RUSSIAN HILL III – THE NORTH SLOPE
TOUR NOTES – Prepared by Sharon Moore, Revised in 2003
Special thanks to Claire McGhee and George Lucas
START AT S.E. CORNER OF LARKIN & LOMBARD
This corner shows Russian Hill’s special ambience – elegant homes and apartment houses; rustic, shingled dwellings; parks, gardens, and views. While the Russian Hill II tour concentrates on apartment houses and residences, this walk focuses more on the “outdoors” aspect of the hill. We will see two parks, as well as the gardens of Greenwich Terrace. In addition, we will explore several stairway streets.
The earliest development (in the 1850s) was on the east side of the hill because it was less steep than the west side. We will include both sides on this walk.
2525 Larkin Street – 1920s Mediterranean Revival apartment house (with machicolated water tower). Originally, the water tower was functional. Then, in the early 1970s, the owner converted it into a penthouse for his bachelor quarters.
2601-03 Larkin Street – 1909; Shingle Style. The remainder of this block is typical of the “Old Russian Hill” – a mixture of Queen Anne, French Provincial, Mediterranean, Tudor Revival, and another Early Twentieth Century (ETC) Shingle-Style house. The styles are varied, providing greater visual interest, but the houses share a harmonious size and scale.
2638-42 Larkin Street – 1889, San Francisco Stick (SFS). There are comparatively few Victorians on Russian Hill, as much of the area was too hilly for early development. Then, although extensive development occurred starting in the 1880s, many of the dwellings were destroyed in the 1906 fire.
STOP AT S.E. CORNER OF LARKIN & CHESTNUT
2677 Larkin Street – 1920s apartment house. Gold leaf paint used for highlighting is a later addition.
Across the street on Chestnut is a row of French Provincial bungalows, probably dating from the late 1930s. The apartment house at 1080 Chestnut, according to the doorman, was built in the early 1960s, and the corner apartment house at Chestnut and Larkin replaced the 1853 Gothic Revival Manrow House (said to be haunted) in 1928.
1089 Chestnut Street – 1990. This 5,600-square-foot building has the scale of an apartment house but is actually a single-family residence. Hood-Miller, architects of the Lombardia (1989), also designed this residence. The Lombardia is on the site of an 1864 mansion that was demolished in 1960 for two high-rise apartment houses that were never built. A Kansas City developer spent $2 million on plans but a coalition of Russian Hill neighbors succeeded in blocking the project. The lot then sat vacant for almost 30 years. The Lombardia won a design award in 1989. It has 42 units (10 large townhouses and 32 condominiums), extensive landscaping, and an interior courtyard. The entrance is on Lombard Street.
CROSS TO THE OTHER SIDE OF INTERSECTION (N.W. CORNER)
2700 Block of Larkin
This block retains some of its early 20th century brick paving. In earlier years, many of the city’s steeper streets were paved in brick, but few traces remain today.
WALK DOWN WEST SIDE OF LARKIN
2705 Larkin Street – a Shingle-style residence built in the early 1900s. Extensive paintwork and modernization have greatly altered its appearance. In 2003 extensive additions were made at rear of house.
2707 Larkin Street, also in the Shingle style; retains some of its original early 1900s framing. Otherwise, the present residence is virtually new, rebuilt in 1999.
2709 Larkin Street, a Shingle/Tudor Revival house painted red, dates from 1903. The formal entrance with marble stairs contrasts with the vernacular elements of the façade. The bargeboard, for example, recalls the early First Bay Tradition shingled houses of Coxhead, Maybeck, and Polk.
WALK BACK TO CHESTNUT & TURN DOWN LEFT STAIRWAY
Culebra Terrace (stand at corner of Culebra/Chestnut)
120-22 Culebra Terrace – 1963; designed by Joseph Esherick, who lived here and also designed the adjacent rental units at 126-128. These buildings are secluded and difficult to see from the street. Other Russian Hill projects by the Esherick firm include the brown-shingled Hermitage (condominiums) at 1020 Vallejo (1982) and the condominiums built in 2002 at 955 Green. Esherick also built some of the homes at Sea Ranch in the late 1960s.
First Block of Culebra: This cul de sac, a private street, is one of Russian Hill’s most liveable spaces – rustic, cozy, and quiet. The streetlights are on the houses, and all utilities are underground. Polk Street, a bustling commercial corridor, is just a block away. The area is densely built up, but the effect is softened by the luxuriant foliage and gardens.
60 Culebra Terrace – Terrazzo stairway and decorative tiles (inside the front glass door near the sidewalk). The building is probably Edwardian, but it has been modernized. The tiles date from the late teens or ’20s.
50 Culebra Terrace – Bowed, five-window second story. The curving stairway makes the garden look larger.
45 Culebra Terrace – Classical molding; probably post-fire. The windows are more modern.
35 Culebra Terrace – Simple cottage (unknown date, but probably Edwardian) with odd window placement. There is a second unit at 31 Culebra and a side garden.
23 Culebra Terrace – 1911; Edwardian.
WALK UP STAIRS AT END OF BLOCK TO LOMBARD STREET
1200 Block of Lombard
There are several modest pre-1906 houses and cottages from the 1870s on this block, and many of the residences are shingled, creating a rustic ambience. The block was threatened with fire in 1906 – contemporary accounts described women dipping their petticoats in barrels of vinegar from a vinegar works in nearby Polk Gulch to put out the fire a block away on Greenwich Street. The south side of Greenwich was completely destroyed, but the fire did not spread further north. Like Culebra Terrace, the utilities are underground on this block of Lombard.
1268-70 Lombard Street – 1861; flat-fronted Italianate; probably the oldest house on the block. The owners did not raise the level of the house at the time the street was graded in the 1890s – as a result, it looks sunken. The shingles were a later addition. Look down to see the garden.
OBSERVE FROM 1268
1271-75 Lombard Street – c. 1877; flat-fronted Italianate, renovated. The renovations took 5 years. Neighbors objected to the contemporary treatment of the new garage, stairway, railing, and deck, (maintaining that these elements did not conform to the conditional use permit issued by the Planning Department), but to no avail.
1269 Lombard Street – 1876-77; Italianate; built as a single-family residence. The shingles were added later. The house is at the rear of the lot, behind an unfinished garage. On the garage site, there once was a large garden.
1263-67 Lombard Street – c. 1877; Italianate; built originally as flats. This is an unusual early example of flats – single-family residences were more common at that time. The shingles, and probably the Tudor arches over the windows, were added later. The correct house numbers are 1263-67, although the sign indicates “57.”
CONTINUE WALKING UP NORTH SIDE OF LOMBARD
1257 Lombard Street – 1878 – Italianate; moss green; set behind the Edwardian building (# 1261) on Lombard.
1249-51 Lombard Street – c. 1878; large Italianate; sits at the rear of the lot.
NOTE: According to a resident on the block in 2002, there once was a narrow street running parallel between this block of Lombard and the adjacent block of Greenwich. The rear residences would appear to line up with such a street. She reports that it was closed at the west end when the apartment house at the corner of Polk and Lombard was built in the 1920s. Subsequently, the Larkin Street end was also closed, and an apartment house was built at that end (can be seen from here).
CONTINUE WALKING ON NORTH SIDE OF LOMBARD
1245 Lombard Street – c. 1884 – San Francisco Stick (square bays); the windows are more recent.
1241 Lombard Street – probably also Italianate; set back; there are partial views from the street of the garden, which contains several Japanese maple trees.
1215 Lombard Street – c. 1886 – flat-fronted Italianate; the bay window on the west side and the shingles were later additions. The modern garage with classical dentil molding complements the older residence. (Contrast with new garage at 1271-75 Lombard.)
Norfolk Island Pine East of 1215 Lombard
TURN SOUTH ON LARKIN; WALK TOWARDS GREENWICH
2500 Block of Larkin
2555 Larkin Street – 1920s apartment house at end of the “hidden” street above Lombard
2531 Larkin Street – 1877; Italianate, with characteristic triangular window pediments, segmented arches above the windows and entry, bold bracketing, panel molding. Originally, this was a one-story cottage. The current owner converted it into two stories by dropping the original ceiling to gain additional space for the top floor.
2525 Larkin Street – 1920s; Mediterranean Revival apartment house (with the above-mentioned water tower penthouse). Note: variety of faces on the façade, tile entry, and elaborate door screen. The 1920s was a decade of luxury apartment house construction.
2515 Larkin Street – 1888; San Francisco Stick style, with square bays and sunburst motifs on the porch entrance arch. This house and 2431 Larkin may have been moved here after 1906.
AT GREENWICH INTERSECTION
Note South side of 1300 Block of Greenwich; all buildings are post-fire.
CROSS AND LOOK AT NORTH SIDE
There are some pre-1906 residences on this side, but they are largely concealed by street trees.
CONTINUE ON LARKIN TO FILBERT STREET
Turn west on Filbert Street to the Bush Cottages.
1338 Filbert Street – Bush Cottages – 1907 cottage row of 4 – looks like a mews.
1940s: one cottage with studio addition used by artist Marian Hartwell for the School of Basic Design & Color; the other 3 cottages were rented to students & other tenants.
1940s alterations took place during Hartwell’s residence here as a renter & owner. She rented from 1937-1940s, then bought the property and lived there until she sold in 1972.
She designed common garden, brick walkways & patios that are still there.
1951 to 1987: rental units (by now, Hartwell had closed her design school).
1979: legal conversion to 4 condos, but continued rental of units.
1988-2000: housing and office for current owner and rental housing for up to 8 tenants.
Note on Marion Hartwell – specialized in crafts, decorative arts and turn-of-century design; b. 1891, received B.A. (History) at Stanford, 1914; spent 2 years traveling in Europe in late ’20s and taught at Art Institute 1926-40; member of faculty group known as the “Fine Arts Fraternity.” Most left the Institute in 1940 when Abstract Expressionists gained greater influence. Hartwell then founded her school, which focused on teaching more traditional design and crafts.
1364 Filbert Street – newer (1970s or 1980s) Single Family Residence (SFR) set back on lot; charming garden with a winding path in front of house.
RETURN TO LARKIN – CROSS STREET AND WALK NORTH AGAIN
2415 Larkin Street – Mission Revival/Arts and Crafts Apartment House – Early Twentieth Century; beveled glass; trefoils.
Looking south, Larkin at this point begins to show more urban density.
CONTINUE ON LARKIN TO GREENWICH
Turn east on Greenwich into Sterling Park. Walk up left stairway; at top, turn left and walk along the path to see golden gate view. Then go up short stairway and turn right on path at next level.
Sterling Park – The city acquired this land in 1930. In the park is a bronze tablet commemorating George Sterling (1869-1926), a poet and leading light of the Russian Hill literary community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was a friend of Joaquin Miller, Ambrose Bierce, Jack London, Robertson Jeffers, and Ina Coolbrith. Sterling published his first volume of poetry in 1903.
Born to a wealthy family in New York, he studied for the priesthood but left the seminary when he was 20. Sterling then came to San Francisco and first worked as a real estate salesman for his uncle’s firm (Frank Havens) in Oakland, but soon opted for a Bohemian life style. He began writing poetry when commuting by ferry to Oakland from San Francisco. He was once arrested in Golden Gate Park “in the company of an undraped female” and paid the fine in autographed books of his poetry. Sterling lived in Carmel from 1905 until 1911, and then returned to San Francisco, residing on Russian Hill in the 1920s. The poet was prone to depression and alcoholism, and in 1926, committed suicide by swallowing cyanide in his room at the Bohemian Club.
Sterling is best remembered for his poem describing San Francisco as the “cool gray city of love.” He gave away most of his poems, rather than selling them. Although he was a celebrity in his time, Sterling is virtually unknown today.
WALK BACK TO GREENWICH AND TURN EAST
The Lombard Reservoir in the park has been rebuilt. The tennis courts in the park, which are named for Alice Marble (1913-1990), were also rebuilt. Marble grew up in San Francisco and learned to play tennis at Golden Gate Park. She won six Wimbledon trophies and was the world’s top women’s tennis player from 1936 until 1940. Actress Carole Lombard was a close friend. Marble may have worked as an undercover agent for the United States in Germany during World War II.
This portion of Greenwich contains another section of early twentieth century brick paving.
CROSS HYDE & CONTINUE ON GREENWICH TO GREENWICH TERRACE
Greenwich Terrace (1101 Greenwich) – 1912 (T. Patterson Ross)
These 15 Craftsmen “bungalow” villas comprise the first co-operative residential development in San Francisco. Each residence has three frontages, and there is a central court with sunken gardens and fountains. Because of the steep grade of the hill, it was necessary to build the houses in terraces, so the roof of each lower villa forms a garden for the one above it. The balustrades and iron railings lend a note of urban formality to the vernacular buildings. The exteriors are white Portland cement, and the roofs are red tile. Originally, each apartment had a bell on the kitchen floor to summon the maid. The sale prices in 1912 ranged from $5200-5800 per unit, with a yearly maintenance fee of $240. All units featured pocket doors, built-in buffets, and breakfast nooks, and on the second floor there were maid’s rooms and drying rooms for laundry (now largely used for storage).
T. Patterson Ross (1872-1957)
Architect T. Patterson Ross was born in Edinburgh and came to San Francisco in 1890, where he first found work as a draftsman. By 1900 he had opened his own office at 222 Sansome, and over the course of his 30-year career in the city, designed more than 250 buildings – single-family residences, apartment houses, flats, hotels, churches, offices, and other commercial projects. The Russian Hill II tour focuses in more detail on Ross’s Russian Hill apartment houses.
Look at gardens near entrance.
The landscaping along the path includes two Norfolk Island pines, California wild lilac, and two coast redwoods; further down the path there are clivia, plumbago, junipers, cedars, pyracantha, tree ferns, and Japanese cherry trees.
CONTINUE DOWN GREENWICH TO MICHELANGELO PARK
Notice Bay View.
1st owner of property: Thomas Manchester
Came to California from Ohio in 1846; fought in Mexican War with John Fremont.
Later joined Gold Rush; acquired $5,000 in gold.
Bought lot in 1848 for $16; still has same boundaries today.
1849 – used a portion of his gold earnings to erect 3 pre-fabricated corrugated iron houses on this lot; he lived in one of the houses and rented out the others.
1852 – cleared the lot and built a two-story brick building 63′ x 58′; the only brick building in neighborhood at that time.
1855 – sold property to city for $24,000; city planned to convert it into a hospital for charity cases; plans fell through.
1857 – brick building converted into a schoolhouse; Greenwich Street Primary and Greenwich Street Intermediate schools were both located in the building.
Remainder of lot graded for use as a playground.
1865 – peak year of enrollment; 364 students & 7 teachers.
1867 – closed because too crowded; students transferred to a newly built school on Filbert between Taylor & Jones; it, too, quickly became over-crowded.
1869 – Greenwich St. building again in use as a school for the lower grades (higher grades went to the Filbert Street School, with 635 students in 1869 and called “North Cosmopolitan Grammar School.”) This school was called “Greenwich Street Cosmopolitan Primary School” with 480 pupils.
1874 – school demolished & replaced with a larger building in 1875.
Architect: John Gaynor (also did original Palace Hotel); school building had Italianate features: rounded & triangular pediments over windows & a bracketed cornice (common style at time for school buildings).
Walls along northern & western edges of park probably date from before 1906 because they are stone; after 1906, concrete was generally used for walls.
1892 – name of school changed to Sarah B. Cooper School.
1906 – building destroyed in the fire.
Post-1906 – a temporary wood-frame schoolhouse was built on the site.
1908 & 1911 – rooms were added, reflecting population influx into neighborhood; single family residences in the area had largely been replaced with flats, post-1906.
1917 – a new Sarah Cooper School built at Lombard & Jones; Greenwich Street school continued to be used as an annex.
1922 – renamed “Michelangelo School.”
Gradually the annex was used less & less.
1926 – city decided to sell and the lot was converted to a playground in 1928.
1929 – only one building, described as a “clubhouse” remained on the lot. (Sanborn map)
1953 – playground closed for a few months due to deterioration of grounds & safety concerns. Children under 12 had few other places to play in area, so it reopened at end of 1953.
Gradually revitalized; organized activities & games were held; programs operated during school year and summer.
By early 1980s ceased to function as a playground
Mid-1970s – Sculptor Ruth Asawa started gardens here.
Mid-1980s –North Beach Neighbors (NBN) members decided to plant community gardens in west end of the property.
With help of SLUG (SF League of Urban Gardeners), 20 gardeners prepared the soil, planted flowers & vegetables.
To counter concern that the property might be bought by developers, NBN submitted proposal to turn it into a public park.
Submitted to San Francisco Open Space Committee in 1984.
1986 – property transferred from Board of Education jurisdiction to Recreation & Park Dept.
1987 – Friends of Michelangelo (FOM) formed to oversee development of park.
1988 – fundraising began; drive led by Russian Hill resident Nan McGuire.
Renovation included new playground equipment, irrigation system & landscaping; total cost: $400,000.
Today there are 21 community garden plots (with an ongoing waiting list of about 20), sitting area, small basketball court, lawn, shrubs, flowers, trees and pathways; sun deck with picnic table (built on roof of gardeners’ shed), play area, sitting area, stage, and wooden stairs that sometimes also serve as ampitheater seating for stage. The park has several memorial benches including one dedicated to Friedel Klussman (champion of cable cars).
Park is used by neighborhood residents & children alike, including students from nearby schools.
Sometimes, wild parrots visit from Telegraph Hill; can also occasionally hear seals barking at Pier 39.
WALK BACK TO LEAVENWORTH – CONTINUE ON EAST SIDE TO 2400 BLOCK
2366 Leavenworth Street – Fay Park and Garden. Garden was landscaped by Thomas Church in 1957. (See Russian Hill II notes for additional history of the property.)
2420 Leavenworth Street – Arts & Crafts-influenced facade; 1923.
2434 Leavenworth Street – IB, 1885 – bought in 1915 by J.B. Monaco, “dean of the North Beach photographers.” He lived here for many years.
A portrait photographer by profession but at heart, a photographer of the urban landscape of North Beach – the counterpart of Arnold Genthe in Chinatown in the late 19th & early 20th centuries.
Swiss-Italian – born near Lake Locarno, in Switzerland.
Emigrated to San Francisco in late 1870s with his older brother, Louis.
They opened a portrait studio at 702 Market, across from the Palace Hotel (1888-1902).
J.B. continued the business after brother died.
1905: opened a studio on Columbus Avenue; later bought a building across the street at 234 Columbus & had his studio there from 1920 until forced to close during the Depression.
Died at 81 in 1938; had retired just a few months earlier.
Photographed the Pan Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) in 1915, but was best known for his photographs of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire and the 1908 arrival of the “Great White Fleet” which President Theodore Roosevelt sent around the world on a cruise to “show the flag.”
Today, Monaco Film Labs (234-9th St.) has an archive of Monaco’s photographs.
2423 & 2455 Leavenworth Street – (adjacent houses) – ca. 1926; shingled rather than stuccoed, so look less modern than they really are; blend well with older houses in vicinity; Maybeckian and Arts & Crafts influences.
WALK TO FRANCISCO STEPS; VIEW 2500 LEAVENWORTH FROM BOTTOM OF STEPS
2500 Leavenworth Street – 1881 – a pristine San Francisco Stick; the Canary Islands palm tree probably also dates from Victorian times.
GO UP STAIRS TO LANDING
2508 Leavenworth Street – 1961 studio addition designed by Charles Moore (wood siding; very modern).
Moore was one of the chief architects of Sea Ranch.
800 Francisco Street – Streamline Moderne apartment house; ca. 1940; James Hjul, engineer.
CONTINUE TO TOP OF STAIRS
Notice buildings on the skyline.
WALK ON NORTH SIDE OF FRANCISCO STREET
800 Block of Francisco Street
Great variety of architectural styles; large lots; homes set back.
809 Francisco Street – Thomas Church garden (very little visible from street).
828 Francisco Street – Tudor Revival (popular Early Twentieth Century period revival style); views of Golden Gate Bridge, Bay and Coit Tower.
TO SEE FROM 864 FRANCISCO STREET
825 Francisco Street – one of oldest residences in San Francisco (ca. 1854).
Remodelled several times
Originally built of lumber from ships abandoned in San Francisco during Gold Rush.
Saved in 1906 fire by applying wine-soaked burlap sacks to roof & walls.
In 1908 from these grounds, people watched the procession of the Great White Fleet through the Golden Gate.
Retaining Wall (with series of garages and stairways) – was built along entire south side of block; gives this enclave more formality.
864 Francisco Street – architect: John Galen Howard, 1912
• Howard was supervising architect of UC Berkeley campus in early twentieth century & founded Dept. of Architecture
• He also designed several Classical Revival buildings on UC campus: Hearst Mining Bldg. (1907-07), Greek Theater (1903), Doe Library (1907) & Sather Tower (1914).
• Designed commercial and residential buildings in San Francisco and worked on the planning of St. Francis Wood (1912).
888 Francisco Street – modern; San Francisco architect Don Knorr designed as his residence (1979).
898 Francisco Street – Tudor Gothic; built for sculptor Haig Patigian in 1914; designed by Ward & Blohme.
Haig Patigian (1876-1950)
Armenian ancestry – parents had immigrated & settled in Fresno, late ninetennth century.
1898 – moved to San Francisco at the age of 24; took drawing classes at Mark Hopkins Art Institute.
1900 – hired by San Francisco Bulletin as an illustrator.
Around this time, also became interested in sculpture.
1st major work: a statue of President McKinley commissioned for town of Arcata (near Eureka).
Made several trips to Paris to study sculpture.
Created sculptures for PPIE Palace of Machinery (1915) – as result, became internationally known.
Very active in Bohemian Club; served 4 terms as president & designed the decorative panels for the façade (1933).
Had this home built in 1914 for $30,000. It was sold for approximately $8 million in 2002.
Died in 1950 at age of 74.
Among his best-known works:
1910 “Head of Liberty” pediment above entrance to Emporio Armani, 1 Grant Ave. (originally a bank).
Bronze plaque at Lotta’s Fountain commemorating Luisa Tetrazzini’s concert there in 1910.
1922 – statue of General John Pershing (in Golden Gate Park).
1939 – sculpted several figures for Golden Gate International Exposition at Treasure Island.
BEFORE CROSSING THE STREET
Look at façade of Seamen’s Mission (old portion of original residence is more visible while on Francisco Street). Note retaining wall here has been painted white and “Mediterraneanized.”
CROSS TO S.W. SIDE OF HYDE/FRANCISCO INTERSECTION
See façade of Patigian House; then look at Norwegian Seaman’s Church on east side of Hyde Street.
Norwegian Seamen’s Church in San Francisco – The Norwegian Seamen’s Church was founded in Bergen 140 years ago; today they have churches all over the world.
The San Francisco church was founded in 1951 for Norwegian sailors who were in port for an extended period. Today they also welcome Norwegian student groups, nannies & tourists who are here for short or long periods. They don’t have a permanent congregation – the church is intended primarily for travelers. It was not connected with the Scandinavian community in San Francisco in the late nineteenth century.
The church acquired this residence in the early 1950s (built as a private residence c. 1905). Added the downstairs entrance & the church (in early 1950s); the interior is modern and filled with light.
This is a Lutheran church. It holds services in Norwegian three Sundays each month; on the fourth Sunday, services are in Swedish.
There are two sitting rooms upstairs, a small library, and Norwegian and Swedish newspapers are available.
Norway’s King Olaf (d. 1990) visited the San Francisco church several times; his son Harold, the current king, visited in 2001; earlier he spent some time in the Bay Area as a student at UC Berkeley.
The church has two chairs covered in elaborate printed leather that are used for royal visits and other special occasions.
Reservoir – water piped up from a creek in Presidio. Pipeline was built in 1860s to provide water to residents on Russian Hill and in parts of North Beach and Chinatown.
2003 – The reservoir has severe seismic problems due to the age of the structure. Cracks endanger the water quality, and there is soil erosion on the Hyde Street side. Reservoir has not been used for many years.
2745 Larkin Street – William Wurster, one of Northern California’s leading architects working in the Second Bay Tradition style, designed this residence in 1951. It curves around the corner of Francisco, where there is a second entrance. Wurster also popularized the California ranch house style, beginning in the late 1920s.
Look at Golden Gate Bridge and Bay views.
This ends your tour of the North Slope (part III) of Russian Hill.