This remodel of the idiosyncratic Tudor Revival house originally built by Mayor “Sunny Jim” Rolph Jr. in 1930, is a fantastical reimagining and embracing of its colorful history along with the client’s needs and desires. Extensive dry rot damage necessitated a nearly complete rebuild of this historic building. While the public sides of the house are seemingly unchanged, all is remade anew, and most everything on the interior has been altered in some form to assert alternative historic fictions. The original house was purported to have been built for Sunny Jim’s mistress, the actress Anita Page, known to be the center of many grand social occasions during Prohibition, serving the finest whiskey; and was dubbed “Casa Cielo” or alternatively the “Pleasure Palace” atop Dolores Heights. This one bedroom house, without a kitchen, was characterized by the 544 s.f. Great Room with carved trusses and a massive stone fireplace on the top floor with a terrace overlooking San Francisco. The subsequent owner, a Dr. DeGrazio, installed a bronze and marble fountain of Leda and the Swan, supported by muses in the front yard, supposedly a gift from Mussolini.
The primary scope of work included adding a new rear stair of precast ashlar, reclaimed brick and stone, with a crystalline enclosure of traditional leaded glass, a new kitchen, dining, sunroom, master suite, office, laundry, two-story library and a full basement by excavating solid rock from underneath the house. Additionally, a guesthouse and separate garage were completely rebuilt with substantially re-engineered retaining walls and drainage. The center piece of the house, a new walnut library, features a custom cast iron balcony, spiral stair, and custom lighting provided by Infinite Fitting, with hand forged railings by Jefferson Mack. For full dramatic effect, there is a secret pivoting bookcase door leading to a cavernous hall and secret stair.
The project includes a grey water irrigation system and is distinguished by a LEED Silver certification.
General Contrator: Buck O’Neill Builders
Photos: © Richard Barnes; All Rights Reserved