San Francisco Chronicle
Victorian house takes journey down S.F. streets
Hundreds gather to watch relocation of historic house
After 139 years on Franklin Street, it’s rolled to new digs a few blocks away to clear spot for apartments.
Early on Sunday morning, a twostory Victorian house lurched out across five lanes of San Francisco’s Franklin Street and got snagged by a banner on a light pole.
There were as many as 600 onlookers out there, cell phones raised. It was like a golf gallery with “oohs” and “aahs” accompanying every moment of peril.
After 139 years at 807 Franklin St., the house was making its move down the street and around the corner to a new home on Fulton Street. According to the San Francisco Historical Society it was the first time a Victorian had moved in 50 years, and nobody wanted to miss it.
“It’s the most excitement I’ve had in 10 years. What if it topples?” said Camilla Blomqvist. As to rising at 6:15 a.m. so she could make it in time for the historic moment, she shrugged: “What else do you do in these pandemic times?”
Teresa and Dan Newmark and
their 7yearold daughter Madeleine left their Diamond Heights home at 6:40 a.m. and were in place when the action started at 7:17 a.m., Madeleine perched on her dad’s shoulders to watch.
Suddenly, the ground at 807 Franklin St. was exposed after 139 years beneath the house. “There she rolls,” said a crew member as he shoveled dirt off the sidewalk.
After a perilous few minutes
while the crew untangled the corner of the house from the light pole, the long twostory house narrowly made the turn and headed down Franklin, the growing crowd following behind. A tree trimming crew led the way, clearing branches for the wood chipper following behind the back door of the house.
“It’s like a Mardi Gras procession,”
said Dan Newmark.
“It’s a oneinalifetime type thing,” said Teresa, a San Francisco native.
“I’m obsessed with old houses and I’d always seen this house walking by. I wondered how long it would stay here. Now I know,” said Victoria Nady, an interior designer.
The parade slowed in front of Opera Plaza as the load struggled to make the hard right onto Golden Gate Avenue, up against some trees, with the crowd cheering as it cleared a few branches by inches. Crew members cut off other branches so that the Victorian could squeeze by, but it barely fit between Opera Plaza and the eightstory Mary Ellen Rogers Senior Community. The crowd was in front of the Victorian as it finally headed west.
The procession took an hour to move three blocks on Golden Gate. Adult soccer players at Martha S. Hayward Playground barely noticed as it rolled past. A round of applause went up when it cleared a left turn onto Laguna by inches, and only after the metal street sign was removed.
“These houses are part of the fabric of San Francisco,” said Fiona McDougall, a member of the Victorian Alliance of San Francisco. “It’s important to preserve them rather than replacing them with a bunch of cold boxes.”
Tim Brown, a San Francisco broker and the owner of the Victorian, paid about $400,000 in fees and moving charges.. The site at 807 Franklin St. is to become a 48unit, eightstory apartment building, while the transported Victorian will be anchored at 635 Fulton St. and converted to seven residential units.
“I passed it for years saying somebody should do something about it. It shouldn’t live next to a gas station,” said Blomqvist, applauding the Victorian’s move.
The amount of time it took for the big house to reach its final right turn onto Fulton seemed long enough for the toy dinosaurs toted by 3year
old Arlen Rodriguez and set up on the sidewalk to go extinct again. Finally, it was backed onto a new foundation in the middle of a row of lowslung stucco public housing units and next to a historic
former mortuary that had been slid over 14 feet to make way for its new neighbor,
“There used to be a lot more Victorians around here,” said Arlen’s dad, Adam Rodriguez. “Maybe the neighborhood is
going back to its architectural roots.”