The Oldest Homes on the Hill

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According to the California Environmental Quality Act, buildings constructed more than 50 years ago that have architectural or historical significance may be considered potential historic resources. However, while many Potrero Hill homes were built more than a century ago, most haven’t been deemed sufficiently worthy of meriting extra protections. Just four Hill residences have been granted historical status by the San Francisco Planning Department. That doesn’t mean that other structures in the neighborhood don’t deserve preservation. It’s a long, contentious, and expensive process to be ranked historical. Most owners prefer to be free to modify their properties to suit new realities.

The historic Richards House in morning light. Constructed around 1865 by the Richards family on land bought from Captain Charles Adams, the residence is one of the earliest built on the Hill. “The Oldest Homes on the Hill” continues on page 5. Photo: Odin Thien-An Marin
Palms and greenery obscure the estate at 1745 20th Street, one of the oldest in the neighborhood. Built in 1875 by dairy farmer Charles Dow, the property was transformed in the 1980s by Italian designer Larry Masnada. Photo: Odin Thien-An Marin
Cherry blossoms bloom outside the home at 1243 19th Street. Photo: Odin Thien-An Marin
Lemon trees landscape the garden outside the historic Adams House on the corner of 18th and Pennsylvania streets. The house was built in 1867 by Captain Charles Adams, two years after construction of the Richards House across the street. Photo: Odin Thien-An Marin