Scope and Content of Collection
Title: St. Francis Wood virtual collection
Collection number: EDAVC-1
Environmental Design Archives
197 digital objects
Environmental Design Archives. College of Environmental Design.
University of California, Berkeley.
Abstract: Located in the southwestern corner of San Francisco, St. Francis Wood is a prime example of the "Garden City" ideals of neighborhood
planning popular at the turn of the 20th century. The St. Francis Wood Virtual collection contains digital images of drawings,
photographs, correspondence and other historical documents relating to the architecture and landscape architecture of the
St. Francis Wood neighborhood of San Francisco, California. All items in this virtual collection are assembled from existing
collections in the Environmental Design Archives
Physical location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
Languages represented in the collection:
Collection open for research.
All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from materials in the collection should be discussed with the
St. Francis Wood virtual collection, EDAVC-1, Environmental Design Archives. College of
Environmental Design. University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley, California.
All items in this virtual collection are assembled from existing collections in the Environmental Design Archives.
Located in the southwestern corner of San Francisco, St. Francis Wood is a prime example of the "Garden City" ideals of neighborhood
planning popular at the turn of the 20th century. This neighborhood is of particular interest because it encompasses designs
by many well-known Bay Area architects and landscape architects. Unlike many residential developments that offered only stock
plans, St. Francis Wood developers encouraged houses designed by prominent architects for specific clients. The foresight
of developer Duncan McDuffie provided the neighborhood with a visual cohesiveness that remains to this day.
The land on which St. Francis Wood was established once belonged to the Mission Dolores. However, when the Mexican government
abolished the mission system in 1846, the land was granted to Mexican citizen Jose de Jesus Noe as part of a much larger piece
of land called the Rancho San Miguel (4,443 acres). However, with the influx of American settlers during California's gold
rush, Noe began selling off parts of his Rancho in 1852. Prior to development, this part of the city west of Mt. Sutro, Twin
Peaks and Mt. Davidson was primarily sand dunes. The only uses in the area were racetracks, roadhouses, the Alms House (later
Laguna Honda Hospital) and a Spring Valley Water Company flume. Some farmers rented parcels of land for growing vegetable
crops, making the long trip over Twin Peaks to the markets in San Francisco. In 1880, mining magnate Adolph Sutro purchased
the Rancho San Miguel and proceeded to plant thousands of trees on the land, which he kept as a nature preserve until his
death in 1898. The land remained held up in a complicated probate battle over Sutro's estate until 1909.
Developers who had been successful in establishing residential subdivisions in the East Bay after the 1906 earthquake and
fire, saw in the Sutro property opportunities for providing the same types of neighborhoods in San Francisco. Homebuyers
had flocked to these East Bay developments, which had been modeled on the "Garden City." With origins in England, the concept
of the Garden City proposed a weaving together of urban and rural, city and country. It called for large, park-like neighborhoods
of single-family detached houses, with large landscaped lots set along curving streets and with no commercial buildings.
This paradigm integrated easily into the larger City Beautiful movement, which at a city scale called for grand boulevards
adorned with neoclassical monuments to cut through the city and to connect a system of open spaces. The assumption of these
movements was that these types of cities and neighborhoods would be healthier and safer than crowded cities of grid streets
and apartment buildings.
A strong supporter of the Garden City movement was Duncan McDuffie, a developer who had great success with his residential
developments based on these ideals: the Northbrae and Claremont neighborhoods in the East Bay. McDuffie's personality was
certainly suited to bringing nature into the neighborhood. He was twice president of the Sierra Club, was involved in establishing
the state park system, and was a leader in the Save the Redwoods campaign. McDuffie's object with St. Francis Wood was to
create "residence park," a neighborhood that not only had all the benefits of the open landscape of the East Bay but also
had proximity to downtown. In 1910, McDuffie along with his business partner Joseph Mason purchased 175 acres of the Sutro
estate to realize this ambition. With his eye toward quality, McDuffie hired some of the most well-known architects and landscape
architects of the time to establish the layout and infrastructure of the neighborhood. The Olmsted Brothers firm laid out
the curving street plan as well as the neighborhood parks. John Galen Howard acted as the first supervising architect and
also designed the entrance gates, the Circle fountain and other neighborhood infrastructure. Lot buyers could hire any architect
to design their houses, but they had to follow strict design guidelines, and the supervising architect had final approval.
Despite the initial popularity of these Garden City neighborhoods in other areas around the Bay, lot sales in St. Francis
Wood were nearly nonexistent in the years 1914-1919. These stagnant years nearly drove Mason-McDuffie to turn their backs
on the original intent of the neighborhood. Of the many factors keeping buyers away, WWI especially slowed new home sales
and made building materials costly. In addition, the lack of transportation options to this region of San Francisco made
its location less than desirable. It was faster to reach downtown San Francisco by ferry from the East Bay than to reach
it by streetcar from St. Francis Wood. Consequently, McDuffie and several other developers with land west of Twin Peaks lobbied
fiercely for the construction of a streetcar tunnel under Twin Peaks. Their demands were met with the opening of the Twin
Peaks tunnel in 1918.
Once the Twin Peaks tunnel opened, lot sales in St. Francis Wood were brisk. In contrast to many developments in this area
that often did not involve architects, St. Francis Wood boasted architectural designs of many well-known architects such as
Julia Morgan, William Merchant and Gertrude Comfort Morrow and the landscape designs of Harry Shepherd. Henry H. Gutterson
acted as supervising architect for most of these later homes, but many architects did not veer far from the preferred style:
revivals of traditional English, French and Italian idioms. The St. Francis Wood Home Association, formed by Duncan McDuffie
in 1912, took over the maintenance of the neighborhood's parks and boulevards. In 1926, 400 of the 557 lots had houses, and
by the 1930s most of the lots in St. Francis Wood were sold. Today, much of Duncan McDuffie's original intent remains. St.
Francis Wood is recognizably different from many of the neighborhoods that surround it. Its wide lots, curving streets and
lush landscaping make the neighborhood a retreat from the rush of urban life.
- Barnhill, Donna.
San Francisco's Residential Parks: St. Francis Wood. San Francisco: CityGuides tour script.
- Beresford, Larry.
"Neighborhood Historian Sheds New Light on the Image of Jose Noe."
Noe Valley Voice September 2001.
- Brandi, Richard.
Images of America: San Francisco's West Portal Neighborhoods.San Francisco: Arcadia,2005.
- Weinstein, David.
"Signature Style: Duncan McDuffie. Natural neighborhoods: visionary developer created elegant urban 'residential parks'."
San Francisco Chronicle, 7 February 2004.
- Western Neighborhoods Project.
St. Francis Wood. 5 February 2004. http://www.outsidelands.org/sfw.html (viewed on 22 Sep 2005)
Scope and Content of Collection
The St. Francis Wood Virtual collection contains digital images of drawings, photographs, correspondence and other historical
documents relating to the architecture and landscape architecture of the St. Francis Wood neighborhood of San Francisco, California.
All items in this virtual collection are assembled from existing collections in the Environmental Design Archives. The collections
from which items are drawn are: Henry Gutterson Collection, John Galen Howard Collection, Stafford Jory Collection, William
G. Merchant/Hans U. Gerson Collection, Julia Morgan Collection, Irving F. and Gertrude Comfort Morrow Collection, Olmsted
Brothers, St. Francis Wood Homeowners Association Collection, Harry W. Shepherd Collection, Walter T. Steilberg Collection,
and Ward Thomas Collection. Items from the Howard and Olmsted Brothers collections express information about the early stages
of neighborhood development (1912-1917), namely the street layout, parks, fountains, entrance gates and other neighborhood
infrastructure. Items from the Gutterson collection relate to Gutterson's position as supervising architect for St. Francis
Wood. Items from the Harry W. Shepherd collection relate to the landscape architecture of individual homes. Items from the
St. Francis Wood Homeowners Association were collected by that organization for the purposes of design approval and relate
to the design of numerous individual homes by many different architects. Items from all other collections relate to the architecture
of individual homes in the neighborhood.
The series for this virtual collection are arranged alphabetically by architect or organization, with subseries arranged by
client or project name and followed by a list of items in that project. If a project has both drawings and photographs, these
are divided into separate subseries. The exception is in the case of a single photograph. In this case, only the item (photograph)
is labeled, and it is included in the same subseries as the drawings. This series structure is used primarily to support
linking to digital objects. Thus, it is unlike other finding aids for collections held by the Environmental Design Archives,
which are organized by the Standard Series for Architecture and Landscape Design Records.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in
the library's online public access catalog.
Architecture, Domestic--California--San Francisco Bay Area
Landscape architecture drawings
Parks--Design and construction
San Francisco (Calif.)
Henry Gutterson Collection (1956-2), Environmental Design Archives
John Galen Howard Collection (1955-4), Environmental Design Archives
John Galen Howard Pictorial Collection, 1885-1920 (PIC 1967.016-1967.018), The Bancroft Library, University of California,
Stafford Jory Collection (2005-12), Environmental Design Archives
Mason-McDuffie Co. Records, 1904-1983 (MSS 89/12 c), The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
William G. Merchant/Hans U. Gerson Collection (2001-15), Environmental Design Archives
Julia Morgan Collection (1959-2), Environmental Design Archives
Irving F. and Gertrude Comfort Morrow Collection (1992-1), Environmental Design Archives
Olmsted Brothers Collection (1969-2), Environmental Design Archives
St. Francis Wood Homeowners Association Collection (2005-17), Environmental Design Archives
Harry W. Shepherd Collection (1998-11), Environmental Design Archives
Walter T. Steilberg Collection (1973-1), Environmental Design Archives
Ward Thomas Collection (2005-1), Environmental Design Archives