Presidio of San Francisco (September 2, 2010) — The Presidio Trust is putting the finishing touches on seven historic homes along Wyman Avenue in the Presidio’s Public Health Service District. The charming homes were built in the early 1900s to house doctors working at the nearby Public Health Service Hospital. With the completion of work on the Wyman homes, the last of the Presidio’s 22 historic neighborhoods will be available for occupancy.
“This is truly something to celebrate,” said Ann Ostrander, residential program manager for the Trust. “It’s an important accomplishment for us. We’ve been working for twelve years, almost to the day, going neighborhood by neighborhood. All of the Presidio’s historic homes have been rehabilitated with care and to the highest standards.”
Ranging in size from 1,700 to almost 4,000 square feet with 3, 4, or 5 bedrooms, the Wyman Avenue homes are a vital piece of what will be the Presidio’s first “green neighborhood.” The entire Public Health Services District is being re-imagined as a welcoming park gateway, featuring residences, cultural and educational organizations, and public trails that link the Presidio’s natural, historic and recreational attractions.
The District is expected to become the first in the Presidio to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s newLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) certification and possibly become the first LEED-ND certified neighborhood in the country that is also part of a National Historic Landmark District. In addition to the environmentally-sensitive practices and materials used to rehabilitate the homes, the neighborhood features drought resistant landscaping, a unique water recharge system that captures rainwater and reduces run-off, and new streetlights with low levels of illumination to limit light pollution. Transit and other services are just a short walk away.
“The Trust has been at the forefront of efforts to apply green building practices to historic buildings,” says Rob Wallace, one of the Trust’s historic building architects. “Now we’ve been able to show those efforts can be expanded to entire neighborhoods and that the LEED-ND category does not have to be limited to new construction.”
Tucked along the southern edge of the Presidio, the Wyman homes (3 single-family residences and 8 duplex units) and nearby buildings were originally constructed as part of the nation’s Public Health Service Hospital network, and formed their own, independent enclave unrelated to the military base. The former hospital building was constructed in 1932 and looks out towards the City. In July of 2010, it was completely rehabilitated by Forest City Development to provide 154 units of market rate apartments. Since none of the buildings in the District were designed by the Army, their architecture is distinct from that of the rest of the Presidio.
Walking along Wyman Avenue, past the large homes with their stucco and wood frame construction and portico entrances, it’s easy to forget you’re in the city. Quiet, with views of Mountain Lake to the east and Lobos Creek Valley and the Pacific Ocean to the west, the neighborhood has a remote, almost suburban feel.
“This is a once-in-a -lifetime opportunity to live in a national park without being removed from the city,” says Wallace. “Wyman Avenue is within walking distance of the shops and restaurants in the nearby neighborhoods.”
Because the Wyman houses were vacant for more than two decades and difficult to police because of their remote location, the homes were in the worst condition of any the Trust has rehabilitated. They had been broken into and vandalized; their walls tagged with graffiti. Exposed to the elements, their wood floors had buckled, and copper thieves had stripped the buildings of anything they could make off with.
“They were in pretty grisly condition,” says Wallace. “The transformation has been dramatic. It’s stunning how beautiful they’ve become.”
Despite the daunting conditions, a lot remained for architects to work with. The buildings’ main structures and original architectural detail – doors, window frames and trim – were intact, along with some fixtures and flooring.
“We were able to restore the buildings’ original character while incorporating contemporary sustainable features,” adds Wallace.
The result is homes that have an historic feel, but also feature modern, energy efficient heating, plumbing and electrical systems and appliances. The most ingenious design decision however, may have been the addition of “dormers,” which added height to the roofs and allowed the attics to be converted into additional bedrooms and, in one instance, a master suite.
The Trust will hold two open houses for the Wyman homes on Saturday, September 4 and Wednesday, September 8 from 11 am to 3 pm. The homes will also be on display as part of the upcoming “Green Grand Opening” of the Public Health Service District on Saturday, September 25, from 11 am to 4 pm.
The Presidio Trust was established by the United States Congress in 1996 to administer the Presidio of San Francisco, an urban national park that is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The areas overseen by the Trust include expansive open space and spectacular views, a 300-acre historic forest, and rare and endangered plants and wildlife. The National Park Service oversees the coastal areas of the Presidio. The park comprises nearly 6 million square feet of buildings, including 469 historic structures that contribute to the Presidio’s status as a National Historic Landmark District.