Stunning Victorian Homes of San Francisco

The 2013 Victorian Alliance Home Tour offered a peek at historic homes in San Francisco's Mission District. Here's a look inside the John Coop House, the Samuel Weeks House and the Mayberry House.
By: Amy Keyishian
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Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

Photo By: Ross Pushinaitis / Exceptional Frames

John Coop House: Exterior

Dating back to 1888, this home was built by John Coop, a contractor and owner of the San Francisco Planing Mills, to show off his building skills with a spectacular Queen Anne design. The exterior features fish-scale shingles, a steep turret, and frieze panels featuring both geometric and floral designs – Coop's signature move. The home has been lovingly restored by its current owner, James Tyler.

John Coop House: Living Room

The two front rooms are packed with stunning built-ins and populated with perfect details. The tiles on the fireplace are original, and depict scenes from King Arthur's life.

John Coop House: Foyer

A retired scientist, Tyler repairs and rebuilds organs for fun. The house is filled with stunning examples.

John Coop House: Organ

Here's another organ, in a room whose walls had been covered over with plywood so the intervening years wouldn't destroy its details.

John Coop House: Second Floor

An elaborate Moorish theme dominates the woodwork throughout the house, which some call the finest examples still extant in San Francisco. Tyler collected the art on the walls, with a few family heirlooms, such as a woodcut done by his mother's brother back in Colorado.

John Coop House: Library

The home's original stained glass had been removed, along with the front door, when the previous owner left. After a few years, she brought the doors back, but the glass was still in a barn in Napa, which burned before she could return them. Tyler has collected period-appropriate replacements over the years.

Samuel Weeks House: Foyer

Built in 1881 by businessman Samuel Weeks, this Italianate masterpiece was later carved into myriad apartments. In 1971, current owner Jim Durfee purchased the home and painstakingly restored it. In the foyer, one black-and-white photograph catches the eye: Sarah Weeks, 4 years old, grinning impishly from the front steps. A former owner passed along this and the other photos on the deep red wall, and it must be nice to have her home.

Samuel Weeks House: Living Room

Catholic iconography is "a personal passion," for Durfee, and collecting these objects now satisfies the longing he had to rescue and care for them when he was a child. "God allowed us the ability to repair broken things," he says.

Samuel Weeks House: Wall Detail

The walls were made to look like warped wood studded with pegs, but in reality, they're a sanded-down polymer that you could wash with a hose if you needed to.

Samuel Weeks House: Past Imperfect

Photos of earlier phases of the renovation, featuring a much-younger Durfee, were placed alongside relics found as he went along: marbles, wooden blocks, nails, the heads of porcelain dolls.

Samuel Weeks House: Guest Room

The spareness of the room and its simple adornments belie the work put into its renovation. Above is a loft where a tenant used to sleep, formerly a bit of dead space left when a staircase was moved.

Mayberry House: Exterior

This house was built in 1872 by a prolific builder named Edward Mayberry. It's got the standard Victorian details – Italianate style, colonnettes and quoins at the sides and corners of the windows, segmented arch windows. Its design is a bit simpler than those built and decorated later, when those ornaments were more readily available in San Francisco.

Mayberry House: Dining Room Ceiling

The Mayberry House had an unremarkable life until 1996, when it became the home of Michael Brennan, a mural artist who specializes in restaurant design. For him, the blank walls and high ceilings were a sketchpad, a place to invent, a series of experiments, and he seemingly covered every available surface with rich, vibrant paintings.

Mayberry House: Living Room

Current owners Adam D. Smith and wife Mata have a pact with the house: The only artwork is theirs or Brennans. Their astonishing flair for decorating and joint artistic eye have created a haven rich with detail, yet never cluttered. 

Mayberry House: Living Room Ceiling

In some rooms, the previous owner had tried to tone down Brennan's artwork; the Smiths have no such desire. 

Mayberry House: Downstairs Hallway

Elsewhere in the house, walls were stripped down and either left that way or decorated as to enhance their scruffy charm. 

Mayberry House: Door

When you do any work on a home like this, Smith says, the emphasis shouldn't be on strict adherence to outdated styles, but rather "to pay homage," mixing past and future.