The only way to get into a home with a clean slate is to buy in a brand-new development. The rest of us share our residences with generations of ghosts who left their mark on our house long before it was ours.
Certain San Francisco neighborhoods seem likely to house exceptionally spirited ghosts. Haight-Ashbury, a gathering place for seekers, misfits and malcontents for more than 40 years, is primary among them. Take any Haight Victorian, strip off a few layers of paint, and you’re likely to find a layer of day-glo orange. “If walls could talk,” the saying goes. In the Haight, they’d tell you how groovy your house used to be.
Over the years, local historians and hippie fetishists have compiled lists of Haight district homes with notably colorful histories. Unsurprisingly, most of the history seems to have taken place in the 1960s, a free-for-all time when Charles Manson, for example, lived at 635 Cole St.
The 600 and 700 blocks of Ashbury Street hosted a number of notable 1960s personalities. 710 Ashbury, of course, was the Grateful Dead House. Janis Joplin lived at 635 Ashbury, and Country Joe McDonald lived at 612.
And then there’s 719 Ashbury, almost directly across the street from 710. Its history is a bit murkier.
Sotheby’s agent Tom Biss cannot confirm any of the rumors swirling about the home he has been charged to sell at 719 Ashbury, but the next-door neighbors say that, “tour buses call this one ‘the Hells Angels House.’”
A few Haight-Ashbury history Web sites also make this claim. Even though the home has been magnificently restored (Biss says there was no major renovation, just good maintenance), it is not difficult to imagine the three-level, five-bedroom home as an Angels crash pad.
Part of the attraction to the Haight’s Victorians was sheer size and sheer number of rooms. A couple of Angels strewn across the two attic bedrooms? Maybe. Someone (or something) hidden in the secret crawlspace behind the closet in one of the main bedrooms? Could have happened.
Legend also has it that 719 Ashbury played host to a group of anarchists, long after all the love had been squeezed from the Haight.
Regardless of what it was, today 719 Ashbury is a beautiful example of Queen Anne Victorian architecture, restored (or maintained) in a very faithful manner. At some point, someone came in here, cleaned the place up and kicked out the rowdy ghosts. In that sense it is not so different from its neighbors, and maybe emblematic of the evolution of the entire neighborhood.
If You Go
Where: San Francisco
Asking Price: $2,595,000
Property Tax: $33,735*
The Property: Beautifully maintained Queen Anne Victorian with 3-5 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, den, remodeled kitchen and original details.
Notable: Like many San Franciscans, it is rumoredto have a colorful 1960s past.
Agent: Tom Biss, Sotheby’s International Realty (415) 901-1776.