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San Francisco Landmark 203: George W. Gibbs House
San Francisco Landmark 203: George W. Gibbs House
18 May 2010
(Click Photos to Zoom)
Landmark 203
George W. Gibbs House
2622 Jackson Street
Pacific Heights
Built 1895

[Willis] Polk's initial oportunity to design a large city house suffered from his lack of experience in such projects, yet the solution set a new standard for subsequent work in the city. The commission came from George W. Gibbs, one of the leading producers of iron and steel on the West Coast and a prominent figure in philanthropic affairs. Gibbs, upon retirement at age seventy, decided to erect a house that would rival those of his eastern peers--elaborate, dignified, but not ostentatious. Polk drew largely from Italian Renaissance sources, then at the height of fashion in New York. The massing recalls that of a Tuscan villa, with details adapted from Raphael's Palazzo Pandolfini and a portico inspired by the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli. But the elementary composition and the particularizing of its components make the facade seem more akin to mid-nineteenth-century Italianate houses than to McKim, Mead and White's work. The plan is equally conservative, with large, boxy rooms opening off a long central corridor.

Nevertheless, the Gibbs house generated a flurry of excitement. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced it to be "the first classical residence in San Francisco." Enthusiasm also centered on the fact that this was among the city's earliest houses constructed entirely of stone and that almost no dwelling of comparable size matched the restraint of its exterior. The Wave summarized prevailing opinion, remarking that the house's "unpretentious solidity ... cheapens the much gabled and turreted mansions surrounding it." In a metropolis of wood, the Gibbs house became an instant symbol of grandeur and permanency. The scheme further set an important local precedent for the collaboration of architect and artist in developing the decorative program. Polk had Douglas Tilden design the Medusa heads for the portico--the sculptor's first commission following his return from Paris earlier that year. Bruce Porter was brought in to create the huge stained-glass window in the stair-hall landing. Lockwood de Forest, who had been a partner in one of the country's first decorative-arts studios, prepared plans for the ornamentation of some of the principal rooms. De Forest's work may not have been executed, and the whole scheme fell far short of the exquisite interiors of McKim, Mead and White's houses, which served as its conceptual model. Still, the work demonstrated to rich San Franciscans that they need not entrust room design strictly to decorators, who often had little concern for architectural cohesiveness.

From On the Edge of the World: Four Architects in San Francisco at the Turn of the Century by Richard W. Longstreth

Willis Polk

Some buildings designed by Willis Polk:

  • c1890: Eli Sheppard House, 3203 Pacific Avenue
  • 1891: Horatio Livermore House, 40 Florence Street
  • 1891: Batten House, 116 Cherry Street
  • 1892: Williams-Polk House, 1013-1019 Vallejo Street
  • 1892: House at 3203 Pacific Avenue (Remodel)
  • 1893: Valentine Rey House, Belvedere
  • 1894: George W. Gibbs House, 2622 Jackson
  • 1894: William Joliffe House, 2015 Pacific Avenue
  • 1897: William Bourn Mansion, 2550 Webster Street
  • 1898: Wheeler House
  • 1900: Fanny Osborne House, 2319-23 Hyde Street
  • 1900: Albert Ehrman House, 2880 Broadway
  • c1900: Barreda House (Remodel), 2139-41 Buchanan Street
  • 1900: Atkinson-Escher House (Remodel), 1032 Broadway
  • 1900: Lloyd Osborne House, 1100 Lombard Street
  • 1900: One Lombard Street
  • 1900: Wilson Building: 973-977 Market Street
  • 1901: McCullagh-Jones House, Los Gatos
  • 1903: Merchants' Exchange Building, 465 California Street
  • 1904: All Saints' Episcopal Church, 1350 Waller Street
  • 1905-1909: Jessie Street Substation (Remodel), 220 Jessie Street
  • 1906: Flood Mansion (Reconstruction), 1000 California Street
  • 1906: Mills Building (Reconstruction), 220 Montgomery Street
  • 1906: Alvinza Hayward Building (Reconstruction), 400 Montgomery Street
  • 1907: Seldon S. Wright House, 950 Lombard Street
  • 1908: Path of Gold Light Standard, Market
  • 1912: Alice Griffith House, 2820 Pacific Avenue
  • 1912: Merced Manor Reservoir, Sloat Boulevard Between 22nd and 23rd Avenues
  • 1913: S. L. Napthaly House, 2960 Broadway
  • 1913: Insurance Exchange Building, 433 California Street
  • 1913: House at 2880 Broadway
  • 1913: Catherine Hooker House, 3277 Pacific Avenue
  • 1914: Hobart Building, 582 Market Street
  • 1914: Houses at 1-7 Russian Hill Place
  • 1914: Russian Hill Crest Double Access Ramp, Intersection of Vallejo and Jones Streets
  • 1914: Seacliff House #1, 9 Scenic Way
  • 1914: Seacliff House #2, 25 Scenic Way
  • 1914: Seacliff House #3, 45 Scenic Way
  • 1915: Carolands, Hillsborough
  • 1915: Tobin House, 1969 California Street
  • 1916: House at 2233 Lyon
  • 1917: House at 2840 Broadway
  • 1917: Four Townhouses, 831-849 Mason Street
  • 1917: Hallidie Building, 130 Sutter Street
  • 1920: House at 2255 Lyon Street
  • 1922: San Francisco Water Department, 425 Mason Street
  • 1923: Women's City Club Building
  • 1925: Beach Chalet, 1000 Great Highway
  • 1925: Filoli, Woodside
  • 1928: St. Francis Yacht Club
  • 1929: House at 3450 Washington Street
  • 1932: New College of California, 42-58 Fell Street
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