Twitter co-founder and San Francisco resident Evan Williams wants to raze the home he purchased with his wife in 2011 in the affluent Parnassus Heights neighborhood. But neighbors, citing the home’s possible historic roots, are circling petitions to stop the demolition: The home was designed by Arts and Crafts–era architect Louis Christian Mullgardt.
Still determined to preserve the house, some 300 neighbors wrote to the city planning department. As Philip Ferrato reports in Curbed San Francisco, “Most objectors bemoaned the loss of an ‘historic’ house they'd obviously never seen, and many cited Evan Williams's vast wealth as a founder of Twitter as the real problem.”
A historical evaluation of the house, commissioned by the Williams family, states that the structure is ineligible for the California Register of Historical Resources due to extensive renovations made during the 1970s. But opponents of the move aren’t deterred.
Suddenly it’s become a NIMBY showdown: On one side there are the neighbors, reluctant to alter the history of the street, and on the other side is one of the city’s newest celebrities, ready to make his mark. A famed architect’s legacy, which is quickly disappearing, hangs in the mix.
Mullgardt was a prominent name in the area at the turn of the century. His work in cities such as Chicago, Boston, London, and finally San Francisco won him an appointment to the Architectural Board of the Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1912. He designed the first purpose-built de Young Museum in San Francisco, completed in 1919. The museum underwent several rounds of renovations over the years before it was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1989. Eventually the museum’s board determined it was best to start over from scratch. The Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron designed the new building, which opened in 2005, and closed the door on yet another chapter of Mullgardt’s legacy in the city.
Mullgardt enjoyed a few more years of noteworthy commissions, including The Knoll at Stanford University, which was built in 1918. (That building was also badly damaged by an earthquake in 1986 and was only completely restored in 2005.) His luck took a final turn for the worse following the country’s entry into World War I. He couldn’t find work, his son died in an airplane accident, and his wife of 32 years divorced him, according to a report by the San Francisco Heritage. Mullgardt died in 1941 in the pauper’s ward at the State Hospital in Stockton, Calif.