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the homes

1901 Franklin

Mrs. E.B. Crocker House

1901 Franklin
Illustrations by Kit Haskell

Shortly before the completion in February 1900 of this Beaux Arts mansion, an article appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle describing the new residence of Mrs. E. B. Crocker. The article announced that Mrs. Crocker would reside in her new home six months of the year, the other six she would spend in New York City.

The article continued with a description of this new residence, “After passing through a marble entrance vestibule the first floor will be seen to consist of a main hall, reception, living and dining rooms, with a suite of apartments in natural pine for Mrs. Crocker and her maid on the Clay Street side of the house. The other rooms will be furnished in oak, and all of the principal ones throughout will have beamed ceilings and hardwood floors. In the rear on the ground floor will be the kitchen and its accessories. There will be five large bedchambers on the second story finished in redwood with bath, and the remainder of the space will be occupied by the servants’ sleeping rooms, also provided with a bath. The cost of the residence will be about $22,000.” This would have been a substantial cost for a house at that time.

Mrs. E. B. Crocker was Margaret Eleanor Rhodes, the widow of Judge Edward Bryant Crocker, who had died in June 1875. Edward B. Crocker was the brother of Charles Crocker (one of the Big Four of the Southern Pacific Railroad), head of the law department for the Central Pacific Railroad Company, and for a while on the California Supreme Court. Margaret Crocker was born in 1822 and married her husband in 1851 in New York City. Soon after she moved to Sacramento. She lived in Sacramento until 1898, when she moved back to New York City. In that same year she came on a visit to San Francisco and decided to build a residence for her remaining years. She hired the architect Albert Sutton, who designed for her a modern Classical Palazzo, and returned to New York, where she realized on condition of her health, she would not be able to return to San Francisco. In November 1900 she sold the home to Lewis Meyerstein for $45,000. Margaret Crocker died in December 1901 at the age of 79 in New York City without ever seeing or living in her new residence.

At the end of 1900, Lewis Meyerstein hired Julius E. Krafft to alter his new home for the sum of $7,837. Mr. Meyerstein was born in Prussia, Germany, and was in the wholesale business. He resided at 1901 Franklin Street with his wife Jane, son Alfred, and three servants, until his death in November 1906. While waiting to be a witness in his legal case pertaining to sale of property on Van Ness Avenue, he rose to give testimony and promptly expired.

Around 1951, the present owner, the Golden Gate Spiritualist Church, acquired the property and altered the residence. One source states the cost of the renovation to be $6,800. David Haddick, the son of the minister during the building’s conversion, states “I have the itemized list of expenses to support a $30,000 figure. That doesn’t include the huge amount of labor from the members who did almost all the demolition. The architect who designed the conversion was also a member who donated his services, and the artisan who redid all the wood graining was also a member who donated several weeks of his time to restore the redwood paneling so that it matched the real oak paneling.” He continues; “When we converted the building to our use in 1951, we did all we could to preserve and restore the interior even though we had to create large open spaces for meetings and fire proof the interior with sheetrock. The exterior is unchanged except for a side entrance on Clay St. and a fire escape from the second floor. In 1997 to 1999 we spent over $300,000 to remove all the lead paint from the exterior of the church and to completely rebuild the roof balustrade to current earthquake code. It was so weathered that a good wind would have brought it down. That contractor did such a bad paint job that we recently spent another $40,000 to remove the bad caulking compound (it bled through the paint and turned all the seams black) and repainted the church as you see it today.”

The house’s original architect Albert Sutton was born in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1867. He moved to Portland, Oregon, and graduated at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1894. He became an architect in 1896. He took on a partner Charles Peter Weeks in 1903 and as Sutton & Weeks designed many prominent buildings in San Francisco until the dissolution of the firm in 1910. In 1912 he moved back to Portland, Oregon, where he practiced architecture until his death in 1923. The residence at the southwest corner of Divisadero and Vallejo Streets, built in 1902 as his own house, is one of his best designs.

— taken from the Victorian Alliance‘s 2006 “Grande Dame Victorians... Along the Fireline in Pacific Heights” catalog

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