San Francisco Landmarks
The Alfred Clarke Mansion is particularly interesting, both because of its style and the style of its original owner. "Nobby" Clarke was an Irish sailor boy who put into San Francisco aboard the American ship Commonwealth in the fall of 1850. Naturally, he tried his luck in the gold mines but soon returned to the city, where there was more money to be made as a stevedore.
Clarke's up-to-then unpromising career improved when he joined the police force during the 1856 Vigilance excitement. By 1887, when he resigned from his position as clerk to the Chief of Police, he is said to have saved some $200,000. He bought seventeen acres at the head of Eureka Valley, and there erected the mansion known at the time as "Clarke's Folly."
The four-story, multi-towered house cost around $100,000 to build in 1892. The architectural style reflects the frequently eclectic fashion of the day, but may most briefly be described as Baroque-Queen Anne. Of interest is the shingle pattern, in which bands of plain shingles are alternated with bands of scalloped shingles.
The Clarke family did not live in the house for long, and by 1904 the building was the "California General Hospital," advertised as "an Elegant and Commodious Hospital" with large grounds, no other buildings in the block, and "Sheltered from the Cold West Wind." At a later date it was a rooming house for Standard Oil Company employees; at present it is an apartment house.
Source: Here Today, San Francisco's Architectural Heritage by Roger Olmsted and T. H. Watkins, 1969