Real Estate

Live in a Piece of History at This $16 Million San Francisco Mansion

A prominent family built it right after the earthquake. Three generations later, they're selling it.

In 1906,  Elizabeth Leslie Meyerfeld married Leon Lazare Roos. Her father, who owned a chain of theaters, promised the couple a new house.

The house was completed in 1909.
Courtesy of Pacific Union Real Estate 

Under any circumstance, a new house would be a substantial wedding present. But given that the newlyweds were in San Francisco, a city that had just seen 56 percent of its population rendered homeless by an earthquake and the resultant fire, the area’s real estate was in a particularly acute state of flux.

The main entrance. Most of the house is constructed of redwood.
Courtesy of Pacific Union Real Estate 

“This was right after the earthquake,” said Mark Roos, the couple’s grandson. “There was a lot of movement from the Van Ness neighborhood [which was used as a firebreak during the earthquake] to the Presidio.” The couple chose a plot of land on Jackson Street. It "was the first house on the block," Roos said.

The living room, with original molding.
Courtesy of Pacific Union Real Estate 

After commissioning, then rejecting, an initial set of plans, the elder Rooses, who were both in their early twenties, hired prominent local architect Bernard Maybeck to build a 9,000-square-foot, Tudor revival-style house. Construction of the home, made entirely of redwood (“the basic, available building material of the time,” Roos said), took two years and was achieved for what Roos estimated was “less than $50,000.”

The house was built by a prominent San Francisco architect.
Courtesy of Pacific Union Real Estate 

The house has been passed down through generations. A full century later, Roos and his wife Sarah have put the house on the market, listing it with Nina Hatvany for $16 million.

Two Residents, Five Servants

When the house was completed in 1909, the house had two bedrooms for its owners, as well as staff bedrooms for chauffeur, upstairs maid, downstairs maid, butler, and washerwoman. Staff quarters occupied most of the basement and attic.

The dining room.
Courtesy of Pacific Union Real Estate 

The first and second floors were primarily dedicated to entertaining. When Roos's grandmother built the house, “she was very engaged in her social life, in the literary and theatrical worlds,” he said. “So I’m absolutely sure that entertaining was a primary requirement.”

The landing that leads to the second floor.
Courtesy of Pacific Union Real Estate 

The ground floor has a massive, vaulted ceiling covered in redwood paneling, with a large picture window overlooking San Francisco Bay. There’s also a grand, formal dining room on the same floor.

The house has a small, landscaped outdoor area.
Courtesy of Pacific Union Real Estate 

Once Roos’s father Leslie was born, architect Maybeck was reenlisted to modify the house. He added an upstairs living room that served as a nursery.

Improvements

Maybeck also enclosed several of the house’s porches. “They were less than useful” when open to the elements, Roos said, “given the weather in San Francisco.”

The house was initially designed with several open terraces that were later enclosed in glass.
Courtesy of Pacific Union Real Estate 

By the 1930s, the house had reached its current size—10,313 square feet—with seven bedrooms, six full bathrooms, and one half-bath. (Four of the bedrooms have en suite baths.) Subsequently, there were only minor modifications.

The kitchen.
Courtesy of Pacific Union Real Estate 

Roos’s father, who was an attorney, married a physician named Jane Schaefer. After her husband’s premature death in the 1960s, Jane became close to her mother-in-law (“they traveled together,” Roos said), and eventually moved into the house to take care of her.

The house has expansive views of San Francisco.
Courtesy of Pacific Union Real Estate 

“When my mom moved into the house, we were already in a different sort of world,” said Roos. “So two major things were done: The garage was changed so that you didn’t have to enter it through a long, narrow drive, which was fine for a chauffeur and not great for a practicing physician. And the kitchen, which had a separate butler’s pantry, was modified to be one large space with a breakfast room.”

A sitting area.
Courtesy of Pacific Union Real Estate 

There were a few other tweaks: The laundry room was moved upstairs, and bedrooms were shifted, even added to the third floor, for instance. But most of the changes were made so “you could run the house with far fewer people,” Roos said.

Soon after, Roos and his wife, both freshly out of graduate school (Yale for him, MIT for her), moved back to San Francisco and into the house.

Three Generations

They raised their children in the home. Then, when Roos’s mother died in 2016, her will stipulated that the house be sold. “Basically, the family is dispersed, and there are a lot of beneficiaries,” Roos said. “So it’s time to sell it.”

Four of the bedrooms are en suite.
Courtesy of Pacific Union Real Estate 

Prospective buyers will find an interior that’s been updated but largely unchanged since it was first constructed. “The clear intention has been to preserve the house and not to change it,” Roos said. The chandeliers in the main room are original, as are most of the house's ornamental details. 

There are original details in almost every room.
C/ourtesy of Pacific Union Real Estate 

The house is situated so that many of its rooms have unobstructed views of the bay. From the third-floor bedroom on the north side, Roos said, “you can sit in bed and look at the Golden Gate Bridge.”

The house has room for three cars.
Courtesy of Pacific Union Real Estate 

Despite a century of family memories, Roos, who now lives in his family’s country house in Marin County, said he doesn’t regret putting it on the market. “It was really wonderful to live there for 30-plus years—and to raise our kids there and to share it with our mom,” he said. “But we also acknowledge that things change. One has to adapt.”
 

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