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Pacific Heights: Dinwiddie's Roos House, 1938

[One in a series of posts about private places in San Francisco that are important to our built environment. And when we say "Do Not Disturb," we mean it. No doorbell-ringing, please. -PF]

Fourteen years ago, we drove south on Divisadero Street from the Marina for the first time and saw the Roos House at 2660 Divisadero. Among the various and lovely Beaux Arts and shingled-styled houses, here was a crisp, fresh artifact of modernism. San Francisco has two Roos Houses, the Maybeck masterpiece on Jackson Street built for Leon Roos, and this Roos House, built by John Elkin Dinwiddie for Leon's son, Leslie Roos in 1938. A drive-by the other day and it was just as fresh and jarring as it had been; somehow the phrase the neighbors must have hated this came to mind.

From the slightly wonky but informative site Vernacular Language North, Woodbridge and Woodbridge probably said it best:

Almost alone among the townhouses designed for San Francisco in the prewar era, the Roos house of 1938 by John Ekin Dinwiddie directly reflects eastern brand, International Style design. Essentially a horizontal box with its living floor slightly extruded, the house is composed of carefully articulated planar elements. The south elevation wall, notched by a window at the corner, features a large, centrally placed bay window, slightly canted to catch the view and set in a bold, white frame. The extension of its white base line, tied to the ground by narrow white poles, defines the entry. A curved, free-standing chimney at the rear of the house completes a compostion controlled by the Cubist aesthetic that had dominated the Modern Movement in the preceding decades. This formalistic, pictorial approach was of no interest to Wurster or Dailey, whose townhouses of two and three years later represent the informal, understated character of current Bay Area Modern (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 161-62).
Dinwiddie graduated from UC Berkeley in 1936 and got his M.Arch from Harvard in 1938, where he had worked with Walter Gropius. It must have been incredibly exciting to build like this, at the end of the Depression, fresh out of school, in a mode the Bay Area was barely conscious of. Dinwiddie went on to partner with Henry Hill and Erich Mendelsohn; we covered Dinwiddie's own house here.Their affinity is seen in the bands of windows and treatment of the chimneys- the one on the right curves, clad in the same batten as the house, and there's one on the roof (barely visible) shaped like a sheet-metal tortellini that spins silently in the breeze.
· Roos House, 1909 [San Francisco Landmarks, NoeHill]
· Roos House, 1938 [VLN]
· Walter Gropius [Wikipedia]
· John Elkin Dinwiddie in Berkeley [Curbed SF Archive]
· 83 Oak Ridge Road, Berkeley [Realty Advocate]
· Richard Neutra's Kahn House [Curbed Sf Archives]

2660 Divisadero Street, San Francsco, CA