The Tale of Four Cottages and Landmark #232

A Milkman, A Butcher, An Artist and a Couple with Persistence

 1338 Filbert Street cottage row

1338 Filbert Street cottage row

The Filbert Street Cottages tell a wonderful story by providing a tangible link to the 19th Century history of Russian Hill as both a working-class neighborhood and one that contributed to the City’s artistic traditions. The original property know as 1312 Filbert was split into two lots, each with one house, one owned by by Peter Matthews, a gardener, milkman and laborer, and the other by William K Bush, a butcher.  In the immediate aftermath of the 1906 Earthquake and Great Fire of 1906, a group of four cottages, permitted as rental housing, were built on the double lot property. Since there was a high demand for housing, the structures were built modestly by skilled craftsman rather than known architects.  The embodied rustic simplicity, minimal embellishment, and a generous sensitivity to the site . The overall appearance references the craftsman style en vogue during the early 20th century.



The Matthews-Bush ownership formally transferred to Marian Hartwell in the 1946 who, while renting Cottage A, had built a 1943 addition to use as an art studio. 1n the early 1940's Hartwell developed the School of Basic Design and Color using cottage A as a classroom and renting our the other cottages to students, some of whom had been students of hers from her days as a faculty member at the California School of Fine Arts. These students enjoyed the benefits of her teaching the principals of California Decorative Style during these years. In the 1950s, Marian added square footage at the rear, reconfigured the cottages to 10 units. Additional brick walkways, outdoor patio areas, and landscaping were added to the property. These cottages continued as rentals for working people and retirees.

In 1972, Marian Hartwell sold the property to San Francisco architect, Robert Marquis of Marquis Investors, who in 1979 subdivided the property into four condominiums. Over a period in the 1980's, the units were resold until all four were owned by John Willis, one of the city's developer of fine boutique residential projects. Willis lived in Cottage A from 1989 until 2007, when he sold the property to David Low and Dominique Lahaussois.

Low and Lahaussios purchased the cottages for a simple renovation plus a couple of parking spaces. Three years of planning reviews followed as the project team worked through a myriad of complex preservation, environmental, and planning issues. Entitlements were obtained in early 2010, but further litigation delayed the construction until 2014. Their small renovation ultimately turned into a massive undertaking that included a full underground garage accessed by a commercial vertical lift. During this stretch of time the four cottages were suspended in air by steel columns for nine months while the concrete garage was built underneath.

Patience is definitely a virtue! Now in its reimagined, historically sensitive state, these four beautiful cottages have all been sold. The final sale was completed this spring by my partner, Joseph Lucier, who relocated a very happy couple for Marin County to begin a new chapter in San Francisco.  We all love a happy ending!


Renovated Interiors from 2017-18 offering


Before/After Slideshow