Willis Polk (1867-1924)
Willis Polk, the son of a carpenter architect, was born in Jacksonville, Illinois. He apprenticed to a carpenter when he was fourteen. At fifteen, he won a competition for the design of a six-room schoolhouse in Hope, Arkansas.
In 1885, Willis and his father and his brother founded W. W. Polk & Sons in Kansas City. For several years, Polk traveled extensively and acquired experience working for many architects including Ernest Coxhead and A. Page Brown.
In 1889, Polk joined the office of A. Page Brown and moved with Brown's firm to San Francisco. After Polk's family moved to San Francisco in 1892, they formed the firm of Polk & Polk with Willis providing the creativity, Daniel doing the drafting, and their father supervising construction.
During the 1890s, Polk produced unusually diverse architectonic forms, space, scale, and imagery. He drew from post-medieval vernacular sources and from classical schemes.
In 1901 Polk and his wife moved to Chicago to work with Daniel H. Burnham who had inspired the American Renaissance known as the City Beautiful Movement. Burnham's firm had already designed two important building in San Francisco, the Chronicle Building in 1889 (San Francisco Landmark 243) and the Mills Building in 1890 (San Francisco Landmark 76).
Polk returned to San Francisco in 1903 and worked with Burnham on a master plan for San Francisco following the precepts of the City Beautiful Movement. The 1906 Earthquake and Fire ended any hope of implementing the plan.
Polk was placed in charge of Burnham's west coast office after the catastrophe. The association lasted until 1910 when Polk converted the office to his name.
Polk and his partners completed more than one hundred major commercial buildings and residences in the Bay Area.
|Name||Year||Address||City||Sort Address||Sort Name|
|Alvinza Hayward Building||1906||400 Montgomery||San Francisco||Montgomery 0400||Alvinza Hayward Building|
|Atkinson-Escher House||1900||1032 Broadway||San Francisco||Broadway 1032||Atkinson-Escher House|
|Barreda House||1900||2139-41 Buchanan Street||San Francisco||Buchanan 2139||Barreda House|
|Batten House||1892||116 Cherry Street||San Francisco||Cherry 0116||Batten House|
|Beach Chalet||1925||1000 Great Highway||San Francisco||Great||Beach Chalet|
|Blake, Moffitt and Towne Building (Demolished)||1911||41 First Street||San Francisco||First 0041||Blake, Moffitt and Towne Building (Demolished)|
|Bourn Mansion||1897||2550 Webster Street||San Francisco||Webster 2550||Bourn Mansion|
|Building at 50 Fell Street||1932||50 Fell Street||San Francisco||Fell 0050||Building at 50 Fell Street|
|California Volunteers' Memorial||1903||Dolores Street at Market Street||San Francisco||Dolores 0001||California Volunteers' Memorial|
|Carolands||1915||565 Remillard Drive||Burlingame||Remillard||Carolands|
|Carroll and Tilton Building||1908||735 Market Street||San Francisco||Market 0735||Carroll and Tilton Building|
|Chancery Building||1923||562-566 Market Street||San Francisco||Market 0562||Chancery Building|
|Coryell Carriage House||1912||48 Lloyden Drive||Atherton||Lloyden 0048||Coryell Carriage House|
|Cottage||1905||726 44th Avenue||San Francisco||Avenue 44 0726||Cottage|
|Dickinson House||1890||26 Alexander Avenue||Sausalito||Alexander||Dickinson House|
|Ehrman House||1900||2880 Broadway||San Francisco||Broadway 2880||Ehrman House|
|Filoli||1917||86 Cañada Road||Woodside||Cañada||Filoli|
|Finance Building||1923||576-580 Market Street||San Francisco||Market 0576||Finance Building|
|First Church of Christ Scientist||1905||East St. James at St. James Park||San Jose||St. James||First Church of Christ Scientist|
|First National Bank||1908||1 Montgomery Street||San Francisco||Montgomery 0001||First National Bank|
|Flood Mansion||1906||1000 California Street||San Francisco||California 1000||Flood Mansion|
|Four Townhouses||1917||831-849 Mason Street||San Francisco||Mason 0831||Four Townhouses|
|Fuller Company Glass Warehouse||1907||50 Green Street||San Francisco||Green 0050||Fuller Company Glass Warehouse|
|Gibbs House||1894||2622 Jackson Street||San Francisco||Jackson 2622||Gibbs House|
|Griffith House||1912||2820 Pacific Avenue||San Francisco||Pacific 2820||Griffith House|
|Hallidie Building||1917||130 Sutter Street||San Francisco||Sutter 0130||Hallidie Building|
|Hobart Building||1914||582 Market Street||San Francisco||Market 0582||Hobart Building|
|Hooker House||1913||3277 Pacific Avenue||San Francisco||Pacific 3277||Hooker House|
|Insurance Exchange Building||1913||433 California Street||San Francisco||California 0433||Insurance Exchange Building|
|Jessie Street Substation||1909||220 Jessie Street||San Francisco||Jessie 0220||Jessie Street Substation|
|Keith House||1900||3204 Washington Street||San Francisco||Washington 3204||Keith House|
|Livermore House||1891||40 Florence Street||San Francisco||Florence 0040||Livermore House|
|McCullagh-Jones House||1901||18000 Overlook Road||Los Gatos||Overlook 18000||McCullagh-Jones House|
|Merced Manor Reservoir||1912||601 Sloat Boulevard||San Francisco||Sloat||Merced Manor Reservoir|
|Merchants' Exchange Building||1903||465 California Street||San Francisco||California 0465||Merchants' Exchange Building|
|Mills Building||1906||220 Montgomery Street||San Francisco||Montgomery 0220||Mills Building|
|Mission Dolores||1918||Dolores Street at 16th Street||San Francisco||Dolores 0100||Mission Dolores|
|Moffitt House||1912||86 Sea View||Piedmont||Sea View 0086||Moffitt House|
|Moore House||1895||416 Golden Gate Avenue||Belvedere||Golden Gate 0416||Moore House|
|Naphtaly House||1913||2960 Broadway||San Francisco||Broadway 2960||Naphtaly House|
|Native Sons Monument||1896||Market Street at Montgomery Street||San Francisco||Market 0500||Native Sons Monument|
|One Lombard Street||1900||1 Lombard Street||San Francisco||Lombard 0001||One Lombard Street|
|Organ House||1900||433 Golden Gate Avenue||Belvedere||Golden Gate 0433||Organ House|
|Osborne (Fanny) House||1900||2319-23 Hyde Street||San Francisco||Hyde 2319||Osborne (Fanny) House|
|Osborne (Lloyd) House||1900||1100 Lombard Street||San Francisco||Lombard 1100||Osborne (Lloyd) House|
|Path of Gold Light Standard||1908||Market Street||San Francisco||Market||Path of Gold Light Standard|
|Petit Trianon||1892||De Anza College Campus||Cupertino||De Anza||Petit Trianon|
|Post Office||1908||83 Stevenson Street||San Francisco||Stevenson 0083||Post Office|
|Residence||1920||2255 Lyon Street||San Francisco||Lyon 2255||Residence|
|Residence||1910||3255 Pacific Avenue||San Francisco||Pacific 3255||Residence|
|Residence: Pacific 2015||1894||2015 Pacific Avenue||San Francisco||Pacific 2015||Residence: Pacific 2015|
|Residence: Steiner 2400-2402||1900||2400 and 2402 Steiner Street||San Francisco||Steiner 2400||Residence: Steiner 2400-2402|
|Residences||1914||1-7 Russian Hill Place||San Francisco||Russian Hill 0001||Residences|
|Rey House||1893||428 Golden Gate Avenue||Belvedere||Golden Gate 0428||Rey House|
|Robert Louis Stevenson Monument||1897||Portsmouth Plaza||San Francisco||Portsmouth Plaza||Robert Louis Stevenson Monument|
|Russian Hill Crest Double Access Ramp||1914||Vallejo Street and Jones Street||San Francisco||Vallejo 1100||Russian Hill Crest Double Access Ramp|
|San Francisco Water Department||1922||425 Mason Street||San Francisco||Mason 0425||San Francisco Water Department|
|Seacliff House #1||1914||9 Scenic Way||San Francisco||Scenic 0009||Seacliff House #1|
|Seacliff House #2||1914||25 Scenic Way||San Francisco||Scenic 0025||Seacliff House #2|
|Seacliff House #3||1914||45 Scenic Way||San Francisco||Scenic 0045||Seacliff House #3|
|Sheppard House||1890||3203 Pacific Avenue||San Francisco||Pacific 3203||Sheppard House|
|St. Francis Yacht Club||1925||99 Yacht Road||San Francisco||Yacht 0099||St. Francis Yacht Club|
|St. Matthew's Episcopal Church||1908||El Camino Real and Baldwin Avenue||San Mateo||El Camino||St. Matthew's Episcopal Church|
|Sunol Water Temple||1910||Niles Canyon Road and Paloma Way||Sunol||Niles||Sunol Water Temple|
|Tobin House||1915||1969 California Street||San Francisco||California 1969||Tobin House|
|Uplands||1913||400 Uplands Drive||Hillsborough||Uplands 0400||Uplands|
|Villa Veneta||1893||16 San Carlos Avenue||Sausalito||San Carlos 0016||Villa Veneta|
|Welch House||1917||2840 Broadway||San Francisco||Broadway 2840||Welch House|
|White Memorial Retreat||1913||2 El Capitan Avenue||Mill Valley||El Capitan 0002||White Memorial Retreat|
|Williams-Polk House||1892||1013-1019 Vallejo Street||San Francisco||Vallejo 1013||Williams-Polk House|
|Wilson Building||1900||973-977 Market Street||San Francisco||Market 0973||Wilson Building|
|Wright House||1907||950 Lombard Street||San Francisco||Lombard 0950||Wright House|
The house on the left is associated with Oracle and the house on the right is associated with Shaklee. I've worked for both companies. How small the Bay Area is.
Willis Polk designed this residence for Andrew and Julia Welch. Andrew Welch was heir to a shipping fortune.
The twenty-two room residence includes a Spanish Renaissance courtyard modeled on the atrium of the Casa de Zaporta in Saragossa, Spain. After the original was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, it was rebuilt based upon Polk's design.
Julia Welch, who was a devout Roman Catholic, willed the building to the Archdiocese of San Francisco. It was the Archiepiscopal Palace until 1979 when it was purchased by Dodie and John Rosekrans Jr.
2898 Broadway Designed by Bliss & Faville and 2880 Broadway Designed by Willis Polk
Designed for Albert Ehrman, this stone and reinforced concrete house was inspired by Italian Renaissance palazzos. It has a courtyard and elaborate interior paneling.
Source: Here Today: San Francisco's Architectural Heritage by the Junior League of San Francisco, Chronicle Books, 1968
Polk designed this residence for S. I. Naphtaly as a stucco adaption of Spanish city architecture built around a central courtyard.
This finely detailed Italianate was the setting for many lavish parties when it was owned by Frederico Barreda, Minister Plenipotentiary from Spain and Peru to the Court of Saint James and the United States. After 1904, Willis Polk married the Barreda's daughter, Christine Barreda Moore, and Polk proceeded to remodel the house, making it two flats. The upper flat was used by Madame Barreda and her daughter, while the Polks lived in the lower.
Source: Here Today: San Francisco's Architectural Heritage by the Junior League of San Francisco, Chronicle Books, 1968
Both houses turn a side to Lyon Street to face each other across a landscaped open space. The uphill house on the corner (2255 Lyon Street) turns its back on prestigious Pacific Avenue.
Although this configuration is not typical in San Francisco, it is not uncommon in older residential neighborhoods where homes were designed by architects for affluent clients. Other examples are 2600 Washington Street by Edgar A. Mathews, 2241 Sacramento Street by Edward E. Young, and Mark Zuckerberg's home above Dolores Park.
Our website attributed both of these houses to Polk until a San Francisco architect contacted us with convincing evidence that 2233 Lyon Street was designed by Bliss & Faville.
Exuberant architectural styles were all the rage in late 19th century San Francisco - both the new Queen Anne style and the highly ornamented revival styles.
Polk scorned the "wild and untrammeled efforts of local architects to outdo each other in unique and crazy effects." He called the Western Addition "an architectural nightmare conceived in a reign of terror and produced by architectural anarchists."
Perhaps that is why Polk went out of his way to strip this Tudoresque residence to its essentials. Its neighbor on one side is a flamboyant classical revival residence. Its neighbor on the other side is a haughty Queen Anne.
But, by the 20th century, Polk himself was capable of some unique and crazy effects as in the Naphtaly House.
Occasionally, when a historic property is listed for sale, we can get a glimpse of the interior.
2820 Pacific, built in 1910 for the Misses Alice and Caroline Griffith, is one of the few Pacific Heights homes with a lot that stretches all the way from Pacific to Broadway. It was the first San Francisco Decorator Showcase home in 1977.
Source: SocketSite.com 2 October 2007
The garage enters on Pacific, but goes a good way underground like a total James Bond tunnel towards the house, and at the end is a rotating disc, so you never have to back in, or back out. Just pull up on the disc, sip coffee, rotate, and gun it out the garage door - watch out for tourists staying at the Hotel Drisco, and be on your way. Return home and do the same in reverse, but never use Reverse. You get what I'm saying?
For what it is worth, the house is amazing! The views are incredible. They've remodeled it quite nicely. Pacific Avenue is hot, and the lot is prime to say the least. The best part, you can practically look down on Ellison, Traina, and the Gettys. You'd be above all of them - literally.
Source: the FrontSteps.com 3 October 2007
Catherine Hooker commissioned Polk to design her home patterned on palazzi she had seen in Italy.