the homes

21 Baker

The Budde Residence

21 Baker
Illustrations by Kit Haskell

Research into the city’s architectural past reveals that both the construction and ownership of 21 and 23 Baker Street were initially intertwined, illuminating the history and career of an important residential builder. They are two prominent jewels in a tiara of handsome working mans’ Victorian flats and single-family, middle-class dwellings that are aligned in a compact row along the inclined blocks that descend directly from the crest of Buena Vista Park’s rocky escarpments towards Haight, Page, and Masonic Streets.

Numbers 15 through 25 were all built and designed from 1890 to 1892 by the carpenter/builder Hugh Keenan (born in Ireland, 1845), prior to his better-known collaboration with Robert D. Cranston —with whom he had joined forces as a partner between 1892 and 1897. They were active in creating several striking clusters of varied and ornate turreted Queen Anne houses throughout the Western Addition, particularly in the Haight and Northern Panhandle districts — as exemplified by the largely intact 700 block of Broderick which displays the diversity and character of their joint production.


The Baker Street row provides a view of Keenan’s personal contributions to this style of building, featuring many unique treatments for entry and porch structures, colonnades, and bay windows. Although he was not academically trained, Mr. Keenan drew from the ornamental and structural vocabularies of all the evolving phases of Victorianism, creatively combining selected aspects of later Italianate, Stick-Style, and Queen Anne. His hallmark was the way in which he amalgamated and interpreted the eclectic features of these styles in his own distinctive manner. You may notice such individual variations in the façade and details of the adjacent structures, such as the squared bay with modified Palladian windows, and a side porch at Number 15. Keenan was also instrumental in establishing Duboce Park.


The Spring Valley Water Works records the connection date for 21 Baker as November 11, 1890. The house is marked by the builder’s colonnaded porches above an entry portico—its milled columns decorated by carved, applied floral and tendril motifs and topped by now-gilded acanthus leaf capitals. Pilasters elegantly frame the vertically proportioned Italianate bay windows with bands of dentil blocks beneath the cornices, which are, in turn, surmounted by jigsaw-scored panels punctuated by scrolled keystones. Four stained glass-framed transoms that are inset with painted roundels depicting scenic bird motifs and floral bouquets reside above the bay windows and reiterate their arched shaping (examples may also be seen next door).


This home and its neighbor at 23 were first owned (after Keenan) by Joseph J. Budde, a brass finisher and manufacturer of patented “sanitary appliances”—the newfangled brass water closets that were floridly described in an illustrated advertisement appearing in the San Francisco directory of 1890. 1 Joseph resided at 21 (until 1899) with his wife Bertha and three children. His wife may have remarried after his death while retaining the property—the subsequent owner is listed as “Bertha Isaac” in 1906 and 1909. The home was then inhabited by a succession of boarders and renters until mid-century, while it was successively passed on to new proprietors between 1954, 1961, 1970, and the 1980s. The present owner purchased it in 2008.


The residence was initially split into two units divided by an entry hall; it has now been re-opened, and the original banister and newel post have been authentically restored. A previous owner had relocated the kitchen to the second floor, so there it remains. A major remodel was undertaken in the two front parlors of the main floor, removing a wall between them that had been inserted some time after the house was built. This allowed for the creation of a home theater with a large retractable, drop-down screen that is cleverly disguised within the soffit. This rebuilding also opened up the space between the living room area and the newly created library, increasing the flow of air and light. Crown molding that had suffered minor damage during construction was creatively repaired by one of the owners, using modeling clay. New bay windows with double panes were installed, along with a leaded glass window in the library, with its subtly mauve and aqua tinted, star-patterned transom. In the second floor parlor an ordinary brick fireplace was removed, replaced by the white Carrara marble surround. This sitting room is now graced with an elegance that is in accord with the home’s original intention.


A thoughtfully designed landscaping plan for the backyard completes the accommodating outdoor environment. With contemporary touches that complement and respect the historic style of the building, this is a home that is truly lived in, most comfortably.


by Tamara W. Hill, with research by Bradley Wiedmaier

— taken from the Victorian Alliance’s “2014 House Tour” catalog