Best of San Francisco: Young San Francisco and C. O. Clausen

Best of San Francisco: Young San Francisco and C. O. Clausen

Young San Francisco and C. O. Clausen by Mara Finley

Mara Finley is a Bay Area native, design enthusiast, burrito aficionado and proud rescue dog mama. She can be found zipping across town from listing to listing, or bathed in the glow of her laptop, greasing the wheels that keep Kindred SF Homes running from behind the scenes.

Reading time: 2 minutes and 46 seconds

With all the recent talk of city dwellers fleeing to the suburbs, I’ve thought quite a bit about what it is that keeps me so firmly rooted in San Francisco. When the world was open—eons ago, it seems—the answer was far easier to come by. I’d start my day with a yoga class at a serene, dimly lit studio with just the right amount of heat to curb the foggy morning chill. Then maybe a cappuccino with silky foam poured into a rippled heart. Weekends were for eating out, with a dizzying array of taquerias and sushi bars and wood fired pizza places to choose from. 

Six months into the pandemic, with restaurants shuttered and most of life (if we’re lucky) shrunken to fit the confines of Zoom, is the city really over? Although I’m writing this from home, dressed for work in slippers and overpriced sweats, I’m in no hurry to trade in my hatchback for a minivan and head for the cul-de-sac hills. I’ve lived here long enough to know that San Francisco is as resilient as it is transient. This city has survived earthquakes, fires, booms and busts. And it will absolutely survive this pandemic, whether we who have the privilege of living here today choose to stay or go. 

The other day, as I drove across town and through Golden Gate Park to our current listing at 6014 California Street, I was struck by the relative quiet of the city. Traffic flowed, I hit all the green lights. Parking was still difficult, but only because the surrounding side streets are cordoned off for pedestrians as part of the city’s Slow Streets program. In this slower, quieter moment, I’ve often felt transported to San Francisco’s past. The San Francisco of my twenties, when I first moved here and was awed by the zig zag of Victorians lining the hills. And a more distant past, when the city itself was young. Who drafted up plans for these houses we call home? Thanks to David Parry, our colleague, dear friend and architectural enthusiast at Sotheby’s, we are privy to the rich architectural history of 6014 California Street. 

Long before jewels like Angelina’s and Pizzetta 211 opened their doors to long lines of hungry neighbors, the architect Charles Olive Clausen drafted up plans for this 1920 Mission Revival style building. Born in 1886 in Napa, Clausen was brought up in San Francisco, and graduated from Mission High School in 1904. In 1915 Clausen designed a 4-unit building for himself in the outer Richmond, where he lived for the rest of his life. Clausen was prolific—his residential buildings, large and small, still stand not only in the Richmond District, but also in Russian Hill, Cow Hollow, Presidio Heights, the Marina, Pacific Heights and Downtown. Clausen was inspired by his European travels, and published a series of notes called ‘My European Impressions’ in Architect and Engineer. Clausen continued working well into his 80’s, and passed away in 1973, one month short of his 87th birthday. 

Bonus: Not an architecture fan? Still dreaming of those suburban, sprinkler-fed lawns? Want to enjoy an irreverent and humorous tutorial on navigating the burbs? Lewis Black has some sage advice for refugees fleeing the city, including “if you see someone lying in the street, you have to help them” instead of stepping over them “like they’re a human pothole.” Check it out: Lewis Black’s Survival Guide for New Yorkers Stuck in the Suburbs 

Meanwhile, for more musings on San Francisco’s architectural history, see this throwback Real Estate Therapy post.

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