By Gail Baugh
Picturesque and architecturally eclectic, the mansard-roofed, domed tower house at 700 Hayes Street at Buchanan Street has drawn admiring glances for over 125 years. In the book Victorian Glory, author Paul Duchescherer describes this home as “Italianate/Second Empire/Classical Revival/Queen Anne style…” The large single family residence (over 5000 square feet) has been home to five families since its completion in 1884.
Originally placed 30 feet west of where it stands today, the property included gardens, a small barn that housed the family cow, and a carriage house located behind the family home on Ivy Street. Asa Fisk and his wife Lydia commissioned architect Edward Hatherton, at one time the City Architect for San Francisco, to design their 15-room home in the grand style. The house features 14-foot ceilings on the 1st and 2nd floor, 8 fireplaces, and Cuban mahogany wood detailing throughout. There is a ballroom, roof deck, and botanical conservatory on the top floor. Nearly all of interior features are original, treasured by each family who has lived there.
Mr. Fisk came to San Francisco already a wealthy man. While in Boston he built the first street car line and was elected to the Massachusetts legislature. He and his family moved permanently to San Francisco in 1869, where he became a financial broker, amassing a new fortune through loans and investments. The house cost $20,000 to build, an enormous sum at the time. After Mr. Fisk’s death in 1897, the home was moved to its current location in 1899, and new income properties were completed by about 1900 at 710-714 Hayes and 709-711 Buchanan. The carriage house still stands on Ivy Street.
Gail Baugh and Jim Warshell purchased the house in 2003. They continue to restore it, honoring its original design. The Fisk House is a unique home in San Francisco, and they consider themselves caretakers of a small part of San Francisco’s history. They both love to garden, as did the Fisks. Stop by when you see them working in the gardens. You’ll learn more about their home!