMAN WAKETH IN VAIN
MDCCCLIII

Oldest Victorians: Abner Phelps House 1850

San Francisco Landmark #32 Abner Phelps House
1111 Oak Street Between Divisadero and Broderick
Built 1850

 

Although accounts vary as to its date and builder, the Gothic Revival Abner Phelps house is generally considered to be the oldest unaltered residence in San Francisco and dates from 1850-51. The house has been moved twice. With the grading and building of Divisadero in the 1890’s, the house was repositioned on the land. In 1904, it was moved backward to its present location in the middle of the block to enable Phelps to build stores on Divisadero Street.