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San Francisco Landmark #74: Frank Stone House
22 January 2004
(Click Photo to Zoom)
San Francisco Landmark #74
Stone House
1348 South Van Ness
Built 1886

The luxurious Stone House was commissioned by Attorney Frank M. Stone in 1886 as his private residence. Sited on what was then 2818 Howard Street, the house was designed by Architect Seth Babson.

The woodframe house has two stories over a partially exposed basement and an attic under steeply pitched roofs. The architectural style reflects the transition from Stick to Queen Anne. The principal elements and the massing are Queen Anne while most of the detailing is in the Stick style.

The lot has a depth of 120 feet and fifty foot frontages on both South Van Ness Avenue and Cypress Street. The placement of the house allows yards in the front, back and on one side. [Webmaster note: most lots in old San Francisco are 25 x 100 feet. Rear yards are common, but front yards and side yards are rare.]

As with the exterior, the interior is in an excellent state of preservation. The following description of the interior was published in Artistic Homes of California (1887), and in 1975, when the house was designated as a San Francisco landmark, virtually all features described, including the frescoing, were extant.

Just beyond 24th Street, Howard street is marked by this most artistic residence. A frescoed vestibule porch, bearing the initials FMS in monogram, extends before the mahogany entrance doors, with art glass. The main hall is square in dimensions, with two large panes of glass at right angles to each other forming its southwest corner, and finished in oak. The floor is inlaid with black walnut and mahogany. The ceiling is of Port Orford cedar, transversed by unbroken lengths of deep red wood moldings. The wainscoting is a high paneled dado. The hall fireplace, set in glazed brick, with its massive mantel of carved oak, comprises over three hundred pieces. Its hooded top is supported upon five short columns. At the back of the portico thus formed are four panels of hammered brass, representing scenes in the departure and return of a Crusader. A pair of gas brackets start from each end of this unique chimney-piece.

On the right of the hall and opposite the fireplace is the solid oaken staircase, guarded by two newel-posts bearing globes of light. In its flight to the second floor it makes two turns and is broken by two landings. From this landing rises the tall, stained-glass window upon whose bright-hued surface wanders the storied Marguerite.

Opening from the lower hall beyond the fireplace on the left, is the drawing-room, finished in gold with elegant mantel of cocobola, the fireplace in gold and bronze tiling and redwood finishing. The frescoing is an expression of a sunburst, whose golden rays diverge from the round window at the base of tower, spreading across the ceiling, while into their full glory flies a bright-hued peacock-plumaged bird, the legendary 'wahoo' of the Japanese, which ever seeks the rising sun.

At the lower end of the hall is the dining room, finished in oak, like the hall. Between the dining-room and the kitchen, at the north, is a glass closet. Beyond the kitchen, which has every convenience, are the pantry and back entrance. Below are the laundry and a cellar, divided into two parts.

In the second story the hall is nearly square. Into it open the three sleeping apartments. These are finished in redwood, with the exception of the mantels, which are different. In the principal chamber is one of rich antique mahogany, in the second one of toa wood, and in the third, which looks out upon the loggia in front, one of prima vera. The back hall is shut off from the front. It leads to the servants' apartment, the linen closet, and the bathroom.

Encased from view are the stairs leading to the attic. There is also a little round room in the tower.

Frank Stone, son of a noted New England attorney, shipped out of Boston as supercargo aboard a sailing vessel. He visited the Azores, the West Indies, and Europe before arriving in San Francisco in 1874 where he completed of his legal studies.

For a short time, he served as Deputy District Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco. In 1882, he entered into partnership with A. A. Sargent, former Minister to Germany and former United States Senator. This partnership lasted until Sargent's death in 1887.

Stone handled many cases which achieved both public and legal notice. In the People vs. Tarm Poy, a case of hatchet murder in Chinatown, Stone represented the family of the deceased and maneuvered his way through a net of complexly woven circumstantial evidence to gain a conviction. In gratitude, the Fong family solicited contributions from its members throughout California and presented Stone with a solitaire diamond as well as his fees.

Stone's arguments in the case of Cook vs. Pendergast were accepted as settling the law and practice of change of venue. His thirty year involvement with the estate of William H. Moore is described in the History of the Bar and Bench of California, published in 1901.

Shortly after the earthquake of 1906, the Stone residence was purchased by William Larkins who was connected with the family carriage business which had been established in San Francisco since 1865. Larkins and Company prospered and kept abreast of new developments in the transportation field. When the automobile appeared on the scene, the company introduced the "California Top" for touring cars. Whereas previous tops were made of cloth with isinglass side windows, Larkins' innovation was of solid material and included sliding glass windows. Descendant firms of Larkins and Company exist today and are known by the names of Larkins Bros. Tire Company on South Van Ness Avenue and Kenneth Larkins Co., Inc. on Post Street.

In 1915 after the death of William Larkins, the house on Howard Street was sold to John Sullivan. Since 1922, ownership of the house has been held by the present owner's family [as of 1975].

In April of 1939, this lower portion of Howard Street was renamed to South Van Ness Avenue and the residence assumed its present address.

Adapted from City Planning Commission Resolution 7317 dated April 24, 1975.

San Francisco Street Trees

Consider Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey). Lovely building.

Consider the Taj Mahal, the Doge's Palace, the Parthenon, the Lincoln Memorial, the Sagrada Familia, the Winter Palace of the Tsar, the Hagia Sophia, San Francisco's own City Hall and Opera House and Legion of Honor.

Lovely buildings, all. Essential to their appeal is that they stand unobstructed to be admired from any angle and at any distance.

Over the past twenty years or so, many of San Francisco's most distinctive buildings have gone into hiding behind ill-considered street trees. Except for the Spreckels Mansion Spite Hedge which clearly flips the bird to San Francisco, most of these trees were planted in good faith to beautify the streetscape, filter the air, increase property values; but like the cute SPCA puppy who grows up to be a two hundred pound mastiff, many of our street trees would be more at home in the country than the city.

Here is a short list of some striking San Francisco buildings which I wish were more clearly visible. I'm sure the Hop-On Hop-Off tourists would enjoy them too. They can see an ineptly pruned ficus or an ailing plane tree anywhere.

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