The Nolan Residence
Illustrations by Kit Haskell
This house with its rear carriage house was built between 1888 and 1889 for property investor Margaret Nolan for $5,500. Maggie, a Catholic widow, came to the United States because of the political unrest in Ireland. By 1880 approximately one-third of San Francisco’s population was of Irish decent. Maggie’s sponsor was Michael O’Shea. In the late 1800s and early 1900s Maggie earned her living through photography. She hired San Francisco architect William Dennis Shea to build the residence. William and his brother Frank partnered in 1900 and were one of a precious few Catholic firms to build churches including Star of the Sea, St. Vincent De Paul, Saint Anne’s of the Sunset, and others. William became the city architect in 1907.
The principle features of this house define it as Queen Anne in style. This style originated in England in the 1870s with the work of Richard Norman Shaw. In this home we see a transitional mode echoing late medieval form and picturesque massing with a variety of ornament. The central gable runs front to rear with two recessed cross gables at differing depths and widths. These gables, together with the front porch gable, provide a pleasing asymmetrical appearance. The wall surfaces are separated by belt courses and differing materials including fish scale shingles. The large arch in the central bay window is repeated on the porch and entry door. Squared spindle work is found on the porch and in the large brackets supporting the central gable. The elongated brackets above the porch columns, the window casing detail, patterned stick work on the bay, porch, and attic surfaces display Stick style features. Unique are the two squared and turned porch columns integrated with a carved vase form. This light-filled design was possible due to the extra wide lot of thirty feet.
From 1889 to 1892 Robert Francis Hay resided here. Hay was a proprietor of a ferrotype (also known as tintype) gallery at 342 Kearny Street in 1890. He may have known Maggie from his photography business.
In 1903 Aloise Gless, age 52, along with her sons Jules P. and Louis A. and daughter Leonie, resided here. Aloise and her sons operated a retail and wholesale wine and liquor business at 401 Fourth Street.
In 1906 Bertram Francis Alden, age 32, a well known San Francisco Jewish surgeon, purchased the house and is shown married to Leonie Gless and living with her extended family. Dr. Alden, who was chief surgeon of the French hospital in 1912, removed his own appendix in an unprecedented surgical feat. He became a commissioned officer in the Medical Corp during World War I.
In 1927 Joseph and Ellen Troy purchased the home. They were highly religious Catholics and very active in parish activities, along with their seven children. Their son, John F. Troy, inherited the home in 1953. He was a former steel worker who became an employee of the State Board of Equalization. John’s sister, Lillian McFarland, is listed as owner in 1979.
Since the early 1980s there have been two more owners, including the current owners who purchased the home in 1991 and have carefully preserved its historical features and sensitively remodeled the kitchen and baths for modern living.
by Stephen Haigh and Alan Norton
— taken from the Victorian Alliance’s “2014 House Tour” catalog