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San Francisco Victorian reopens for tours, with original glamour and elegance on display

The three-story chimney and 67-foot tower stand out against the gables and trim of the Haas-Lilienthal Victorian.

Visitors dying to step onto the gabled porch and through the towering front doors of a San Francisco Victorian, take heart: A tower-topped, authentic 1886 Queen Anne has reopened for public tours.

The Haas-Lilienthal House’s location one block west of the Van Ness Avenue firebreak saved it from destruction in the 1906 earthquake-driven blaze. But it could not prevent 130 years of fog and dry rot from taking their toll.

Haas-Lilienthal House
The foyer in the house, which has been refurbished by San Francisco Heritage. Maryann Jones Thompson

San Francisco Heritage raised $4.3 million to restore the 24-room mansion, which is filled with original furnishings and period details that will excite home design and California history enthusiasts.

Haas-Lilienthal House
The dining room at Haas-Lilienthal House. Maryann Jones Thompson

Built by William Haas, a Jewish immigrant from Germany who became a successful grocery wholesaler, the home is set on a lot that’s wider than typical San Francisco homes of its day. The extra frontage afforded architect Peter R. Schmidt more room to scale up and embellish what was actually a typical layout for late-1800s row houses in the city.

“Everything in the Victorian era was grander than it needed to be,” said tour guide Al Ciabattoni, noting the tower and attic occupying the top 20 feet of the house were only used for storage and as a play space for the children.

Haas-Lilienthal House
A sitting area in the master bedroom of the Haas-Lilienthal House. Maryann Jones Thompson

From the entry parlor paneled in vintage golden oak to the bedroom’s mantel of Mexican onyx, the home’s Victorian elegance again shines as it did when it served as a social center for many of San Francisco’s founding families, including the Levis, Steinharts, Fleishhackers, Sterns and their descendants.

Surprisingly, the home’s most architecturally significant space is the tile-covered master bathroom, a retreat unchanged (aside from the commode) since construction in 1886 and one that would strike envy into the hearts of most HGTV house hunters.

Haas-Lilienthal House
The master bathroom is almost completely unchanged since it was built in 1886. Maryann Jones Thompson

However, visitors expecting a “Full House”-style, brightly decorated Queen Anne might be disappointed: The Haas-Lilienthal home is solidly covered in Dunn Edwards’ Armored Steel paint because the tradition of “painted lady” Victorians did not begin until the 1960s.

Conservators carefully peeled back a century of paint to find the exterior’s original shade, which was of the muted grays, greens and browns common on San Francisco’s post-Gold Rush homes.

Info: Haas-Lilienthal House, 2007 Franklin St., San Francisco. Guided tours available on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Adults $10, seniors and children 6 to 12 years old, $8. No reservations required but check the calendar for opening times and private-event closures.

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