The Stories Behind San Francisco's 10 Oldest Houses
Built in 1858, the Feusier House is one of just two remaining octagonal houses in SF. (via Wikimedia)

The Stories Behind San Francisco's 10 Oldest Houses


There's more than 150 years of San Francisco history living behind these doors.

Relics of old SF, these homes are markers in time, housing memories from the Gold Rush and Prohibition—you know, back when you might have had a well in your backyard and a carriage house for your horse-drawn buggy. Take a tour of the most venerable houses still standing in the city.

Treat House (1849)

The residence at 1266 Hampshire Street, once home to Gold Rush pioneers George and John Treat, is believed to have been built in or around 1849. It was originally located on Capp Street, but was raised and moved to its current location. The house sold in September of 2017; the asking price was $1.5 million.

Abner Phelps House (1850)

(via Wikipedia)

Located at 1111 Oak Street in the Lower Haight, the Abner Phelps House is called SF's oldest unaltered house, built sometime between 1850 and 1852. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the house was built by Abner Phelps, a colonel in the Mexican-American War. One story claims that the house was built in New Orleans and sent in sections to San Francisco to please Phelps' homesick wife, Augusta Roussell, a Louisiana native. //

Captain Andrews' House (1852)

(via FoundSF)

At 2am on a February night during Prohibition in 1927, the cops arrived at at 31 Alta Street on Telegraph Hill to shut down an all-night "tea party." Originally built for Captain Richard Andrews, the house with the Bourbon Street–style balcony survived the 1906 earthquake before later being purchased in the '20s by Charles F. Sawvelle and his wife Myrtokleia, aka "Myrtle," who turned the bottom floor into a raucous speakeasy, much to the chagrin of the neighbors.

Atkinson-Escher House (1853)

(via Rebecca White, A San Francisco Realtor's Blog)

Currently on the market for $12 million, the Italian-style villa at 1032 Broadway Street was built in 1853 by Joseph H. Atkinson as his own home, and later remodeled by Willis Polk in 1900. Today, the house atop Russian Hill marries ornate Old World details with modern luxe amenities—it even has an elevator. //

Tanforan Cottages (1853-1854)

(via Wikimedia Commons)

Known as the Tanforan Cottages, the former farmhouses at 214 and 220 Dolores Street belonged to rancher Toribio Tanforan, whose family also owned the land where Tanforan Mall now stands. The property at once had a well on its lot—the water came from a nearby stream that flowed from Yerba Buena; the house at 220 still has a carriage house behind the main home.

The Boston House (1854)

(via Wikimedia Commons)

We all know the name of Stanyan. The house at 2006 Bush Street in Pacific Heights was once home to San Francisco Supervisor Charles Stanyan, who is credited with helping the city acquire the land for Golden Gate Park. Called the New England or Boston House, the residence was shipped to SF from the East Coast. When it was erected, just a handful of years after the beginning of the Gold Rush, Bush Street was a toll road.

Horatio Putnam Livermore's House (1857)

(via Curbed SF)

Horatio Putnam Livermore moved from Oakland to Russian Hill's 40 Florence Street in 1889. With its locally sourced and natural materials, the house is an example of First Bay Tradition style, an interpretation of Eastern Shingle style that was typical here from the 1880s to early 1920s. Architect Willis Polk—famous for supervising Bernard Maybeck's design for the Palace of Fine Arts, Le Petit Trianon and various other structures of historic significance—left his mark on this house with a remodel that included some of his signature design details such as natural redwood paneling.

Feusier Octagon House (1858)

(via Clio)

In the mid-19th century, eight-sided houses were all the rage. The big idea: that every room could get sunlight. Octagon houses were also touted as being cheaper to build, easier to heat and cool, and as maximizing living space. Located at 1067 Green Street, the Feusier residence is one of just two remaining octagon houses in SF. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

House of the Flag (1860)

As its name would suggest, House of the Flag, located at 1652-1656 Taylor Street next to Ina Coolbrith Park, has a patriotic heritage. In the aftermath of the 1906 quake, the homeowner stuck an American flag over the door just before evacuating due to threat of fire. Soldiers saw the flag and, inspired by the sight, used water from the home's bathtub and sand from a nearby construction site to save the building from the flames.

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