By 1917, wildlife sculptor Arthur Putnam had unfortunately already produced his best work. A brain tumor had left his skills and health diminished. So he was unable to take advantage of his new “house at the beach” in San Francisco’s outer Richmond. In 1921, Putnam and his second wife, Marion Pearson, moved to Europe, where they stayed until Putnam’s death, at age 57, in 1930.
Putnam sold the home to an archeologist named Bell, who stayed until 1957. He then sold it to Elio and Lydia Benvenuto, a pair of artists themselves. They have owned the home since.
Elio Benvenuto died in 1991. Now, with Lydia, 91, and the couple’s grandson living in the home, the family has decided to sell.
“We were going to try to put paint on it, stage it, but we decided that’s not right,” says Paragon agent Wendy Storch, who is listing 870 45th Ave. Storch is correct; staging this home would be the worst kind of square peg treatment. Better that potential buyers should see the building as Arthur Putnam and the Benvenutos intended it: as a large, open, raw gallery space with adjacent living areas.
With Elio’s sculptures and drawings hung throughout, it is easy to imagine this as a working space. The center gallery, two stories in height with a surrounding mezzanine and huge skylight, all but requires that visitors don a pair of paint-
splattered Carhartts when they enter. As does the enormous studio behind the house, accessible by two huge sliding doors.
“At our first open house, the people who were here, waiting for us to open, they knew they were looking at something special,” says Storch. “I knew they were looking to use it for themselves, teachers, artists, designers.”
Elio Benvenuto didn’t come to San Francisco until 1948. By then he’d been a working artist for over a decade. He’d also been elected mayor of Pietrasanta, Italy. In 1950, Benvenuto was commissioned to sculpt the stations of the cross at the Corpus Christi Church, in the Outer Mission. By 1967, he’d become the director of the San Francisco Art Commission.
And all the while, he was raising his family, holding art openings and doing his work in his remarkable home at 870 45th Ave.
Where: San Francisco
Asking Price: $899,000
Property Tax: $11,687*
The Property: Beach house with three bedrooms, 2.25 baths (the 0.25 is a toilet in a closet), artist’s studio, atrium/gallery.
Notable: One-of-a-kind home doubles as an art gallery; same owners since 1957.
Agent: Wendy Storch, Paragon Realty, (415) 738-7031. www.870-45thAve.com.
*Estimate based on 1.3% of asking price.