Castro Victorian, separate cottage survived quake 

In 1894, Market Street ended at Castro Street. Mars Street was plotted, but had only two homes — next-door neighbors — on it. One of those homes, No. 22 at the time but now 56-56A, is now for sale. The asking price, $1.299 million, is probably more money than Herman Toepfer, the German-born house painter who owned the home in 1894, could imagine.

We don’t know for certain that the home was built in 1894. We know that Toepfer was listed in city directories that year. Spring Valley Water Company service came to his house on Aug. 31, 1898. Prior to that, what became the Upper Market area used to be the Mountain Springs Water Company. Unfortunately, that company’s records are lost to history.

A decade later, the home, which sits on ungraded bedrock (hillside lots were not regularly graded until the advent of common automobile use), sat quietly, unharmed, as the city burned in the distance. The Toepfer family — Herman, wife Louise, sons William and Walter and daughter Rita — were living elsewhere in San Francisco. Following the April 18, 1906 earthquake and fire, they returned to No. 22, where they lived until 1928.

By then, the house had its new address, 56 Mars St. At some point, the backyard cottage was added, perhaps to make it easier for the owners to take in boarders. The Toepfers were not strangers to this arrangement. Their 1920 census records show them boarding an 18-month-old infant, Jeffrey Gerard.

Almost 90 years later, 56-56A Mars St. has had approximately 10 owners. Each has left his or her mark on the house, which has been upgraded and changed significantly — now boasting three bedrooms, three modern baths and a killer downtown view. All of the stainless steel kitchen appliances in the world, however, can’t remove the rambling, eccentric bones of an original San Francisco Stick Victorian.

Hot property


56-56A Mars St.

Where: San Francisco
Asking price: $1,299,000
Property tax: $15,588
The property: Three-bedroom Victorian home with separate one-bedroom cottage
Notable: Built in late 1880s, one of the first two homes on Mars Street.
Agent: Vince Beaudet, Herth Real Estate, (415) 861-5200

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Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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