The Harney Residence
Illustrations by Kit Haskell
What do you notice first about 1283 Page? Perhaps it’s the wonderful mural that graces the garage door. The sculptor who has lived here since the 1960s commissioned Jane Ford (co-founder of Benefit Cosmetics) to create this joyful “gift to the street.”
Look again and maybe you’ll notice that 1283 and its neighbors at either side seem almost petulantly independent of each other. Sidewalk setbacks are different for each. The left-hand neighbor sits at a higher grade level than 1283. And, then, look at the side windows and cornices—they face each other head on. “Why would this be?” you ask. The answer: 1283 wasn’t built here. In 1897, this vintage 1883 two-story single-family Italianate was jacked up on blocks, put on a sled, and moved to this lot, next to the existing house at 1277 Page.
The man who owned the lot and set up water service here on July 19, 1897 was Charles S. Harney, one of a family of street and grading contractors. There were originally two wash trays, two wash basins (a third added in 1908), one bath and two water closets.
Exquisite details in the façade have been preserved throughout the house’s long life—and the owner’s choice of paint colors make these details “pop.” Dentils wrap under the cornices above each set of windows and the roof. The mansard-like French cap adds apparent height to the false front. Pilasters delineate the building corners. Classical columns at the entry are mimicked by smaller colonnettes between slanted bays. Originally built as part of a row of houses, you can see that the ornamentation on 1283’s left side would have faced on a street corner or side garden. (The whimsical figures perched on the railings are more recent additions!)
The first occupants at 1283 Page—from 1897 to 1910—were diamond merchant and jeweler Sigmund Braverman, his wife, and soon-to-be socialite daughter. The Bravermans left to move to Pacific Heights.
Property owner Charles S. Harney resided here for only a few months, having moved in with the Irish-born Margaret Tormey and her family shortly before his death at age 46 in 1910. In his will, Charles Harney granted a life-estate in 1283 Page to Margaret—that is, she didn’t own it but had rights to it during her lifetime. Charles never married, and left most of his sizable estate (estimated at over $110,000) to his siblings Joseph, Mary, and Winifred.
Margaret Tormey lived here with various of her children and occasional lodgers off-and-on from 1910. After her death in 1932, unrestricted ownership reverted to the children of Charles Harney’s now-deceased siblings. Over the next two decades, 1283 Page provided a home for the families of two of the nieces: Grace Juth and Isabell Frontin, themselves both widows. It was perhaps Grace and Isabell who installed steam heat and a fantastical elephant-ear wallpaper. From the early 1950s, the owner-occupants warehouseman Domingo and Amparo Dahunan shared 1283 Page with numerous renters.
By 1964 when the current owner moved in, the house had been partitioned into six households. The current owner’s many restorations and loving improvements include returning the house to a single-family dwelling, along with saving several art-glass windows from Fillmore-neighborhood wrecking balls now installed to embellish the light from the surrounding garden.
by Eileen Keremitsis
— taken from the Victorian Alliance’s “2014 House Tour” catalog