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Landmark Mission Beaux-Arts building asks $5.5 million

James Dunn’s French dish seeks a lot of bread

Photo courtesy of Chip McAllister Compass

Realtor Chip McAllister calls his new listing at 2731 Folsom an “exuberant French Renaissance masterpiece,” while the city’s Planning Department dubs it simply a landmark work of 19th century Beaux-Arts craftsmanship.

But the particulars of terminology may not matter much to potential takers of this $5.5 million offer; when push comes to shove, the verdict on the Mission District building is still the same—beaux, very, very beaux.

While one can’t be certain how old this three-unit building is (totaling 10 bedrooms and eight baths), the city has utility contracts for the site dating to at least 1899.

Dubbed the Gaughran House, after its original owner, San Francisco recently declared the property a landmark thanks mostly to the preservation of its gorgeous Folsom Street facade.

A 2017 report to the Historic Preservation Commission lays out the lustrous details:

The building’s ornate entablature on the primary façade features various Beaux-Arts details. The projecting cornice protrudes in a half circle to accommodate the turret. A molded edge shields modillions carved to resemble acanthus leaves.

Below the eave, in the frieze, runs a dentil course set above a ribbon of textured plaster with evenly spaced X-motifs pinned with central gold leaf florettes. The architrave is smooth with a thin gold leaf rope molding. The three-story turret on the primary façade is topped with a composite-shingle-clad dome.

Hot stuff. Although for many passersby, the sidewalk trees obstruct the best views of architect James Dunn’s Folsom Street work.

The report also notes that little of the original work remains on the home’s other flanks, but the preservation of the primary facade alone motivated the city to recognize and shelter the building’s historic assets.

Dunn was a native San Francisco architect noted for his overflowing, European-influenced buildings. According to the report on the Gaughran House:

Dunn was a self-taught architect, having studied building and design journals. He is known to have travelled the U.S., and it is likely that he visited France as well. By 1897, he partnered with Albert Schroepfer and had a San Francisco office at 3rd and Market streets.

[...] The Architect and Engineer journal ran several pieces by or about Dunn, including his lead piece, “Apartment Houses” in a special September 1919 apartment house issue, and his April 1919 article, “Poor Designing One Reason for Apathy in Apartment House Building.”

Ouch.

Dunn specialized in curved balconies and rounded bays with “exuberant ornamentations, including animal and human faces,” frequently making use of eagles and phoenixes.

McAllister tells Curbed SF that interior photos for the latest listing are not finished yet, although a previous rental listing for one of the units (to the tune of $12,000/month) gives some insight into the inner space.

The sellers, Sean Lundy and Carol Wai, bought the place in 2012 for the relative bargain price of just over $1 million.