At Home: Laurel Hill home honors history, family

For Ellen and John Rothmann, 1987 was a big year.

On their second date, John, KGO Radio’s new 10 to 1 p.m. host, proposed. Ellen replied, “When you bring a ring, we can discuss it.” 

They married eight months later and purchased their Laurel Hill residence at the same time.

The home, built in 1948, was on the site of the original Laurel Hill Cemetery, which was moved to Colma.

Ellen didn’t know the history when they purchased the property; John told her after they moved in. On their first night there, Ellen rented “Poltergeist”: She says she “made him watch it.”

Now, the couple simply have great memories, Ellen says.

Everything in the house has a story, or history, from John’s or Ellen’s families — pieces from their grandparents and great grandparents.

It’s a traditional, gracious, airy residence, filled with mahogany antiques, and light-blush-ecru walls, except for a blue one behind the marble fireplace in the living room.

The home also has many collectibles the couple have amassed over the years.

A grandfather clock purchased by John’s maternal grandfather was in his grandfather’s home for more than 70 years. 

There’s a Biedermeier chest John’s father brought from Germany when he emigrated here in 1936.

Another favorite is an Oriental secretary from Ellen’s grandmother. 

Paintings celebrate family. There’s one painting on porcelain of John’s grandmother when she was 10, in 1891; a sketch of a room in Germany that was a likeness to John’s grandfather’s home; and a still life.

A 1911 Chickering piano that John “banged on” when he was a child was purchased from the Jewish Community Center.

Many other stunning sterling silver pieces and antiques are family heirlooms, as well.

John, who has a collection of 200 walking sticks, is member of the Haas-Lilienthal clan. His grandmother was Florine Haas Bransten; the whole family gets together once a year during the holidays at the ancestral home on Franklin Street. 

John also is a political history buff. He has a collection of 15,000 rare books and is passing down his appreciation for history to his sons, Samuel and Joel.

 

Style keys

Design aesthetic: Traditional
Favorite pieces: Biedermeier chest, grandfather clock, inlaid wood table
Favorite place to shop: Antiques stores
Notable collections: Books — John has 15,000, 3,000 of which are first editions, including Theodore White’s “Making of the President” signed by White, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey and Adlai Stevenson

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