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My neighborhood in San Francisco

Let’s take a little walk around my neighborhood in San Francisco — partly because it’s an interesting neighborhood, and partly because there are some architectural and landscaping elements that will work in the country.

I live at Park Hill on Buena Vista Avenue East, facing Buena Vista Park.

The house in the photo below is one block up the street from me. A friend and I call it “Fancy House” and use it as a rendezvous place when we’re out walking. The house seems to capture everyone’s imagination. At Halloween, Christmas, and Easter, its owners put up decorations that are WAY over the top. The house is noted for that, and people drive through just to see it.

Fancy House:


It’s not gothic, but it has a lot of the same elements as the gothic revival cottage that I plan to build.

For example, the steep roof with flared eaves:


Dormers and bay windows:


But look what’s missing from the bay windows, a terrible omission!:


There’s no corbelling under the bay windows!

But one block in the other direction, check out the fine corbelling and brackets on this Spanish mansion across the street from Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Luxembourg:


Most bay windows would have an extremely unfinished look without some corbelling. The corbelling above is masonry, but something similar could be executed in wood and would make a good corbel for my gothic revival cottage.

Here’s one other neat detail for a house with a dramatic façade and steep roof. A finial at the peak of the roof. This house is nextdoor to Danny Glover’s house and the Crosby, Stills, and Nash house. In the Southeast, the finial could be executed in copper and double as a lightning rod:


A couple of other things while we’re walking around. What a nice way to treat a stump — put some sod on it. The stump is in Buena Vista Park:


Attaching climbing roses to tree trunks could never be a bad idea. The roses and the palm trees below are recently planted and don’t yet looked very established, but give them time:


And if you can afford a fancy dog waterer, go for it!


Here’s where I live. Park Hill. It used to be a hospital run by an order of nuns — St. Joseph’s Hospital. It appears in the Hitchcock film “Vertigo,” and the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was converted to condos in the mid-1980s.



The lions in the photo below are on the fourth floor. My apartment is just above the lions on the fifth floor. Note the four-story-tall magnolia grandiflora — always in good taste! And by the way, there’s even some honeysuckle across the street in Buena Vista Park.


Some people might now be thinking, can I take the shock of moving from a fancy neighborhood in San Francisco to the end of a gravel road in Stokes County? Consider the French. There is Paris, and everything else is la province. The French esteem la province, love farms and farming, and les parisiens have a place in la province if they can possibly afford it. In France, there is no huge political and cultural gap between Paris and la province. We urban Americans look down on our provinces. That’s dumb. Or, en français, quel dommage — what a pity. If we Americans loved our provinces the way we ought to we’d stop paving over our remaining farmland. We’d have a great deal more respect for, and knowledge of, the people who grow our food. And most important, city people and country people would have some common cause, and would be more at home on each other’s turf. I say let the country people learn to love San Francisco, and let San Franciscans learn to love the country.

One Comment

  1. Amy Salerno DeGruchy wrote:

    I happened upon your blog via Ken Iluganos’ writings. Your sensibilities with respect to monastic living, sustainability, gardening, reading etc. resonate with my husband and me. I am interested in knowing a little more about your spirituality and faith. As a cradle Catholic (dare I say Recovering Catholic?) I struggle with my love of mysticism and monasticism and how that fits into a modern world and way of thinking. While Ken appears to have thrown out religion and faith in his pursuit of a meaningful life, I was encouraged when he mentioned your participation in your church choir and community — and I sensed some measure of wistfulness on his part for missing out on that aspect of life.

    Anyway, as my husband and I approach our own retirement years and try to discern how best to live out a more authentic life together, I would be very interested in hearing your reflections on how you balance your spirituality and life choices.

    Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

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