National Register of Historic Places in San Francisco
The Whittier Mansion was one of the first California residences built of stone on a steel framework, a construction technique which served it well during the 1906 Earthquake. It was designed by Edward R. Swain and built in 1896 at a cost of $152,000 for William Frank Whittier, who had made his fortune in mercantilism and shipping.
In contrast to the forbidding Richardsonian Romanesque exterior, the interior is opulent. Each of the four levels is 3,500 square feet with an undeveloped fifth level, or attic, for the handyman. Most of the mansion's thirty rooms have carved paneling of mahogany, golden oak, primavera, and tamano with hardware of hand-wrought German silver.
Mr. Whittier lived in the house until his death in 1917 at the age of 85. to learn more about the history of the house, please see San Francisco Landmark 75.
The San Francisco Chronicle published the following preview account on 24 December 1891:
"Edward R. Swain, the architect, has just completed the drawings and plans for the residence of W. F. Whittier, which is to be erected at the northeast corner of Jackson and Laguna Streets on a site commanding a magnificent view of the bay and the Golden Gate. The house, which will be completed at a cost of about $90,000, will be ready for occupancy in November, 1895. It will be the first residence in town built entirely of stone. The lot is 80 x l27 feet, fronting on Jackson Street. The main portion of the house will be 55 x 75 feet, with a wing on the east side, the full width of the lot. The first story up to the water table will be of Sespe stone, and all above that line, including the chimney and pediments, will be in red Arizona stone. The roof will be covered with red Spanish tiles.
"The architecture of the house, which will be a two story structure with basement and attic, is Renaissance in feeling. A handsome portico, seventeen feet wide, projects nine feet from the face of the building. It will be very handsomely carved and highly ornamented. The base stones on which the porch rests, including the steps and platforms leading to it, are of red beach granite. The treads of the steps will be of the same stone, polished. The vestibule, finished in handsome foreign marbles, will be ten feet wide and six feet deep. The floor will be in mosaic.
"Passing the doors one will step into an entrance twelve feet square, which leads through an arch into the main hall, 22 x 30. The main staircase will be on the right of the main hall. Both halls will be finished in natural-colored Eastern oak, with beamed ceiling. The design, which will be in keeping with the general design of the building will consist of a pilaster and arch finish. From the main hall access will be had to the dining room by means of a lobby 8 x 12 feet. The dining room door is opposite the front door. On the right of the entrance hall is the reception-room, entered through open doorways, which will be handsomely draped with portieres. Arches for statuary are on either side of the entrances. The room is octagonal in form and sixteen feet in diameter. The round corner window will project somewhat beyond the octagon, and the space between will be upholstered for seats. The reception-room will be finished in 'vernis martin', a light wood veneered and spangled with gold.
"The living-room, 20 x 48, will be on the left of the entrance hall. At a distance of fifteen feet from the front it will be divided by an arch, the side openings of which will be hung with portieres. The room will be finished in east coast Mexican mahogany. The handsome mantel win be eight feet wide, There will be a large open fireplace with facings in 'Jaune antique claire' Numidian marble . The hearth will be in Florentine mosaic. This room will also have a beamed ceiling.
"To the rear of the living-room in the northwest corner of the house, the visitor will be ushered into the smoking or lounging room, a circular apartment commanding a magnificent view of the bay and the surrounding landscape. The lounging room will be finished in oriental style in vermilion wood. Through this room access may be had to the dining room. This will be a very handsome apartment, 18 x 25, exclusive of a bay window thirteen feet long and four feet deep. It will be finished in natural white oak. There will be a wainscoting nine feet high, finished with buffets and backed with plate-glass mirrors. The mantel will be finished with oak and faced with 'Rose Carnagione" Numidian marble. The ceiling will be domed and paneled in plaster. Just above the wainscoting a frieze, in oils will add greatly to the appearance of the dining-hall. Adjoining the dining-room will be the butler's pantry, 13 x 16, in ash, with china cases, silver safe, filters and other paraphernalia. The kitchen, 16 x 24, will be in the northeast corner of the building. It will be finished in oak, and, instead of the usual pantries the necessary shelves and bins will extend along the side of the room to a depth of six feet.
"Next to the kitchen, on the Jackson Street side, is a servants' dining-room, 12 x 14, which will be entered from a passage off the rear hall. The side entrance to the house also communicates with this passage.
"Just off the main hall is the rear hall with the rear stairs. Near these stairs is a passenger elevator, five feet square, which will run from the basement to the attic. In the front part of the basement will be rooms for coal, furniture and general storage. In the central portion of the basement, under the main hall and part of the living-room will be an apartment in oak, 30 x 50, which may be used for suppers and dances. It may be reached from the main stairs. The rear of the basement will be taken up with the servants' rooms, cold storage, laundry, servants' bathroom and other departments of the household.
"On the second floor will be six handsome bedrooms, to three of which private bathrooms will be attached. The recesses for the fixtures in the bathrooms will be lined with various fancy marbles, and the floors will be of hard wood. The various chambers will be finished in prima vera, birch, cherry and bird's-eye maple. W. F. Whittier's suite will be in the northwest corner of the second story. It win consist of a large bedroom, a sitting room, dressing room and ba1jroom. W. R. will revel in luxury in the third or "attic" story. The whole width of the building on that floor will be taken up by his apartments, including a chamber, bathroom, dressing room and sitting room, 18 x 40, in waxed redwood of natural colors. There will be a large open fireplace and a hardwood floor. On this floor, also, are a guest chamber, a trunk room, servant's room, servant's bathroom, a big linen closet and the "sporting-room". The latter is 8 x 13, and in it will be stored the guns, rods and other implements of the chase which the Messrs. Whittier may require in their sport.
"A handsome stable will adjoin the residence in the rear."