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824 Grove Street

The Brune-Reutlinger House
824 Grove Street

Christmas Decorations

Our yearly holiday celebrations focus primarily on utilizing the large dining room, carrying on our decades of traditions, and recipes garnered and fine-tuned by long-time homeowner Richard Reutlinger. Sharing his large (can seat 22!), walnut Eastlake table, today formally-set with rotating sets of Robert’s own family or Richard’s English transfer-ware, gorgeous sets of glassware and sterling flatware – it’s a sight to behold. Being able to share this environment with close friends and our loved ones is a true joy!

The majority of our holiday decorations represent Richard’s years of collecting. Featured in the dining room, Richard has always used his hand made decorations, created during the early lean years of home ownership. Styrofoam balls turned into bejeweled orbs! They also adorn Richard’s garlands above the parlor, front hall, dining room doorways, and handmade Santa figures, angels, and elves, dot the sideboard or mantle.

The stockings along the garlanded stairs are all hand-made from those early days as well, representing housemates, loved ones, best friends (some passed away long ago), and our current residents who have more recently been added, all with names.

In recent years we have added a Santa Claus montage; it’s a humble tribute to our beloved (also deceased) neighbor, historian, and high-end antique Christmas collector Joseph B. Pecora. Ours are nowhere near Joe's caliber; neither Richard nor we ever invested the money or the thousands of hours Joe spent scouring estate sales to assemble his unparalleled Christmas collections. The children’s stockings which have hung in the Turkish Room now for decades, Richard procured from the “lost department” when he ran a laundromat in Noe Valley for a time!

Richard has always had us place a tree in every room, with varying themes including the bedrooms. His Egyptian tree that sits on the Knabe piano in the second parlor is a true favorite. Another sentimental special tree pays homage to our dear friend (now deceased) Cathy Furniss (she was a long time Victorian Alliance member who advanced the Alliance’s mission of preservation. She performed in movies with Shirley Temple in L.A., then relocated to SF as a vocalist in SF in the late ’40s and ’50s. She loved to “sparkle” in stage lights, always bedecked with beautiful jewelry. Rafael created a handmade tree, totally encrusted with just a portion of Cathy’s stage jewelry. Don’t miss her tree! Richard has a white ceramic tree, made by his mother. And, of course, Richard’s colorful Patriotic tree, all with a red, white and blue theme that sits in the Ballroom.

Since Richard’s passing, we’ve added many front porch decorations, lighting, and Christmas trees. And there are more surprises to be seen this year inside! Join us!

824 Grove Street History, the Brune-Reutlinger House

The Western Addition house that well-to-do liquor merchant Henry Brune built 139 years ago at 824 Grove Street has survived to become one of the country’s most celebrated Victorian dwellings—a time capsule of period furnishing and ornament. Designed by architect Henry Geilfuss and featuring both Italianate and Stick style elements, the Brune-ReutlingerHouse was constructed in 1886 at a cost of $7,500.

The Henry Brunes, 824 Grove’s first family, resided there for twenty years until shortly after the 1906 earthquake, and their successors, the William J. Gallaghers, a large Irish-American Catholic family, lived there for the next forty-five. From 1952 to 1964, 824 housed the Antioch Baptist Church; its present owner acquired the property in 1965.

In 1863, Henry Brune, a native of Wiesbaden, Germany, immigrated to the U.S. at age 15. In 1871, he and Frederick Koster ran the Central Saloon on the northwest corner of Kearny and Geary. Eight years later, in partnership with William Alfsand Henry Nabers, he established a liquor wholesale and import firm, which touted itself on the concerns business card as the sole local agents of Phoenix Old Bourbon Whiskey. Henry and his first wife, the former Emilie Mohr of Sacramento, along with their three children moved to Grove Street from a previous residence at 101 Capp Street in the Mission. Emilie enjoyed only four years in her new home, for in 1890, at age 31, she died while traveling in Europe. In 1892 the widowed Henry married Louise (LuLu) Von Ortendorff and fathered an additional three children. The Brunes, listed in the San Francisco Blue Book, entertained guests in their large downstairs ballroom, which doubled as a playroom for their six children.

In 1907 the Brunes relocated to Ross in Marin County and sold 824 to William J. Gallager, proprietor of the Woodlawn Stables located two blocks away at 617–33 Grove. Mr. Gallagher, a native San Franciscan born of Irish immigrant parents, had apprenticed as a carriage maker at age 17, worked as a blacksmith at 20, and in 1891 joined with his father Patrick to form the wood and coal firm of P.J. Gallagher & Son on the northeast corner of Hayes and Buchanan Streets, across the street from 700 Hayes Street. William expanded his operations to include his livery stable in 1898. Keeping pace with the changing times, William’s Stables evolved into Gallagher Automotive and then Town Taxi, a forerunner of the Yellow Cab Company. The Gallagher household in 1910 included William, his wife Mary, five children and one domestic employee, Pauline Mahler.

After the sale in 1952 to the Antioch Baptist Church, the ballroom was converted into a chapel and plans were proposed to remove 824’s elaborate Victorian façade and combine the two lower levels into a single large meeting hall. Daunted by neighborhood opposition, the church sold the property in 1964 to Elizabeth Heller, a member of the Wells Fargo banking family. Although she had planned to restore the house, which she had been using as a rental, she changed her mind and put the house back on the market.

The next owner and occupant was Richard Reutlinger, who found his new home in severely dilapidated condition and began a program of restoration, renovation, decoration and furnishing at 824 for the next fifty years. His efforts, which have been illustrated in a number of national publications, so impressed a former publisher of the Old House Journal, that the latter declared 824 Grove to be “the most famous Victorian home in America.”

Each of the house’s dozen or so rooms is finished in the style of the 1880s. The spacious fifteen-foot high parlors on the first floor, completely redecorated in 1994 by members of Artistic License, a local guild of artisans, lead into a dining room which features built-in floor-to-ceiling walnut cabinetry. Also on this floor are a conservatory, a morning room and a large kitchen with two vintage stoves. The second floor has five bedrooms, the first of which is decorated with ornate stenciling by artisan Larry Boyce while the others are hung with Bradbury & Bradbury wallpapers designs by famed designer Paul Duchscherer. The rear bedchamber has been transformed into an extravagantly ornate Turkish room.

The ballroom downstairs is now a music hall, christened by Richard as “The Dirty Shame Saloon,” stocked with music boxes and player pianos of all kinds, including a FotoPlayer which was used in movie houses of the silent film era. In addition to playing piano rolls, it can produce, when operated manually, an array of vintage audio effects: horns, whistles, drums, hoof beats, pistol shots and castanets.

Mr. Reutlinger first furnished his home by attending Butterfield auctions and by shopping at the many second-hand stores lining a nearby commercial strip on McAllister Street that dealt in nineteenth century furnishings and ornament. In the early 1970s, these stores were vacated so that the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency could complete its second phase of Western Addition demolition which eliminated hundreds of Victorian structures between Geary and Fulton Streets. Were it not for community resistance, the agency would have continued its “renewal” as far south as Market Street, and homes such as the Brune-Reutlinger house would have been lost.

In 1991, Marion Brune, Henry Brune’s niece, celebrated her 85th birthday at 824 Grove. So touched was she by her host’s fascination with his house’s history that she declared him to be “a gentleman of sentiment.”

With Richard D. Reutlinger passing in June of 2019, his active physical role in exquisite, detailed restoration marked 54 years—the longest tenancy for 824 Grove St. The Brune-Reutlinger House proudly remains intact, (Well, a bit more, collections-wise!) Under the continuing stewardship that Richard mentored for 3 decades and chose to succeed him, Robert O. Pritchard & Rafael Parocha, Richard’s legacy of restoration and upgrading collections will continue.

In candid talks with Richard for the house’s future vision, especially its collections, he always stressed to us, “Let’s focus on featuring San Francisco's history, when we can acquire to fine tune the collections.”

With that intention in mind: Richard has a bench from the now demolished grand Fox Theatre, one of Sally Stanford’s parlor sets, a matched pair of pedestals and spelter figures from the McMorry-Lagan House.

Robert and Rafael have added The Tillman Parlor set from Van Ness (who produced the safes for the Comstock lode). Adolf Sutro’s Bedroom set (Emmanuel Furniture Manufactory, also an early SF legacy). Lighting from the C. C. Rolf’s mansion 1120 Lombard, founder of The Alaska Salmon Packing Co.; A Stained glass window from the Presentation School, 1016 Eddy/near Gough. Most recently a love seat was brought back “home” by the second owner William Gallagher’s descendants to physically represent the Gallagher Family. It now proudly joins the overmantel mirror in the dining room (that almost disappeared right before Richard took ownership) which is the only direct surviving piece from the Brune’s residency here.

2023 edited by Robert Pritchard and Rafael Parocha from 2022 VASF Hybrid House Tour

2022 taken from the Victorian Alliance‘s “The Storied Houses of Alamo Square 2015 House Tour” catalog

2015 Adapted by Gary Goss from “The Storied Houses of Alamo”

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