LIVE IN A PIECE OF HISTORY IN A SAN FRANCISCO MANSION
In 1906, Elizabeth Leslie Meyerfeld married Leon Lazare Roos. Her father, who owned a chain of theatres, promised the couple a new house.
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 per cent 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.
“This was right after the earthquake,” said Mark Roos, the couple’s grandson. “There was a lot of movement from the Van Ness neighbourhood [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.
After commissioning, then rejecting, an initial set of plans, the elder Rooses, who were both in their early 20s, hired prominent local architect Bernard Maybeck to build a 9,000sq ft, 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 US$50,000.”
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 US$16mn.
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 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 ground floor has a massive, vaulted ceiling covered in redwood panelling, with a large picture window overlooking San Francisco Bay. There’s also a grand, formal dining room on the same floor.
Once Roos’s father Leslie was born, architect Maybeck was re-enlisted to modify the house. He added an upstairs living room that served as a nursery.
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”.
By the 1930s, the house had reached its current size - 10,313sq ft - with seven bedrooms, six full bathrooms, and one half-bath. (Four of the bedrooms have en suite baths.) Subsequently, there were only minor modifications.
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 travelled to- gether,” Roos said), and eventually moved into the house to take care of her. “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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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”.
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 children there and to share it with our mom,” he said.
The house was built by a prominent San Francisco architect
A sitting area
The landing that leads to the second floor
The house has a small, landscaped outdoor area
There are original details in almost every room
Four of the bedrooms are en suite
The main entrance. Most of the house is constructed of redwood
The dining room
The living room, with original moulding