54-56 Cook Street

The former San Francisco home and studio space of Howard Hack, the distinguished local artist who passed away last year, the two-unit Laurel Heights building at 54-56 Cook Street has sat (mostly) vacant for over 15 years. And it shows.

Or to quote the agent for the property which has just hit the market for $1.2 million, or $526 per particularly rough square foot, “Walls have been (re)moved, and maintenance has been profoundly deferred: it needs a fresh start with new owners. Not for the faint of heart.”

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by MDG399

    a little dusting, some fresh flowers and it will be fine….

  2. Posted by Bob

    Hopefully they can get this demolished. I doubt that you can structurally save anything here. Should be able to build 2 – 2 level condos in the area and sell for a good profit.

    • Posted by Matt of Uptown

      I disagree, it’s likely constructed of old growth, full dimension redwood. You could remove every other stud and joist and the building would still be standing. Jack it up, add another flat and the structure will last another century or more.

      • Posted by Serge

        Old growth redwood will last generations without any problems. Taking everything down to the studs seems plausible. From the photos of the interior it appears that only some elements could really be salvaged (fireplace and tiles, claw foot tub).

  3. Posted by breathless

    If only that Wedgwood stove had handles!

  4. Posted by catchme

    Remember when wooden toilet seats were a thing?

    • Posted by Notcom

      And the separate taps for hot and cold; they were popular for decades, but the idea has just never made any sense….burn your hands in the hot water and then try and cool them off in the cold ??

      • Posted by Alai

        You turn them on simultaneously. Once you’re familiar with it it’s not hard.

      • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

        Or, if you only have one hand free for some reason, you turn on one faucet then the other, and THEN put your hands under the water. Google “how to avoid burning hands when you have separate hot and cold faucets” to learn more options around this vexing problem.

        • Posted by R

          Take a look at the [bathroom] picture. There is no mixing [of the hot and cold water streams].

      • Posted by Serge

        Separate taps for hot and cold were mandatory in the UK for a long time, I can only assume their presence in the states has similar reasons. Back in the days houses would store and heat their water in a storage tank in the attic. Problem was that poorly maintained tanks can rust and corrode (some even had rats floating in them). If there were a problem with the mixing valve on a single-tap faucet, contaminated hot water could ran back down to the cold side from the municipality feed and in theory ruin all the cold water for everyone. Hence the two separate taps.

  5. Posted by Shmendrick

    It looks to me like a fire hazard that should have been condemned and torn down a long time ago.

  6. Posted by soccermom

    Dead end streets mean Blake and Cook are Geary extensions more than Laurel Heights. Given that, maybe will sell around $900k to $1mm. Imminent reduced price listing given rampant oversupply!!!!

    • Posted by sockettome

      Sometimes known as Mattress Heights.
      a result of the numerous bedding supply stores along that stretch of Geary : )

  7. Posted by SFRealist

    And lord knows what the permit situation is. Bring your contractor and your permit expediter.

  8. Posted by sockettome

    Anybody know the story with the adjacent property to the north? Earth view shows a big lot with an old structure covered in blue tarp.

    • Posted by Serge

      It was involved in a heated battle about felling the large pine (?) in the back yard some time ago. The property was built for the owner of the Odd Fellows Cemetery no far away. There is a historic Italianate Victorian and carriage house on the property, both I believe are historic resources. The present owner has made some changes to the inside (most appear to be just minor changes, not a full-on remodel), but it’s going to stay the way it is. Can’t find any photos of it, but if you use a Bing Bird’s Eye View or Apple Maps 3D View you can get a look at the house.

    • Posted by Serge

      More info…

      Original Owner: GEORGE J. SMITH
      Original Tenant: GEORGE J. SMITH
      Other Information: SMITH, A DIRECTOR OF THE ODDFELLOWS, ORIGINALLY PLANTED HIS ESTATE W/ MANY TREES OBTAINED FROM A CEMETERY. PRESENTLY ONLY HIS HOUSE & CARRIAGE HOUSE REMAIN.

      News article about the tree fiasco.

      • Posted by Anon

        Do you know what the outcome was on the tree? There was no final decision in the article.

  9. Posted by around1905

    I hope this place goes to folks who just intend to live there, and not to a contractor. It has issues but for a modest budget could likely be made as habitable and safe as most existing houses in SF. I am more and more convinced, however, that for most people unless it has shiny apple-store finishes its unacceptable. Enter the contractors, the flippers, and the rest…

    • Posted by True

      Curious what is wrong with contractors and/or flippers. This would be a tough project for someone without construction or permitting experience. It’ll be tough for an experienced builder even. Either way, someone will live here in the future.

      • Posted by around1905

        Nothing is wrong with speculator contractors and/or flippers as people. The problem in SF is that they take a house that was affordable to middle-class people, and make it into something that is affordable only to much richer people. Of course, one could argue how middle-class the purchasers of a 1.2 M (+ 100K to clean up) house really are, but the purchasers of the 3M+ product that speculator contractor will eventually sell will be inarguably wealthy.

        • Posted by parklife

          100k to clean up? That sounds VERY low even if doing all of the work oneself. And remember, very few lenders are going to be interested in providing a loan on this property. This is a property that will almost certainly be sold to a “speculator”‘.

        • Posted by JWS

          $100K to clean up? Maybe for the kitchen…

          Half a million, easy, probably more. Hard to argue that a middle class buyer has that much sitting around in liquid cash, on top of the down payment (and like has been mentioned, that’s even if a loan would be possible here, and I’m virtually certain no).

    • Posted by ess

      Ha ha, no. It’s an unwritten law that every house’s resident owners must purchase it from an interstitial contractor. That is, there’s must be a flipper in between any two owners.

  10. Posted by Howard Tan

    Vacant for the past 16 years? Not really. The rear of the 1st floor was occupied by a very lovely woman who also passed away last year. The house may have been in poor condition, but it was loved.

    [Editor’s Note: Thank you for the insight and correction, since updated above.]

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