639 17th Avenue
Welcome to 639 17th Ave! This elegant two bed, one and a half bath craftsman style home built in 1916 presents huge potential to the owner occupier wanting to custom create their dream home; or the savvy real estate developer looking profit from renovations. Located in prime Central Richmond District, this home features 1,400 square feet of living space and a large 2,748 square foot, RH2 lot. This home retains original hardwood floors, a half bath on main level, and uptairs a full bath, two large bedrooms (both with two closets!) and a sun room looking West over the backyard. Interior stairs to the spacious one car garage, and extra room present further expansion potential. True Diamond in the Rough!
639 17th Avenue Architecutal and Historical Significance
The house at 639 17th Avenue was built in early 1916. The builder was N.J. Nelson, a Swedish house builder who immigrated to the U.S. in 1901. He constructed the house and its neighbor to the south at the same time. The similar appearance of the two houses is a clue that they were built on speculation; Nelson sold them to their first owners upon completion. This was a common arrangement, especially in San Francisco's western neighborhoods during the 1910s and 20s, when the area's previously vacant sand dunes were under rapid development. Speculative real estate developers, who were often simply entrepreneurial carpenters, would buy up groupings of empty lots and build a series of cookie-cutter houses, which they could then sell for profit. No architect was involved in the design of 639 17th Avenue – Nelson did the design work, too – and the cost of construction was $2,000.
The earliest known owners of the house were George B. and Kate Sanguinetti, who occupied the house as early as 1919. George Sanguinetti was the co-proprietor of an Italian restaurant, called Sanguinetti & Antoni, located on Divisadero Street. By the early 1930s, Sanguinetti was divorced and had given up his restaurant, but still lived in the house on 17th Avenue. He worked as a school janitor and took in a lodger, Jack Canata, who was also Italian and worked as a meat cutter in a butcher shop. By 1935, Sanguinetti had gotten remarried to Helen Sanguinetti. The couple lived at 639 17th Avenue until at least 1940. Later owners included Mrs. Marguerite Betts, a “TV artist,” in the early 1950s; Melvin Clark, a salesman for Falstaff Brewery, and his wife Mary, in the 1960s; and in the1970s and 80s Ronald a Lee retired State of California administrator and his wife, Betty Lee, who worked for United Airlines as a reservations agent for the Hawaii routes.
The house at 639 17th Avenue was designed with Craftsman style architectural features, many of which have been removed, but are still evident on its neighbor. Like so many houses, it was probably stuccoed for ease of maintenance and in the process, brick and wood lap siding, window trim and hoods, a gabled porch surround, and block modillions were lost. The house now has a paneled wood door on its garage entrance – integral garages being a relatively new concept in 1916 – and terrazzo steps ascending to the front porch. The recessed porch was given decoratively shaped arch shoulders, which appear to be a 1920s touch, while its front door remains original. The large three-part, transomed front window and the centered window at the stepped out second story are aluminum sash; probably installed in the 1970s. Vestiges of the Craftsman style remain in the curved knee brackets and wide bargeboards on the eaves of the steeply sloping gable end.