Sunday, December 27, 2009

House for Sale

There is a beautiful house for sale on a street I used to live on right down from Alamo Square in the City. Two guys bought it a few years ago and restored it to more than its former glory. In the article was the story of the house. Built in 1895 for John Dowling, designed by architects Havens and Toepke. It now sports marble countertops and recycled railroad ties for floors. The back yard was redesigned by a famous landscape architect. But there is so much more of a story to this house and I only know a little tiny bit. I hope somebody else knows more.

When I moved to Fulton Street years ago I would walk by this house every day hoping that someone would buy it and restore it to what I imagined its former glory must have been. It was pretty run down and was being used as a rooming house at this point. This house was owned by a little old lady who happened to be the sister of the woman who owned the house one house down the street from mine. The house directly next to me was still owned by the womans sister's family. I became acquainted with the father of the family next door when he began to appreciate that I swept the sidewalk and picked up trash on the street. He told me a very interesting story about his family, the house he lived in and the house two doors up from me.

His house had been purchased by his mother. She had been the owner of a jazz club in the Fillmore. She became quite well off and was the first black person to purchase a home in Pacific Heights. According to my new friend, this is when her trouble started. She also had her hand in some not quite legal operations and was not welcomed in her new neighborhood, not because of what she did for a living, but for the color of her skin. From the story her son told me, she was approached by the IRS and told that if she sold out of Pacific Heights, they would “overlook” her illegal monetary gains. So being the smart woman she must have been, she moved her family from Pacific Heights to what they all called The Barn on Fulton Street. Now The Barn was not a little place. It had a ballroom with a glass ceiling (since covered over), what I was told were Tiffany stained glass windows (some still there) a wall to wall fireplace and wall to wall china cabinet (stained glass that had been painted over) on the other side of the dining room. This is where she entertained the likes of Joe Lewis and Nat King Cole, I was told.

This woman had a sister who bought the house three doors up the street. I don't know much about the sister other than what I was told. She was a jealous woman and always tried to one up her sister down the street. There seemed to be quite a bit of bad family history between the two woman, but man could they pick a house. The house that is currently for sale once had a beautiful front door knob, it was in the shape of a fish, you pushed on the tail to open the door. Wonder if it is still there, might have to go to the open house to find out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

M - Sadly the door handle is gone. Before the current owners bought the house, it was purchased by a couple of dot commers. They ran out of money and one of the many things they sold was the door handle. I asked the current owners about it, and they didn't know about it. You should go thru it when they have an open house. They did a great job - very tasteful. SMEG