Pacific Heights Homes and Mansions
Pacific Heights was little more than sandy hills with beautiful views of the Golden Gate, Alcatraz and Marin until cable car lines connected the area to downtown in the 1870’s — first on Clay then California with a Washington Street line added in 1887. Today, the Pacific Heights Homes and Mansions are some of the most amazing buildings in the city. Pacific Heights is roughly the area bordered by Van Ness Avenue to the east, Vallejo to the north, Pine to the south and the Presidio to the west.
The well-to-do built extravagant dwellings here rivaling those on nearby Nob Hill. Rescued from destruction in the 1906 earthquake and fire by the sacrifice of many stately homes on Van Ness Avenue, Pacific Heights today is an architectural museum of 19th century Victorian Mansions.
The Haas-Lilienthal House at 2007 Franklin Street — built entirely of redwood and typical of the Queen Anne style which dominated San Francisco residential architecture in the 1890’s complete with authentic furniture, wooden gables and a circular corner tower — is open regularly as a museum. It was built in 1886 for William Haas, a Bavarian Jew who emigrated to San Francisco in the 1860’s, started out in the grocery business and expanded into mining.
The 11,500-square foot Victorian was considered a standard middle-class home when Haas purchased the land for $13,500 and built the house for $17,500. The Haas Lilienthal House was given to the city by the two original Jewish families who lived there from 1886 until 1972.
The Spreckels Mansion, a French Baroque chateau at 2080 Washington Street in Pacific Heights, is made of white limestone and has 55 rooms, including a Louis XVI ballroom. Romance novelist Danielle Steele lives in the mansion which was built in 1913 for the bride of sugar heir Adolph Spreckels. Alma deBretteville Spreckels, who had posed for the statue at the top of the Dewey Monument in Union Square and married Adolph Spreckels when he was twice her age — was an avid art collector. Alma and Adolph donated the Palace of the Legion of Honor art museum to the City of San Francisco in 1924. Alma (along with her friends Sam Hill and Loie Fuller—”La Loie,” the “Fée Lunineuse,” or Fairy of Light as the French called her) was later instrumental in the development of the Maryhill Museum in Washington State.
More Pacific Heights Victorians
There are many other houses of historical of architectural interest in Pacific Heights including two built in 1896, the Whittier Mansion at 2090 Jackson Street and the Bourn Mansion at 2550 Webster Street.
The Whittier Mansion has an interesting history. One of the first residences in California to be be constructed of sandstone on a steel framework it was built for William Frank Whittier. After his death in 1917 it eventually was sold to the government of the Third Reich in 1938 and served as the German Consulate until WWII. The California Historical Society was headquartered in the Whittier Mansion until they moved to SoMa in 1993 and the building returned to being a private residence.
William B. Bourne commissioned Willis Polk to design the Pacific Heights mansion now known as the Bourne Mansion, Filoli — a country estate in Woodside, California — and reconstruction of the Flood Mansion after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. William Bowers Bourn II, with business interests in mining and utilities may have been the richest man in California, possibly even the world, at the time. The 14-bedroom, 4.5 bath home, now in need of major repair was put on the market in 2009.
The Dodge Mansion was once located at 2129 Laguna Street, across from Lafayette Park. The home had been owned by Dr. Washington Dodge during a very colorful period of San Francisco history. Dodge, his wife and son were survivors of the Titanic sinking.
Other historically interesting buildings include the 1890 Queen Anne Victorian houses at 2019, 2021 and 2023 Pacific. One of the oldest residences in Pacific Heights, the Captain Leale House—San Francisco Landmark No. 45—at 2475 Pacific Avenue was originally the main house for a 25-acre dairy farm. Thought to have been built in the 1850 it was remodeled by Captain Leale who purchased it in 1883. Leale, a well known SF Bay ferryboat captain, apparently added the false front and built an elaborate playhouse in back which was later converted to a replica of a pilot house where he enjoyed meeting with friends after his retirement.
Pacific Heights Victorians have stared in a number of movies and television series, notably the house at 2640 Steiner at the corner of Broadway and Steiner which was used in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire starring San Francisco comedian Robin Williams.
A short distance down Broadway, at 2311, sits the house featured in the long running Party of Five which launched the careers of Jennifer Love Hewitt, Neve Campbel and Lacey Chabert.
Many International Consulates are located in San Francisco and several including the Consulate Generals of Russia, Greece, Egypt, Vietnam and Italy are in Pacific Heights.
Predominately a residential neighborhood, Pacific Heights is also home to private schools and finishing schools.
Fillmore Street serves as the neighborhood shopping and dining street and hosts the annual Fillmore Street Jazz Festival in July.
Pacific Heights Parks
Alta Plaza Park and Lafayette Park provide tennis courts and a place to get some sun or enjoy the view.
Many more Pacific Heights and other San Francisco neighborhood Victorian homes and mansions are featured on my Historic San Francisco Victorian Mansions and Alamo Square pages. After you’ve taken a virtual tour of San Francisco you might want to take a real San Francisco Tour.