The Belden-Buck House
Illustrations by Kit Haskell
The Belden-Buck House was built in 1889 and designed by architect Walter J. Mathews. This large Queen Anne style residence was commissioned by Charles A. Belden, treasurer of the stove and metal importing firm W. W. Montague & Company. Mr. Belden went on to become the President of Watsonville Water and Light Company. His three-story plus basement house of twenty-two rooms, seven fireplaces and two full and two half baths was served by both gas and electricity and cost the then considerable sum of $12,000. This was at a time when the average single-family house in San Francisco cost about $2,000 to construct.
The Beldens resided in the house until 1899, when they moved to Ross. The earthquake of 1906 toppled the four brick chimneys but otherwise left the house intact. The following fire was halted only two blocks away when the enormous mansions along Van Ness Avenue were dynamited to create a fire block.
In 1907, John A. Buck purchased the house as a City pied-a-terre; his family lived primarily in San Rafael. Buck was a pioneer industrialist with interests in oil, alcohol and Hawaiian cane plantations. In 1915, the Bucks bought the modest Eastlake style house next door at number 2010, demolished it and used the lot to expand the rear garden and to create the parking court facing Gough Street. The wrought iron gates to the court sport prominent “B”s and the grille to the vestibule door incorporates John Bucks’s initials in its design. The front porch was glassed in at this time as well.
An examination of the exterior yields some interesting details and suggests what fashionable Pacific Heights must have looked like in the late nineteenth century. The asymmetrically composed structure boasts both a tower and a turret at the front, and variously shaped bays, balconies and window seats project on all sides of the house. The lavish use of surface ornament is a hallmark of what we now call the Queen Anne style. Witness the combined use of plain siding and fish-scale shingles, the many rectangular molded panels, classically derived cornice details, the moon gate motif on the second floor and the wildly rich plaster reliefs applied to the facade. A closer look even reveals a demonic face peering out over Lafayette Park.
The 2004 Gough house is listed by the Department of the Interior as the Belden-Buck House on the National Register of Historic Places.
Source: Phillip Parton
— taken from the Victorian Alliance‘s 2006 “Grande Dame Victorians... Along the Fireline in Pacific Heights” catalog