The Nightingale House: 201 Buchanan
It is thought that the Nightingale House at 201 Buchanan (corner of Waller) was built for a former president of the California Pioneers (John Nightingale) in 1882. It is known that it is now San Francisco Landmark Number 47; that it is protected by a preservation easement; and that it was recently home to San Francisco Arts Commissioner and local artist Jo Hanson.

Hanson came to prominence early in the 1970’s, soon after she moved into a deteriorated but stately Victorian on Buchanan Street. Once she had resuscitated the house into a landmark, she tackled its windy litter-strewn sidewalk. Her personal act of sweeping one sidewalk grew into a celebrated public art practice and citywide anti-litter campaign. Her compiled volumes of urban detritus are recognized as an artistic political tour de force that raised community awareness as it chronicled rapidly changing demographics.

And while we haven’t been inside – and the “fixer” designation and lack of interior pictures leads us to believe that it might be in need of some good old fashioned TLC – we’re sure a reader or two has (and might be willing to wax poetic on its potential).
∙ Listing: 201 Buchanan (4/3) – $1,895,000 [MLS]
San Francisco Landmark 47: Nightingale House []
San Francisco Architectural Heritage: Preserved []
Women Environmental Artists Directory: Jo Hanson in memoriam []

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Trip

    I’m pretty fascinated by this place — I walk by it just about every day taking our kids to school. But it would be a bit like living in a haunted mansion. And I get the sense that it has been largely untouched for about 50 years (adding to the haunted feel) and will need a lot of work.
    I saw a Sotheby’s for-sale sign in front of it a little over a month ago but did not see if it was ever listed on the MLS then or if it sold. Maybe bought by an insider and now being flipped.

  2. Posted by crazygates

    I used to go to school accross the street from this house growing up. Let me tell you a little history note that socket doesn’t know, this house used to be a brothel. Fact.

  3. Posted by Il_Guru

    I have been inside for an estate sale about a month ago (good art [pieces]!) … the place needs a lot of work and one of the people conducting the estate sale told me that it might not be that easy to do the required update as the place is a landmark.
    Bottom floor has some old mansion feeling (marble fireplaces etc) top floor has a weired ’70 purple carpet kind of feel. Top level bedrooms are small and the steep roof takes away space.
    There is a great art studio/workshop in the back.
    All in all it would be a great project for someone with another mil to throw in it on top of the sale price.

  4. Posted by fluj

    This place sold a month ago for 100K less, after being on the market for a day. Anybody know the back story? It’s all Sotheby’s agents I think.

  5. Posted by Anon

    I’ll be honest, I find the place to look a little scary.

  6. Posted by emmett_brown

    All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
    All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
    All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
    Open this Sunday, “FIRST OPEN! Grande Dame Victorian. SF Landmark. Transform into your dream home or develop. Zoned RH3.”
    Oddly, listing agents don’t mention Easement, but do call out the RH3 zoning.
    Suggestion for the site: perhaps add a button titled “But what about the housing project around the block?” Then people don’t have to type it, just click the button, and display the tally. Waller is a beautiful street, but what about etc. etc.

  7. Posted by sanfranvalues

    Addam’s Family anyone??
    All kidding aside, this is a great SF landmark.

  8. Posted by Observer

    fluj is spot on, this has been on the block for most of this year. I happened to drive by earlier in the week and the painters were out (more white) so surprised that this is turning over again in what would appear to be less that 1 month.

  9. Posted by Henry

    It would be crazy and stupid to buy a landmarked house that requires a remodel in San Francisco. Going through the process on a non-landmarked house is bad enough as it is. I can’t imagine how much BS anyone would want to go through for something that requires a review by untrained group of people that make arbitrary decisions every step of the way.
    Stay away for the sake of your mental health.

  10. Posted by Rocco

    Nice to see a house that hasn’t become a “painted lady.” Once upon a time, this is what houses all over the Bay Area looked like. White, with a red or green roof. The wide-ranging palettes we see all over town only date back to the ‘sixties. Unfortunately they can expect the view downtown to be compromised by redevelopment of the UC campus across the street, but at least it won’t as desolate as it is now.

  11. Posted by fluj

    Originally Victorian exteriors were colorful but stately:

  12. Posted by Trip

    Took a look at this place on Sunday. It’s not a haunted mansion at all. It’s a haunted dump.

  13. Posted by emmett_brown

    Indeed, this is a Victorian shell with amazingly junky 60s/70s rental quality kitchen/bath fixtures. But, that’s the stuff people love to gut anyways, with decent ROI. Some sweat equity, and some serious spending at Bradbury&Bradbury and SF Victoriana, and someone will have quite a trophy.
    The “development potential” is essentially convert the top floor to a 3rd unit, and to convert the ugly wooden box facing Laussat into a 2 car garage.
    Housing project around the corner? Yes, presence confirmed.

  14. Posted by fluj

    Good luck putting a garage on a designated landmark. Not impossible, but this would be subject to a great deal of review scrutiny. You’d have to convince a panel that the garage is in keeping with the aesthetic.
    Again, this sold for $1M less a month ago. Anyone? Beuller?

  15. Posted by emmett_brown

    I wouldn’t underestimate the landmark restrictions! But, the structure that will be the garage (or will be replaced w/ garage) already exists. It is a big ugly wooden box facing Laussat st. It’s painted gray, so one wouldn’t immediately note it is part of 201 Buchanan. “Ugmo-camo”. I would be surprised if they didn’t try to convert to garage previously, so the fact that it is not a garage _today_ is an even bigger red flag.

    Agent said they “just got tenant out of the place”, so maybe someone took the tenant w/ discounted price and now can deliver vacant. Wouldn’t explain 895k discount.

    Anyone see what the actual pest/contractors inspection number was?

  16. Posted by daniel

    I found the place felt surprisingly cramped, despite the huge footprint–the ceilings were low, and most rooms were darker than I expected. It’s like the place is being squeezed under the ponderous weight of that gabled roof.
    It looked like it needed to be completely gutted and refinished within, to me, although the potential is pretty clearly enormous. Not the kind of project I have the capacities to invest in.

  17. Posted by minthillmomma

    I have lived in the immediate neighborhood near this home for years. Artist and former owner, Jo Hanson, was an acquaintance and I can only imagine how sad she would be by the state of it right now. Although hardly in pristine condition when she died, the dead trees out front, pealing paint and general neglect of the place are a sad sight. Jo was a visionary and her former home is simply not for everybody. She was always so proud of this house and once spoke of the easement she set forth to protect it. Perhaps the easement is now working against her goal of saving the house. Today it is a total “gut” needing all new systems. This can be fixed by someone with deep pockets and a good therapist. However, the easement (which does not seem to be mentioned in any of the flyers that I saw at last weeks open house) does not mention that the outside of the house cannot be touched without permission of some local historic group. Whoever buys this place will most likely be stuck with a huge attic with few windows and the inability to change that. The plans the agent left out on the kitchen counter last Sunday imply otherwise. I would love to hear what that is all about! In the end, sorry Jo, this house today is best seen from the outside.

  18. Posted by DrTebi

    For a short time, about two month ago, this house was on the market for rent ($5000). I did call to find out more, but was told that the current owner seemed to have changed his/her mind.
    Now it is just sitting there, neither for rent nor for sale.
    Does anyone have any news about this place? Any clue of what’s going on? It’s a shame to just have it sit there and deteriorate.

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