Historical Architecture

by Christopher VerPlanck

This is a revised version of a document prepared in support of the application by the Dogpatch neighbors to receive historical district status. Photos: Ralph Wilson

See also the list of contributing structures.

Historically Dogpatch was an extension of the pre-quake South of Market Area on the southern edge of Mission Bay. Due to its escape from the destruction that erased the rest of the South of Market district in 1906, Dogpatch remains the best-preserved enclave of Victorian industrial workers' housing in San Francisco.

There are 116 separate parcels within the Dogpatch survey area. Of those properties, six are vacant and six have more than one resource on them. There are 114 buildings in the district and of these 17 were constructed after the period of significance and are therefore non-contributing. Of the remaining 97 buildings, 24 are historic but heavily altered and therefore non-contributing. If restored to their appearance during the period of significance, all of these buildings would be contributing.

The remaining 73 buildings within in the survey boundaries are historic and retain a high enough threshold of integrity to be contributing. Of the 114 buildings constructed during the period of significance, 85 are dwellings constructed before 1930 and of these, 75 were constructed before 1906.

Residential Structures

The predominant character of Dogpatch is residential; of the 114 buildings built during the period of significance, 85 are wood-frame residential structures built before 1930. Of these, 30 are single-family dwellings, 46 are multi-family dwellings, 7 are commercial buildings with residential above and 2 are residential hotels.

The multi-family dwellings are generally composed of 2-to-4 flats, are the predominant domestic housing type, comprising 46 of the 85 dwellings in the district. Multi-family dwellings were constructed in Dogpatch throughout most of the period of significance, with the greatest number being built between 1900 and 1917.

920-22 and 924-26 Minnesota, both built as a pair in 1900, as well as most buildings on the west side of Minnesota Street between 20th and 22nd Streets or the north side of 22nd Street between Minnesota and Tennessee Streets, are home to many good examples of this type.

The single-family dwelling is the second-most common residential building type in Dogpatch, with 30 surviving within the district boundaries.

Single-family dwellings were generally divided into two main subcategories: spec-built workers' cottages that were rented to laborers, such as the "Pelton cottages" located at 1002-1014 Tennessee (constructed 1890-91) or larger single-family dwellings built by more affluent skilled laborers such as 700-02 and 704 Tennessee (constructed 1883 and 1891, respectively).

Single-family dwellings were constructed throughout the period of significance, although relatively few were built after 1900. The remaining residential categories include combined residential/commercial structures and residential hotels. There are seven commercial buildings with residential above. Typically two stories and located on corner lots, most of these were built around 1900. Good examples of this type include 900-02 22nd Street (built 1899) and 700 22nd Street (built 1912).

Although they never comprised the predominant form of housing in Dogpatch, several residential hotels or lodging houses, were constructed after the turn of the last century to accommodate an influx of shipyard workers. Examples include the Kentucky Hotel at 2500-03 3 rd Street (built 1902) and the March Hotel at 726-32 22nd Street (1917).

2500-2550 Third Street - Formerly Kentucky Hotel


Although there have been structures within the boundaries of Dogpatch since the earliest days of industrial development of Potrero Point, its development as a residential district of workers' housing occurred rather late, with the vast majority being constructed within a 20-year period between 1890 and 1910.

Of the 85 surviving dwellings constructed within the period of significance,

  • 2 were constructed in the 1870s,
  • 15 in the 1880s, 40 in the 1890s,
  • 20 in the 1900s, 4 in the 1910s, and
  • 4 in the 1920s.

Categorization of style is more problematic due to the fact that many dwellings were carpenter-designed and built and manifest a mixture of stylistic features. Also, at least 10 historic dwellings have been altered to such a degree that determining their original stylistic category from their current appearance is impossible. Nevertheless, of the surviving residential structures in Dogpatch, the largest number were designed in the San Francisco Stick/Eastlake style (26). The next highest category is Classical Revival (14), followed closely by Italianate (13), and Queen Anne (12). Other styles represented include: Greek Revival, Craftsman and Mediterranean.

Pelton Cottages

The several surviving “Pelton cottages” in Dogpatch known received their name due to the fact that their design was based the free architectural plans published by a local architect named John Cotter Pelton, Jr. Pelton was a prolific architect who worked in San Francisco and Los Angeles from the 1870s until his death in 1912. Between 1880 and 1883 he published a series of architectural patterns and specifications for inexpensive workers’ dwellings in the San Francisco Evening Bulletin, a paper that attracted a large working-class readership. These were later published in a book called Cheap Dwellings. Although intended to help working-class urban residents to build inexpensive, durable and attractive cottages, many speculators also used “Design No. 2, for a Four-Room Cottage,” to build clusters of workers’ rental housing in the Potrero District. Sanborn maps and historic photographs reveal the presence of several concentrations of identical cottages in Dogpatch, giving the neighborhood the classic appearance of a traditional company town more often seen in the East. The most important surviving cluster of Pelton cottages in San Francisco is located in Dogpatch. This cluster of thirteen existing (originally sixteen) identical Eastlake style workers’ cottages stands near the central part of the survey area on Tennesse and Minnesota Streets, between 20th and 22nd Streets. The Pelton cottages were constructed between 1890 and 1891 by a local carpenter named Rees O. Davis for brothers Jacob and John O. Reis. The Reis brothers were speculators and developers who owned more land in Dogpatch than any other entity beside the Santa Fe Land Improvement Company. Typically Reis built the small wood-frame cottages to rent to laborers in local industries of Potrero Point.

The Santa Fe Land Improvement Company’s carpenter W. J. Hanna also used John Cotter Pelton, Jr.’s “Design No. 2, for a Four-Room Cottage,” when he built seven identical duplexes and one single-family cottage on the west side of Minnesota Street, between 20th and 22nd Streets, in 1890. For a decade the Santa Fe Land Improvement Company rented these cottages to railroad workers but in 1900 the company decided to redevelop the large lot with a brick warehouse (the Schilling Wine Warehouse at 900 Minnesota) and they put the cottages up for sale. John O. Reis bought and moved the cottages to a large, irregularly shaped parcel with frontage on the 1000 Block of Tennessee Street and the 2400 block of Kentucky Street. He moved five of them to Kentucky Street and the remaining duplexes and the single-family cottage to Tennessee Street. The Kentucky Street were demolished when the street was widened in the 1930s and today the only Santa Fe Land Improvement Company dwellings remain today at 997-99 Tennessee and 1011 Tennessee. The 1890s witnessed the development of many other previously empty parcels in Dogpatch. As the 1890s progressed the housing constructed tended to be speculator built flats housing three or four families. A good example of housing built during this period is the north side of the 800 block of 22nd Street between Minnesota and Tennessee Streets. These eight, large multi-family dwellings were all erected between 1890 and 1900. Being located at the center of the neighborhood, several had stores in the bottom floor. The buildings along 22nd Street were designed in a variety of styles including Queen Anne and Classical Revival.

More about Pelton

Industrial Buildings

Within the district boundaries there are 12 contributing non-residential buildings constructed within the period of significance of 1870 to 1945. Of these, 7 are industrial, 4 are civic and 1 is commercial.

As a residential district surrounded by heavy industry, industrial and warehousing operations gradually crept into Dogpatch, especially along the fringes of the neighborhood. In regard to the industrial buildings: several residences have stables in the rear portion of the lot, particularly if they are on a corner lot. In most cases, these were not inventoried separately due to the fact that they were not really distinct from the main dwelling on the lot.

Two exceptions are two larger stables used by commercial drayage firms. At least 2 surviving examples remain in Dogpatch: 833 and 807 22nd Street. 807 22nd Street was built as a stable in 1894 on the rear portion of a lot built for a saloon located at 1100 Tennessee Street and 833 22nd Street was built in 1905 as a stable for Graham Fuel & Feed.

800-850 Tennessee Street

The most important industrial buildings in Dogpatch are a handful of larger timber frame brick warehouses constructed around the turn of the century. Examples include the Hulme & Hart Building at 800-50 Tennessee (1900) and the Schilling Wine Warehouse at 900 Minnesota (1906).

During the 1920s and 1930s industrial encroachment on Dogpatch increased and several more contemporary industrial buildings were erected. Examples include the concrete George Scharetg & Sons Drayage warehouse at 904 22nd Street (1919), the steel-frame and corrugated metal-clad American Meter Company warehouse at 900 Tennessee Street (1926) and the Streamline Moderne style Taylor Machine Shop at 970 Tennessee Street (1935).

Civic and Religious Buildings

The percentage of other building types has shrunk since the end of the Second World War as demographic changes and widespread automobile ownership frayed community bonds.

Of several historic religious buildings in Dogpatch, only one survives in the neighborhood although it was converted into a multi-family dwelling long ago. 740 Tennessee was constructed in 1881 as the Kentucky Street Methodist Episcopal Church but in 1918 it was converted into a combination pasta factory and multi-family dwelling.

The other important historic church in Dogpatch was St. Teresa's Roman Catholic Church. This church served Dogpatch at 19th and Tenessee until 1924, when it was cut in two and moved to a site near the crest of Potrero Hill at 19th and Connecticut.

There are four surviving public and civic buildings in Dogpatch. These four structures: Irving M. Scott School, at 1060 Tennessee (1895), the Potrero Police Station at 2300 3 rd Street (1912), the Potrero Emergency Hospital, at 2310 3 rd Street (1915) and the SFFD Engine House #16.

Irving Scott School- 1895

The growth of civic and religious buildings and institutions such as schools, hospitals, fire stations and churches marked Dogpatch’s maturation as a distinct residential neighborhood. As the neighborhood was remote from older settled districts, the influx of immigrant families into the area created the need for a local public school. The Potrero School was founded in 1865 at the corner of Napa (20th Street) and Kentucky (3rd Street) Streets. Two years later, in 1867, the Outside Lands Committee set aside several parcels of land in outlying sections of the city for building schools, including the site at 1060 Tennessee, the location of the present Irving Scott School. By 1877, the old school had become inadequate due to the continued influx of industrial workers into the neighborhood. In response the San Francisco School Department built a new school on the parcel set aside by the Outside Lands Committee. This eight-room frame building cost $12,834 to build and unlike the existing building it faced Minnesota Street. As the residential population of the neighborhood grew, thought was given to expanding the school. In 1895 the City of San Francisco hired architect Thomas J. Welsh to design an addition. The new addition, which faced Tennessee Street, was constructed by contractor L. J. Dwyer at a cost of $22,893. The entire school was renamed the Irving Murray Scott School in honor of the superintendent of Union Iron Works; Scott was a local benefactor of the school and he contributed money for its construction and equipment. As a school serving a primarily working-class population, the Irving M. Scott School emphasized practical trades and skills, such as cooking and homemaking for the girls and manual for the boys. The Irving Scott School is the only public school individually listed in the National Register and it is a San Francisco City Landmark.

Potrero Police Station - 1912

Emergency Hospital - 1915

SFFD Station #16

Firehouse #16

Throughout the 1880s city and utility companies also expanded services and infrastructure into Dogpatch. Although most of the industries at Potrero Point had their own fire fighting crews, the residential areas of Irish Hill and Dogpatch needed protection. In the early 1880s the San Francisco Fire Department erected Station #16, an Eastlake-style wood-frame firehouse at 1009 Tennessee Street. In the early 1920s this fire station was superseded by a new fire station designed by City Architect John Reid Jr. and constructed at 909 Tennessee in 1925. Water service was established in Dogpatch relatively early on, with the Spring Valley Water Company hooking up individual houses to the mains as early as the 1870s.

Topography and Street Layout

The land within the Dogpatch survey area is generally level, although the land rises gently from both the south and the north, reaching a high point midway through the district at 20th Street. The highest point in Dogpatch, at 19th and Tennessee, marks the former location of a vein of serpentine that was gradually blasted away from the 1860s until it was completely removed in 1910.

Lots within the district boundaries are generally typical within the urban context of San Francisco, measuring 25' x 100' on average, although some are smaller, measuring 20' x 100' or 20' x 80'. Lots containing industrial or civic structures are generally larger. The largest lot within the district boundaries is the combined Lot 1 and 1A on Block 4106; it measures 185' x 373'.

Most of the residential structures abut the sidewalk, although some of the older resources dating from the 1870s, such as 718 22nd Street are set back from the street, often on ungraded lots. The streets are laid in accordance with the general San Francisco grid; the numbered streets are oriented along an east-west axis and the streets named after states are oriented along a north-south axis. Although Dogpatch is very close to San Francisco Bay, views to the east are generally obstructed by the former Union Iron Works/Bethlehem Steel complex. Views of downtown San Francisco are generally unobstructed, particularly north of 20th Street and views of the east rampart of Potrero Hill are available to the west.

Notable features of the district are its groups of identical and near-identical dwellings. The cluster of thirteen identical Eastlake "Pelton cottages" on the 1000 Block of Tennessee and the 900 Block of Minnesota, whose design is based upon the "Cheap Dwellings" series developed by San Francisco architect John Cotter Pelton, Jr., and a row four of identical Italianate-style flats on the 1100 Block of Tennessee, designed by architect M. J. Welch. Close to a quarter of the residences in Dogpatch were built in either pairs or groups by the same developer.

Minnesota Street and Tennessee Street has several pairs of identical dwellings, whose facades and plans are typically mirrored. Examples include: 920-22 and 924-26 Minnesota, 962-64 and 966-68 Minnesota and 1045-47 and 1049-51 Tennessee.


Although there are dwellings in Dogpatch built during a period spanning roughly half a century, the bulk of them were built during a relatively short period of time corresponding largely to the construction and expansion of Union Iron Works/Bethlehem Steel's San Francisco Yard (1883-1920).

Additionally, many of the residences in the compact residential enclave were constructed by a relatively small group of local carpenters/contractors.

The Pelton cottages described above were based on the designs of prominent San Francisco architect John Cotter Pelton, Jr., whose significance is discussed in the Statement of Significance.

The cluster on the 1000 Block of Tennessee Street and the 900 Block of Minnesota Street was commissioned by speculators John and Jacob Reis and constructed by a contractor named Rees O. Davis. Davis constructed many other dwellings in Dogpatch, including 917-19 and 944-46 Minnesota and 820-24 22nd Street.

P. J. O'Donnell constructed 900, 816-18 and 800-04 22nd Street.

John Keneally built 923 Minnesota, 812-14 22nd Street and 1105-07 Tennessee.

T. C. Cochrane built 808-10 22nd Street and 1067 Tennessee. C. J. Antwiler built 1042 Tennessee.

W. J. Hanna constructed 997-99 and 1011 Tennessee for the Santa Fe Land Improvement Company.

F. Beckelhymer built 1045-47 and 1049-51 Tennessee.

Thomas Sullivan built 1104-06, 1108-10 and 1116-18 Tennessee.