Roos House

Roos House, 3500 Jackson Street, San Francisco, California

Designed by Bernard Maybeck in 1909


Bernard Ralph Maybeck was born in New York City and moved to Paris at the age of nineteen to enroll in the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts. After finishing his coursework, Maybeck returned to New York City and worked for Carrère & Hastings. He then moved to the Bay Area and was appointed an instructor of descriptive geometry at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition, he also held informal architectural courses at his house where he taught students such as Julia Morgan, John Bakewell, and Arthur Brown Jr. In 1902 Maybeck opened an architectural office in San Francisco.


Bernard Maybeck’s 1909 Leon L. Roos house is situated at the corner of Locust and Jackson streets, in the Presidio Heights neighborhood. Maybeck used an ornate Tudor style of half-timbering, carved wood detail, and steeply pitched slate roofs to reflect the interests of the new owners, who furnished the house with their own collection of medieval furniture alongside pieces Maybeck designed specifically for the house. The approximately 9000 square foot house looks substantially the same as when built, although Maybeck designed an addition in 1926 which enlarged the living spaces in the attic. It is an exuberant counterpoint to the tight rows of large townhouses built on the small lots in this neighborhood bordering the Presidio of San Francisco between Arguello and Presidio Avenues.

Photographing the Roos House was straightforward, the biggest obstacles being the lines of automobiles parked at the curbs of both Locust and Jackson Streets. I chose to photograph from up close primarily to avoid showing the lines of cars, but also to examine Maybeck’s wonderful heavy carved timbers. Coincidentally, there was a “San Francisco Decorator Showcase” house opening a few blocks down on Jackson street; several pedestrians stopped to ask me if the Roos house was in fact the Showcase house they were looking for.