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St. Francis Wood: The Price Drops on Angus McSweeney's Old Digs

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Was: $2,995,000
Now: $2,399,000
You Save: $596,000

The realtor describes it as a work of art, which may be a stretch, but 250 Santa Paula Avenue, tucked into the enclave of St. Francis Wood, does have a pedigree. It was was built by young architect Angus McSweeney as his own home in 1925. It was also left vacant and rotting for decades by a subsequent owner, but probably not as a comment on McSweeney's design skills or wallpaper choices. The 5-bed, 6-bath house was eventually purchased in 2003 for $910,000 and fully rehabilitated, now back on the market as a short sale for $2,399,000, down from $2,995,000 in a previous attempt last spring. Annual HOA dues of $1867.59 cover the shared costs of St. Francis Wood's extensive landscaping and the tennis courts just a short walk from the house. While we're loving the front doors and the nicely-ordered front, it's hard to figure out what's going on layout-wise inside or how much McSweeney remains. It's clear this was one of those no-surface-left-untouched renovations, with no less than three of those pre-cast French renaissance-style fireplace surrounds plus all new systems including sprinklers. There doesn't seem to be much back yard, just four jumbled stories of stucco overlooking a parking lot on a narrow wedge of street-to-street lot, and it looks like a stiff climb from the garage to the kitchen, sherpas. Somehow, we don't think this will go for over the current asking price.

As a young architect in the 1920's, Angus McSweeney (1901-1971) joined the firm of eminent San Francisco architect Willis Polk (1867-1924) and soon rose to partner during a period when the firm was responsible for a number of expensive houses and luxury apartment buildings. Later, as McSweeney, Ryan & Lee, his longest client-architect relationship was with the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Involved for decades with the design of parish churches and parochial schools, McSweeney's firm had a direct impact on the lives of many Catholics in the Bay Area before the break-up of the Archdiocese into more local components in 1962.

In the early 1960's the firm came up with a Spanish-Mission proposal for a new Cathedral, prompting the Chronicle's architecture critic- and ardent modernist- Alan Temko to launch a crusade against the historicist concept. Project design was turned over to minimalist Italians Piero Belluschi and the Pierluigi Nervi- the equivalent of Richard Meier and Santiago Calatrava in today's starchitecure- with McSweeney, Ryan & Lee remaining as the local partner-in-charge. The result? That big collection of hyperbolic paraboloids in concrete and travertine we know as St. Mary's. Some might say old Angus got his revenge.
· 250 Santa Paula Avenue [Redfin]
· St. Francis Wood House Selling for Nearly $3 Mil Curbed SF Archives]
· Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption [Archdiocese of San Francisco]
· Pacific Heights: Billionaire's Row 1920's Tudor [Curbed SF Archives]