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Adolph Sutro's 1884 Gardener's Cottage Asks $3.5 Million

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One Sutro building that's no longer ruins

Talk about humble roots. This craftsman home in the Outer Richmond at 542 46th Avenue, a hop and a jump from Sutro Heights Park and Ocean Beach, was once a mere gardener's cottage belonging to none other than Adolph Sutro himself.

Sutro's gardener was the first person to live on this block, according to architect Aleck Wilson, who completely rebuilt the place from the inside out in 2000. Back then it was a two bedroom, one bath house that ran about 1,300 square feet and sold for $338,000 in 1998 ($496,000 after inflation) despite having fallen on hard times.

"We decided to gut the interior and leave just the shell," Wilson writes, noting that they added a cupola on the roof to give the old place natural light on an additional side, built around a central staircase that provides a "vertical shaft of light."

The chutes-and-ladders nest of porches and stairs on the back of the space is rather intriguing too.

The house in its present condition clocks in at five bedrooms and three baths, a total of 3,280 square feet. Indeed, just the advertised garage and storage space is as large as the original 1884 house.

It’s popped up fairly routinely in photo shoots over the years, but this is the first time it’s been on the market since the remodel, asking a bit less than $3.5 million. It comes with a few additional green details, including solar panels and time drip irrigation for the garden.

Update: Asked about how he got permission to "gut" such a historic home, Aleck Wilson told Curbed SF that the year 2000 was a different world in terms of historic preservation and that there were not so many hoops to jump through as there are now.

Besides, as Wilson tells it, the cottage had been the victim of several questionable remodels already, and there wasn't much historical left to ruin. "There were moments of the original home here and there, but not many," he says. Indeed, some of Wilson's work restored elements of the original design, such as undoing a previous stucco job on the exterior, and repurposing some hidden original timbers.