San Francisco Landmarks
Four vernacular frame cottages stand on a mews perpendicular to Filbert Street. They were built just after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire had devastated Russian Hill, and the high demand for housing was met by skilled craftsmen-builders rather than by known architects. Vernacular cottages are characterized by rusticity, simplicity, minimal embellishment, informality, modest scale, and sensitivity to the site. They anticipate the craftsman style popular in the early 20th century.
During the 1940s, Marian Hartwell used one cottage as her home and as the School of Basic Design & Color where she taught the principles of the California Decorative Style. The other three cottages were rented to students and other tenants.
From 1926-40, Hartwell had taught in the Design Department of the California School of Fine Arts during the period of great WPA art, both nationally and in San Francisco. The murals in Coit Tower, Rincon Annex, and Beach Chalet were painted by her colleagues and students: Piazzoni, Cravath, Stackpole, Oldfield, Labaudt. The fever of activity of the muralists beginning in 1934 made San Francisco a center for this kind of art and the political activity that accompanied it.
Hartwell eventually bought the Filbert Street property and lived there until 1972. She designed the common garden, brick walkways, and patios that are still there.
Source: Russian Hill Neighbors and San Francisco Planning Commission Resolution 16187 dated 12 July 2001
For years, a plywood fence has blocked the cottages from view.
When we visited the property in early 2016, a renovation was in progress. Perhaps the cottages and garden may soon be visible from Filbert Street.