Passers-by might have noticed two rows of identical huts clustered together on the streets of Tennessee and Minnesota near 22nd place. These are Bilton cottages—1002, 1004, 1008, 1010, 1012, and 1014 Tennessee Street—and their backyard neighbors; 903, 905, 907, 909, 911, 913 and 915 Minnesota Street. San Francisco was once home to 26 of these architectural gems. The 13 in Dogpatch are the largest concentration of those that remain.
The cottages were designed by John Cotter Pelton. He was a respected architect already in the 1880s, who wanted to make home ownership more affordable for the working class. His series of plans for a four-room country house was later published between 1880 and 1883 in “Cheap Dwellings”. Evening Bulletin in San Francisco, a daily newspaper whose readers are immigrants and city workers. Many residents of Dogpatch – then “Dutchman’s Flat” – fit that demographic, and work in shipbuilding and other heavy industries in Potrero Point, today’s Pier 70.
Plans were based on a potential new homeowner purchasing a 20-foot-wide plot, the minimum marketable plot size in San Francisco. A 20 percent increase in real wages between 1870 and 1890, along with newly available land for development which resulted from the expansion of the street railroad, made owning property in the city reasonable for many previously excluded. Dogpatch singles sold for $700 to $800 in 1880, or $21,866 in today’s dollars.
Pelton provided floor plans with clear specifications, a materials list, labor cost estimates, and a “how” section to enable anyone to build their own hut. The designs were used by contractors and landlords throughout San Francisco, and many of them still stand today in Mission, Haight, and Noe Valley.
According to architectural historian Christopher Fairblank, who wrote the proposal for Dogpatch’s “historic district” status in 2002, “Belton’s ‘Cheap Housing’ series represents the first and only example in which a California architect published free plans for worker housing in a daily newspaper. .”
His initial series of plans, from 1880, were a three-room cottage that included an indoor water closet, a hinged roof—one that sloped upwards on all sides of the building, no vertical elements—and a picket fence, costing $585 for materials and labor, $1,990 today. Later that year, he published a second series, about a seven-room, 782-square-foot cottage, with a materials/labor cost of $854.25, $23,350 today.
VerPlanck noted the more elegant nature of the second incarnation, “envision the plans flanked by scrollwork, Eastlake-style doors and window and a large prominent frieze with arches.”
The remaining Bilton Cottages in Dogpatch are of four assorted rooms, constructed by contractor Rees Davis in 1887. The lucky ones still wear their 140-year-old exterior decorations. Minor modifications were made to some of them, such as installing modern garage doors, stairs or balustrades; Missing wooden trim. Others have undergone a severe facelift, with trimmed metal casement windows, or a facade rearranged so that it can’t be certain it’s Pelton Cottage. Often the author of these changes was fire, which completely destroyed many of them.
The four-room cottages were originally configured as a front parlour, dining room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. On real estate websites, some are listed as consisting of three bedrooms, one to four bedrooms, and three bathrooms. The original home’s 872 square feet of space was enlarged to 1,698 square feet by creating a full story underneath, and it sold for $2.4 million in 2020. The cottages, which are still close to their initial size, are valued at $1.1 million.
Although Pelton may be aesthetically intimidated by some of the changes, he agreed to the expansions. He planned for this imperative, placing two additional wide cabinets between the dining room and the bedroom which could be converted into stairs to add another floor.
The Shereen Irvine Berry family owns the 1010 Tennessee Street cottage, which has retained many of its original features since the mid-1980s. The front steps are thin and steep. The front door – not original, but time period correct, like many home fixtures – opens into a narrow portico, which once ran the entire length of the building. The first room on the left, facing the street, is used as a reception hall which, although small in size, has a greater feel due to its high ceiling and abundant light.
Down the hall is the dining room, which now serves as a bedroom, with an antique bed, antique duvets, and a 19th-century chandelier from Berry’s grandparents’ home. The hallway extends into the living room, which was probably the original kitchen. The second bedroom is adjacent to the living room. One of the cabinets has a trap door that leads to a crawl space above. The cottage is full of art and historical artifacts, many of which were collected from trips to Asia and the Middle East.
The kitchen and dining area occupy the back of the house, with French doors looking out onto a spacious backyard. Given that most of the huts are located at a depth of 100 feet, the backyards are huge. Other huts and their courtyards can be seen from the deck, creating a profile rear window vibration. The patch has a patio paved with bricks salvaged from the basement, possibly from the original chimney. Surrounded by roses, flowering shrubs, and mature fruit trees, it gives the feeling of being in an outdoor room.
Berry, a retired teacher, has spent thirty years teaching sewing to adults who have experienced blindness. She has authored a series of three books, Needle Arts with Blindnessand published In sickness and health, a love story in the shadow of AIDSDating her marriage to Mark.
The former 1010 Tennessee Street residents were identified by the resident’s office and newspaper groups. Bartolomeo Lazarchi and his wife Anna owned the country house from 1924 until the early 1950s. For much of that time, Bartolomeo’s brother, Italo, and his wife, Elisabetta, owned the house next door, 1012 Tennessee Street.
In 1932 Mrs. Jesse Scott Johnson Hughes of 41 Lakewood Street, Ingleside, was brutally assaulted in her garage, lost consciousness, was run over twice, and had her body thrown two blocks away. During the trial a secret witness was presented, who managed to put two of the accused in the same car, 20 minutes before the attack, in front of his office, Harding Grill, at 543 Devisadero Street. The witness testimony concluded the case against the suspects. That secret witness was Bartolomeo Lazarchi, who also made the news in 1932 when he and his wife welcomed his daughter.
Batista Longo, 26, a baker, lived at 1010 Tennessee Avenue in the early 1920s. He married Frances Martinez in 1922. Two years later, he filed two lawsuits seeking $25,000 each in damages from Ms. Rita Gigliano and Mr. Carlo Marenco, alleging urging his wife to “separate from him” on September 15. Ms. Frances Martinez Longo filed for divorce on September 16, alleging cruelty.
There is this solid mass of “home gatherings” section in san francisco callAugust 29, 1897:
Mr. and Mrs. Peter Hamilton celebrate their shanty wedding on Saturday evening, August 22, at their residence, 1010 Tennessee Street. The house is tastefully decorated with greenery and ferns. Spent a fun evening dancing, singing, music and games. Among the guests were well-known oboeist Daniel Peyton and singer Robert Fair. The hostess received many valuable tokens, both useful and decorative. ”
It seems doubtful that Mr. and Mrs. Peter Hamilton imagined that their neighbors, after 125 years, would read about their party. But then again, it’s unlikely that John Cotter Pelton would have thought that one of his cottages would one day make more than $2 million.