article picture

Archbishop’s Mansion in San Francisco

The handsome French Second Empire structure was built in 1904 for San Francisco’s second Archbishop, Patrick Riordan (1841-1914). A major architectural asset and anchor to the Alamo Square Historic District, it was at the turn of the century an important symbol of the Catholic Church’s prominence in San Francisco’s religious, social and cultural life. The Mansion’s architect was Frank Shea, who worked on several projects for the Catholic Archdiocese, including St. Vincent de Paul on Steiner Street and Holy Cross on Eddy Street.

Archbishop Patrick Riordan played an important role in San Francisco history. Arriving in 1882, he set about building churches, schools, and hospitals. The Archbishop had been a priest in Chicago during that city’s Great Fire of 1871, so to prevent destruction from fire in San Francisco, he directed that church buildings be built of brick, stone and granite and that his home be built with a stucco exterior. San Francisco’s historical 1906 earthquake and resulting fires occurred shortly after the Mansion’s construction, but the Mansion suffered very little damage.

All of the structures surrounding Alamo Square are constructed on solid bedrock, and the Archbishop’s prophetic choice of stucco and a steel-reinforced concrete foundation helped the house survive the devastation. Consequently, the Mansion became a refuge center after the earthquake for people forced to camp in Alamo Square, and it was turned over to the Sisters of the Presentation, whose convent on Powell Street had been destroyed by the fire.

As the city recovered, Archbishop Riordan was named as a finance chairman of the city’s rebuilding committee, a project that he oversaw until his death in 1914. Two other archbishops lived in the Mansion: Archbishop Edward Hanna from 1915 to 1935 and Archbishop John Mitty from 1935 to 1945. The soon-to-be Pope Pius XII stayed here in 1934.

In 1945, the Archdiocese moved the Archbishop’s residence to Pacific Heights and turned 1000 Fulton into a working boys home for Catholic youth. The building functioned as an orphanage as well as the Catholic Church’s alternative to the juvenile justice system. In 1972 the Archdiocese sold the property to a medical center that sponsored a residential drug rehabilitation program called Westside Lodge.

Current owners Jonathan Shannon and Jeffrey Ross purchased the building in 1980 and spent over two years renovating it. Every inch of wall and woodwork required extensive repair. The furnishings were gathered from sites around the world to reflect the concept of the inn as a French Chateau of the Belle Epoque period of the late 19th century. In 1983, the Mansion reopened as a 15-room bed and breakfast inn.

Most of the wood in the Mansion is redwood brought in from groves in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The three-story grand staircase is all mahogany. The chandelier in the entry hall is original and has been converted from gas operation to electric. The chandelier in the parlor is originally from the movie set of Gone With the Wind. In the Great Hall, another piece of furniture worth noting is the gilded mirror formally owned by Mary Todd Lincoln. The baby grand piano at the other end of the Great Hall, which is played in the evenings, is a player piano once owned by the playwright Noel Coward.

Mr. Shannon and Mr. Ross were instrumental in having the building designated as a San Francisco historic landmark and also in the designation of Alamo Square as the largest official city district. The Archbishop’s Mansion is a proud structure reflecting the power and elegance of its early history

Send comments and questions to guidelines@sfcityguides.org
Material of San Francisco City Guides. Please give credit to the author and SF City Guides if referenced or reproduced.