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Guide to the Baldwin & Howell Records
SFH 17  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing History
  • History of the Firm of Baldwin & Howell
  • Series Description
  • Arrangement
  • Bibliography

  • Title: Baldwin & Howell Records,
    Date: 1891-1974
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1891-1940)
    Collection Identifier: SFH 17
    Creator: Baldwin & Howell
    Extent: 7 cubic ft. (7 boxes), 1 map folder
    Contributing Institution: San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco History Center.
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    (415) 557-4567
    Physical Location: Collection is stored onsite
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.
    Abstract: This collection documents the business dealings of Baldwin & Howell--a firm which specialized in realty, insurance, property management, leasing, loans, insurance, and appraisal. The records in the collection span the years between 1891 to 1974, but the bulk of the collection contains material from the 1890s to the 1940s. These records provide insight into the residential housing developments of which the Baldwin & Howell Company was a part, documenting the origins of many contemporary San Francisco, Bay Area, and Northern California neighborhoods.


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has been assigned to the San Francisco Public Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items and the copyright.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Baldwin & Howell Records (SFH 17), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

    Acquisition Information

    The Baldwin and Howell Records--amassed as part of the personal collection of Elfreda Menzel--were acquired at auction from PBA Galleries, San Francisco, in August of 2005.

    Processing History

    The collection had undergone some preliminary preservation when it was purchased by the San Francisco History Center: some documents and photographs were sleeved in polyester envelopes. San Francisco History Center staff interleaved the pages of the photo albums with acid free paper and put them in archival boxes. Conor Casey processed the collection in the spring of 2007. During the processing, items that had been individually foldered were consolidated with like items to reduce bulk, most metal fasteners were removed, some photographs were sleeved in PAT-passed polypropylene sleeves, and the collection was housed in archival-quality containers. In addition, some oversized materials and photographs were removed to appropriate storage. Finally, some materials that were obvious inclusions to the fonds from Elfreda Menzel were removed from the collection.

    History of the Firm of Baldwin & Howell

    The real estate firm of Archibald S. Baldwin (1858-1924) and Josiah R. Howell (1868-1916) was one of the most important residential development companies in San Francisco and the Bay Area between 1890 and 1940. Baldwin & Howell was instrumental in the development of such San Francisco neighborhoods as Westwood Park, Forest Hills, Presidio Terrace, Balboa Park, the Richmond / Sunset, Forest Hill, West Portal, and St. Francis Wood. The company was particularly active in the development of the western portions of San Francisco during the first quarter of the 20th century.
    The firm's reach extended beyond San Francisco: it spearheaded residential developments on the San Francisco Peninsula in San Mateo and Burlingame. The company's efforts extended to other areas of Northern California as well: It developed properties in the cities of Richmond, Clear Lake, and Sacramento.
    The company that became Baldwin & Howell was founded in 1885 as the firm of McAfee & Baldwin. For a brief time around 1893, the firm was called McAfee, Baldwin, & Hammond. When Josiah Howell associated with the firm in 1897, the company incorporated and changed its name to Baldwin & Howell. In 1905, Howell became the first President of the San Francisco Real Estate Board. After the 1906 Earthquake, the company was one of the first to move to agressively rebuild San Francisco's decimated downtown area during the reconstruction era of 1907-1910. Throughout its history, the firm used a series of subsidiary companies to develop different housing tracts. Notably, under the name of the San Francisco Residential Housing Company, the company developed the neighborhoods of Westwood Park, Westwood Highlands, Monterey Heights, Mission Terrace, Geneva Terrace, and originated St. Francis Woods.
    In 1910, Baldwin & Howell affiliated with Speck, Paschel & Company, thereby gaining Philip P. Paschel, who would become the firm's president after Baldwin's death in 1924. Also in 1910, longtime company vice-president Samuel Isralsky joined the firm. Josiah Howell died in 1916.
    In 1937, Walter P. Laufenburg--who had been working for the firm since 1900--became the company's president. Laufenburg was also president of the San Francisco Real Estate Board. By 1955, the company's president and owner was George H. Thomas, Jr.. The company remained in business as a brokerage firm until 1999, when it was no longer listed in the San Francisco Phone Book. In that year, The Northern California Business Directory listed the firm at a Sacramento Street address, with less than five employees, and owned and managed by CEO Eugene Gillis. By 2000-2001, Baldwin & Howell was no longer listed in the directory, but the Office of the County Clerk listed Eugene Gillis as the firm's owner from a Pacific Avenue address as late as November 2003.

    Series Description

    Series I: Office Files 1891-1968 is comprised of Baldwin & Howell's office files and contains company histories, minutes of board of director meetings, financial ledgers and business correspondence, stock certificates, and other information related to the firm's overall business dealings. This series is divided into subseries by company functions, area of activity, and thereafter chronologically: Subseries A: General Office Files; Subseries B: Financial Records; and Subseries C: Legal Records.
    Series II: Project Files, 1894-1974 is comprised of financial ledgers, correspondence, and other materials relating to distinct development projects in which Baldwin & Howell was involved. These range from the purchase and appraisal of single buildings to the construction and sale of entire housing tracts. This series is broken into subseries and arranged by size of property, geographical proximity to San Francisco, and thereafter chronologically: Subseries A: Buildings (San Francisco); Subseries B: Blocks (San Francisco); Subseries C: Developments (San Francisco); Subseries D: Developments (Peninsula); and Subseries E: Developments (Northern California).
    Series III: Photographs, ca. 1905-1974 (Bulk 1910s-1920s) is comprised of photographs of various properties and residential developments with which Baldwin & Howell were involved. They document the construction and final states of various residences throughout San Francisco and Northern California. This series is broken into subseries and arranged by size of property, geographical proximity to San Francisco, and thereafter chronologically and is comprised of: Subseries A: Company History Photographs; Subseries B: Buildings (San Francisco); and Subseries C: Residential Developments.
    Photographs are housed with the San Francisco Historical Photo Collection; see separate hours for viewing (See note in "Access" section above).
    Series IV: Maps, Building Plans, and Oversize Ephemera ca. 1910-1948, is made up of various maps of housing developments and properties that Baldwin & Howell owned or had business dealings regarding. In addition, this series contains the plan for the Insurance Exchange Building, on California Street at Liedesdorff. Another segment contains two Oversize ephemera items: a Baldwin & Howell poster parodying municipally owned railroads and George Thomas, Jr.'s certificate of election to the Governing Council of the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers. This series is sub-divided by format into Subseries A: Maps; Subseries B: Building Plans; and Subseries C: Oversize Ephemera and arranged chronologically within these units.


    The material has been arranged into four series: Series I: Office Files, 1891-1968; Series II: Project Files, 1894-1974; Series III: Photographs, ca. 1905-1974; and Series IV: Maps and Building Plans, ca. 1910-ca. 1933. Series are subdivided by company activity, document format, or geographical scope.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Baldwin, Archibald S., 1858-1924.
    Howell, Josiah R., 1868-1916.
    Land use--California--San Francisco Bay Area--History.
    Real estate development--California--San Francisco--History.
    Cities and towns--California--San Francisco County--History.
    Cities and towns--California--San Mateo County--History.
    Cities and towns--California--Contra Costa County--History.
    Real estate business--California.
    Suburbs--California--San Francisco Bay Area.
    Land subdivision--California--History.
    Baldwin & Howell
    Residential Development Company of San Francisco
    Cluett Building (San Francisco, Calif.)
    Davis-Schonwasser Building (San Francisco, Calif.)
    MacDonough Building (San Francisco, Calif.)
    Russ Building (San Francisco, Calif.)
    Sloane Building (San Francisco, Calif.)
    San Mateo Improvement Company


    Additional information about Baldwind & Howell's role in real estate development in Northern California may be found in the following resources:
    Bastin, Donald. Richmond. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia, c2003.
    Brandi, Richard. San Francisco's West Portal Neighborhoods. San Francisco, CA: Arcadia Pub., c2005.
    Jebe, Walter G. San Francisco's Excelsior District. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, c2004.
    Loeb, Carolyn S. Entrepreneurial Vernacular: Developers' Subdivisions in the 1920s. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
    mtdavidson.org Mt. Davidson and Westwood Park Neighborhood History http://mtdavidson.org/westwood_park Accessed April 16, 2007.
    Proctor, Jacqueline. San Francisco's West of Twin Peaks. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., c2006.
    Stanger, Frank M. From Suburb to City; 50 Years in Burlingame. Burlingame, CA: San Mateo County Historical Association/ La Peninsula, California 1958.
    Ungaretti, Lorri. San Francisco's Richmond District. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, c2005.
    Ungaretti, Lorri. San Francisco's Sunset District. Chicago, Ill.: Arcadia, c2003.
    VerPlanck, Christopher P. Glen Park?The Architecture and Social History. http://www.sfaa.org/magazine/archives/01/1201/1201.verplanck.html; San Francisco Apartment Association Magazine, December 2001.
    Western Neighborhoods History Project. Western Neighborhoods History Project. http://www.outsidelands.org/ Accessed April 16, 2007.
    Zompolis, Gregory N., San Mateo. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, c2004.