Doran House

Designed by architects William G. Copeland and Charles V. Pierce, this Classical Revival residence was built for Daniel J. Doran in 1905. Contractor George Healey carried out its construction for approximately $4,000. Mr. Doran was born in England of Irish parents on December 29, 1862. He immigrated to the United States in 1884, marrying in 1887. By the time of the 1910 United States Census he was residing at this address with his wife Christine, their four daughters and their three sons.

This residence is one of the last designs by the firm Copeland and Pierce, whose partnership lasted from 1889 to 1906. Its design reflects that of a late Queen Anne row house congruent with the adjacent buildings. But it also features additional applied garlands beneath a denticulate molding (lying just under the roof’s cornice); attached fluted pilasters adjacent to all of the window frames; Ionic columns on either side of the entry porch; balustrades and bay windows mirroring each other on both levels; and an unusual triangular-framed round porthole illuminating the attic gable. All of these details provide the residence with a more contemporary, yet balanced classical appearance that indicates a transitional phase between Queen Anne and Edwardian. While some of these features may have been added by the various owners of 4426 20th Street, they soon became a hallmark of the Edwardian Period, a simpler and more robust architectural style that was in evidence in the residential and commercial buildings throughout San Francisco by circa 1905.

The gracious first floor interior displays a fireplace with a fine wood mantel and its original decorative tile facing, along with the still-functional sliding pocket doors that convert two rooms into more singular private and cozy spaces. In later years a series of owners performed successive renovations—developing the attic into a legal living space, excavating and adding a garage, and creating a master bedroom suite and its contemporary bathroom with touches of Japanese taste and style. One of the home’s longtime proprietors worked for the city’s cable car line and even went so far as to install a door chime with the distinctly nostalgic sound of the cable car conductor’s famous bell-ringer!

Because this home is situated in mid-block and at the crest of a hill, there are no other houses blocking its spectacular northeast views from the rear, towards downtown and beyond. Its other hidden surprise is the verdant tropical vegetation, which fills out the lovely garden.

House history research and text by Gary Goss. Printed program writing and editing by Tamara Hill. Edited for the web by Jason Allen-Rouman