The James Frank Moroney House
Illustrations by Kit Haskell
Carpenter-builder Matthew Kavanaugh (1845–1912) immigrated to America from County Wexford, Ireland at age 24 and constructed the seven Queen Anne cottages—now commonly known as “Postcard Row”—on Steiner Street’s 700 block between 1892 to 1895. These then-tony townhouses are united by form, but remain individually unique in detailing. The Moroney House is distinctive for its elaborately ornate gable; shingled surfaces and spindle work; and the pattern of its jewel-encrusted stained glass windows.
Kavanaugh designed and built 722 Steiner first, just a few doors away, for use as his own residence, later erecting this house in 1894 for newlyweds James Frank and Anna Hunt Moroney.
James (1869–1919), the son of a prosperous Gold-Rush era stockbroker, worked for and then owned a succession of enterprises, ultimately serving as president of his own insurance firm, Moroney and Grant. His bride, Anna, was the daughter of Henry B. Hunt, who had arrived alone in San Francisco in 1849, at age 9, after losing his guardian-uncle to yellow fever in Panama. Anna, who was 19 when she married James, was described in one press release as “one of the most popular girls in the younger society set, as well as being acclaimed the most beautiful.” In 1909 Anna and James separated and moved.
In 1910, Mary Daly, then owner, let the house to various families until selling it in 1921. From 1923 to 1967 a series of owners made few changes to the home. Then, in 1967, Gregoire Calegari, a CPA, and his wife Cathy, an airline attendant, purchased 710 Steiner for $32,000; they updated the house, including adding a back deck. Gregoire remembers these exciting years fighting the Redevelopment Agency’s plans to expand its renewal programs around Alamo Square.
Two more owners would safe-keep the Moroney House from 1974 to 2012 when the current couple, Gretchen Sisson and Andrew McCollum, purchased it on June 6, just three days before their wedding. Immediately they embarked on a massive two-year restoration and renovation. All systems, including the original sewer line, were replaced, and the home was earthquake retrofitted.
While replacing wiring, lincrusta—long hidden beneath drywall overlays—was discovered in the dining room, main stairwell, and master bedroom. Sections were painstakingly restored, while molds were cast to replicate the missing portions.
Besides the elegant updates to the kitchen and bathrooms, a bay window was added to the kitchen and bedroom above; a bed and bath inserted on the lowest level; and a full bath, and outside balcony to the uppermost level.
The house maintains many original features, including the first floor fireplace mantles, tiles, ceiling medallions, chandeliers, figural brackets, pocket doors, and dining room floor parquet frieze in a Greek key motif. The matching stained glass windows on the front of the house, as well as the one at the top of the stairs, were first installed in 1894, but fully restored. Notice sections of early wallpaper, either preserved and featured in place or in framed sections, throughout the house.
Butler Armsden Architects led the project with the work completed by Scott and Warner Construction.
Postcard Row has been featured in films and television shows, including Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Bicentennial Man (1999), Five Year Engagement (2012), and, most famously, in the opening credits of Full House (1987–1995).
Adapted by Jason Allen-Rouman from “The Storied Houses of Alamo Square” byJoseph B. Pecora with updates from Gretchen Sisson and Andrew McCollum
— taken from the Victorian Alliance‘s “The Storied Houses of Alamo Square 2015 House Tour” catalog