How old do you think this San Francisco mansion is


Jan C. Nielsen

This mansion is located exactly on the spot where Dr. Dodge and his family lived. However, I don't think it's his house. If you think it's older than 1916, then it Dodge's residence. If not, then it was probably built on Dodge's property, after his residence was destroyed. Any thoughts?

Your image
Jan, have you considered checking with the cities building authority? (Or whatever they call themselves.) If anybody would have a record of when this structure went up, these would be the guys.

Nice looking place. Wish I had the moolah to afford it.

Michael H. Standart
You're right, Michael, the building authority is my next stop. But I wanted to get some input from our esteemed membership anyway. Interestingly, if you check the map on the site, most properties were listed in the wife's name. For example, 2129 Laguna was listed under "Ruth V. Dodge," Dr. Dodge's wife. This surprised me because I had believed that women couldn't own land, etc., at that time. My guess is that the husbands put the property in their wives' names to keep the homestead from being subject to any judgment, or collection.
I'm not much on tort laws and practice in 1912, so I wouldn't really know. (Tax law loopholes perhaps?) Sounds logical though. You might want to make a research project out of that.

Oh, and good luck with the Building Authority. Government bureaucracy could try the pateince of Job.

Michael H. Standart
Right again, Michael, I called the S.F. Building Authority yesterday. Someone there looked it up on a computer, and told me "1977." I said, "Geez, that can't be right. The building looks like it could have been from before 1900." Then the BA person said "Really." So now I have to go down there, on Mission Street, walk in, make the request, then make a second appointment to view the building records.
1977? That's cute!

I wonder if this individual had access to the photo you do? Architecture like this hasn't been used for private homes in nearly a century. Not as a matter of routine anyway. I take it that's real stonework in the structure? Translate that to mean "Damned expensive"

Michael H. Standart
California is and has always been a community property state. Our system dates back to when we were a Spanish colony. Women have always been able to own property here in their own name as well as rights to half of any property acquired during the marriage, absent certain exceptions. (There are always some!) Of course this all comes from living in such a beautiful sun drenched area - oops we are talling abut San Francisco - so sun enveloped with dark, gray miserable fog - of course that does prepare them for our great electricity crisis - but I digress.

It could be that the property was hers from inheritance or a previous marriage. David H.
Yes, David, California is a community property state, but nonetheless, as you're probably aware, the actual title to property still trumps the community presumption. The thing here is that so many of the properties are identified in women's names - - it couldn't all be attributable to inheritances. This, incidently, was a very wealthy neighborhood in San Francisco, at the time. Many of these old mansions are still there.

By the way, I don't like the fog either, so I live in the East Bay, and work in Oakland.
Here's Dr. Dodge's house, from 1912.

Actually, this was a very famous mansion in 1912. It formerly belonged to Henry T. Scott, and President McKinley stayed there in 1901. Here's the picture:

If you compare the looks of this house to the fire insurance maps, it's obviously the Dodge house. Additionally, the information that I have is that it was located at the southwest corner of Laguna Street and Clay Street, which is where 2129 Laguna, the Dodge's address, was in 1912.

I'm still looking up the building records on 2151 Laguna, but it seems unlikely that the present structure could have evolved from this.
>>it seems unlikely that the present structure could have evolved from this.<<

Agreed on that. For one thing, the previous building appeared to be larger then the one that exists now. I still don't beleive that the present building dates back to only 1977. I think the chap at the Building Authority got his wires crossed on that one.

Michael H. Standart
Actually, Michael, don't be misled by comparing the sizes shown on the maps, because the scales are different. In fact, the old structure and the new one are the same, or the newer structure is larger. Right now, I'm guessing that the Scott mansion burned down, and that the present structure was built up on the old foundations --because things like the walkway, entrance, etc., all seem to be the same. I'll find out for sure in a week or two (after I get the building permit records).
Good luck in your detective work, Jan. I'll be looking forward to what you dig up. If you can find out for sure when the presnt house went up, you may be able to backtrack a year or two to find out what happened to the old one. I would think that the Building Authority would have a record of it if the old place was simply demolished.

Or try the newspaper morgues. If the old hovel burned down, I doubt that the newsies would have ignored it. House fires have a funny habit of attracting attention.

Michael H. Standart
Mystery solved, at least in part. 2151 Laguna, the building that's at the corner of Clay and Laguna streets in San Francisco (where the Dodge residence was in 1912), is not a converted mansion, but originally designed as a three-story apartment building -- by San Francisco architect Henry Smith -- for owner, Frank Booth.

Now here's the typical Titanica irony in the story, the building plans are dated June 30, 1919, i.e., the date that Dr. Dodge died!

Interestingly, I found that Dr. Dodge put a new roof on 2129 Laguna on Sept. 23, 1911, for an estimated cost of $40.--
Nice work, Jan. You uncovered a lot of interesting little details. The Laguna Street apartment building plans being approved on his death date is sure a strange twist. Any idea, BTW, when the Dodges moved from the Laguna address to Powell Street?

(In another little bit of irony, we had hail down here a few days ago (yes, every few years we have winter in Southern California for a few days) and our roof was damaged. Wish I could get by for $40.)