Atherton House

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Atherton House
Atherton House (San Francisco).JPG
Atherton House is located in California
Atherton House
Atherton House is located in the United States
Atherton House
Location1990 California St., San Francisco, California
Coordinates37°47′24″N 122°25′34″W / 37.79000°N 122.42611°W / 37.79000; -122.42611Coordinates: 37°47′24″N 122°25′34″W / 37.79000°N 122.42611°W / 37.79000; -122.42611
Area0.2 acres (0.081 ha)
Built1881 (1881)
Architectural styleStick/Eastlake, Queen Anne
NRHP reference No.79000527[1]
SFDL No.70
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJanuary 31, 1979
Designated CHISLJanuary 31, 1979[2]
Designated SFDLFebruary 19, 1975[3]

The Atherton House, also known as the Faxon Atherton Mansion, is a historic building in San Francisco, California, United States. The style of the house, a blend of Queen Anne and Stick-Eastlake,[4] has been described as both "eclectic" and "bizarre".[5]


The house was built in 1881–1882 in the Queen Anne style with horizontal lines, a clipped gable, and a short tower. The architect is thought to have been John Marquis,[6] but it has also been attributed to the Moore Brothers,[7] who are depicted in other accounts as the initial builders.


It was constructed for Dominga de Goñi Atherton (1823–1890) after the death of her husband Faxon Atherton.[8] She was the mother-in-law of novelist Gertrude Atherton, who wrote about the house in her memoirs.[9] Newspaper articles about the house when the housewarming was held in 1882 described it as picturesque, but appearing to be a relic of an earlier time. The reporter also noted that the height of the rooms created a claustrophobic effect on visitors. Possibly in answer to the comments, Dominga hired Charles Lee Tilden to improve the house.[10]

After Dominga Atherton's death in 1890,[11] the mansion was sold to Edgar Mills, brother of Darius Ogden Mills of the Bank of California, and in 1900 was renumbered from 1950 to 1990 California St. In 1908 it was purchased by George Chauncey Boardman, a real-estate magnate and president of San Francisco Fire Insurance, whose house had been destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. His widow and other family members lived there until 1923, when it was bought by Charles J. Rousseau, an architect, who subdivided it into 13 apartments.[4] His widow Carrie lived there with fifty cats until her death in 1974.[12] As of 2008 it was still subdivided.[13]

The house is purportedly haunted by as many as four ghosts, including Carrie Rousseau,[4] and is featured on ghost tours.[14] The commonly cited story is that the original ghost is George H. B. Atherton, who died at sea in the South Pacific in 1887 and whose body was shipped back to San Francisco in a rum barrel, but the barrel was delivered to the docks, not to the house.[9][15]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ "Atherton House". CA State Parks. Retrieved November 15, 2022.
  3. ^ "City of San Francisco Designated Landmarks" (PDF). City of San Francisco. Retrieved November 14, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c Accardi, Catherine. "Four Ghosts, One House". Guidelines. San Francisco City Guides. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  5. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Inventory -- Nomination Form". United States Department of the Interior. 1979. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  6. ^ Cerny, Susan Dinkelspiel (2007). An Architectural Guidebook to San Francisco and the Bay Area. Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith, Publisher. p. 8. ISBN 9781586854324.
  7. ^ Willey, Peter Booth (2000). National Trust Guide/San Francisco: America's Guide for Architecture and History Travelers. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 274. ISBN 0471191205.
  8. ^ "Death of Faxon Atherton". Cincinnati Commercial, July 19. 1877.
  9. ^ a b Weirde. "Atherton Mansion: A Corpse in a Barrel and His Domineering Wife". FoundSF. Retrieved April 13, 2022.
  10. ^ Waldhorn, Judith Lynch; Woodbridge, Sally B.; Wheeler, Wendy (illustrator) (1978). Victoria's legacy. San Francisco, California: 101 Productions. p. 24. ISBN 0-89286-139-8.
  11. ^ "Death of Dominga Goñi de Atherton". New York World, October 4. 1890.
  12. ^ "National Register of Historic Places in San Francisco: National Register #79000527, Atherton House". NoeHill. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  13. ^ Richards, Rand (2008). Historic Walks in San Francisco: 18 Trails Through the City's Past. San Francisco: Heritage House Publishers. p. 310. ISBN 978-1879367036.
  14. ^ Dwyer, Jeff (October 17, 2011). Ghost Hunter's Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area: Revised Edition (Revised ed.). Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Company, Inc. p. 134. ISBN 9781589809680.
  15. ^ Dowd, Katie (October 9, 2018). "A body in the rum barrel: The true story behind San Francisco's booziest, weirdest ghost". San Francisco Chronicle.