Located in San Francisco, the McElroy Octagon House is a museum dedicated to the decorative arts of the Colonial and Federal eras.

The McElroy Octagon House, erected in 1861, has transformed into a quaint museum within the vibrant city of San Francisco. Nestled in the scenic Cow Hollow District on the northern outskirts, this captivating azure gem stands as a testament to architectural brilliance. Amongst the few surviving octagon houses in San Francisco, it proudly stands as the sole abode accessible to the public for exploration and admiration.

Originally constructed by William C. McElroy and his family, the house was initially situated across the street from its present-day location. During its era, octagon houses gained immense popularity owing to their ingenious design, enabling optimal circulation of fresh air and an abundance of natural light that permeated throughout the entire abode.

Weathering the 1906 earthquake, albeit with some damage, the cherished house stood strong and was swiftly restored to its former splendor.

Fast forward to 1951, when the local power company acquired the land on which this remarkable house resided. Seizing the opportunity, they made an enticing offer to sell the house for a mere $1 to anyone willing to relocate it.

Eager to possess this piece of history, The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in California eagerly seized the chance. Two of their esteemed members owned land adjacent to the house, and graciously donated it as the new site for this distinguished abode.

For several years, the house remained unoccupied, in dire need of substantial refurbishment. Following its acquisition by The Colonial Dames, they embarked on an arduous journey of raising funds and dedicating countless hours to restoring the house to its former glory.

In 1968, the City of San Francisco officially recognized its historical significance and bestowed upon it the esteemed title of a Historical Landmark. The National Register of Historic Places duly acknowledged its prominence by adding it to their prestigious list in 1972.

Discovering the Wonders of the Octagon House in San Francisco

Exploring the Interior Treasures

First Floor Marvels

Embarking on a visit to the Octagon House in San Francisco offers an enchanting experience that extends beyond the mere architectural marvel. While the house itself is a sight to behold, the true allure lies within the captivating array of decorative artifacts showcased inside.

Upon entering the first floor, a treasure trove of historical relics awaits your eager gaze. Immerse yourself in the splendor of the Colonial and Federal eras, spanning from approximately 1730 to 1850. The Colonial collection presents a captivating assortment of artifacts from 1730 to 1790, while the Federal assortment encompasses the period from 1790 to 1850.

Within this remarkable assembly, you will discover an opulent display of silverware, illustrious portraits, and exquisite ceramics from both English and Chinese origins. Additionally, the first floor boasts a delightful exhibition of furniture, including elegant tables, chairs, and sumptuous couches.

Among my personal favorites on this floor lies the notable water bucket—a cherished relic harking back to the era when every house in the neighborhood joined forces to combat fires. This essential tool not only served to extinguish flames but also protected the wooden structures from peril. Another captivating masterpiece adorning the first floor is a magnificent painting of George Washington, skillfully crafted by the esteemed artist John Trumbull. Renowned for his historical depictions, Trumbull’s work adds an evocative touch to the Revolutionary War era.

Unveiling the Second Floor’s Splendors

Ascending to the second floor reveals an abundance of mesmerizing artifacts within the Octagon House in San Francisco. Standing out prominently among these remarkable treasures is a prominent display case containing invaluable documents adorned with the signatures of 54 out of the 56 men who immortalized themselves as signatories of the Declaration of Independence. This extraordinary collection was graciously bestowed upon the Octagon House following the passing of a devoted local collector, and it stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of those visionaries.

A smaller yet captivating piece that should not escape your attention is a lithograph depicting the family responsible for the construction of the house. Due to its discreet placement, it is advisable to consult the knowledgeable second-floor docent, who will readily guide you to its location. Missing this captivating artwork would truly be a regrettable oversight!

Immerse yourself in the history and grandeur of the Octagon House, and prepare to be captivated by the exquisite artifacts that grace its halls. Each floor offers a unique glimpse into the past, ensuring an unforgettable experience that combines architectural splendor with the captivating allure of historical relics.

Exploring the Octagon House

Volunteers manage the Octagon House in San Francisco, allowing public access on a limited basis. The house welcomes visitors three times a month, specifically on the second Sunday, as well as the second and fourth Thursday of each month. However, please note that it remains closed throughout January and on all major holidays.

The visiting hours are between 12 pm and 3 pm, with the last admission granted at 2:45 pm. While entry to the Octagon House is free, donations are greatly appreciated as they contribute to the maintenance efforts. You will find a donation bucket conveniently placed at the front table, where you can kindly contribute a few dollars either before or after your visit.

In consideration of the age and delicacy of the artifacts housed within, photography and videography are strictly prohibited inside the Octagon House.

Getting to the Octagon House

Located in the Cow Hollow District, the Octagon House can be discovered at 2645 Gough Street, near Union Street.

From Union Square: If you are at Union Square, reaching the Octagon House is hassle-free. Simply board the 45-Union Street bus, which can be found at the corner of Sutter and Stockton, just a block away from the plaza. Stay on the bus until you reach the intersection of Gough and Union, where you will spot the Octagon House situated directly across the street. The bus ride typically takes around 20 minutes and costs $3 per person for a one-way trip.

From Fisherman’s Wharf: The Octagon House is also conveniently accessible from Fisherman’s Wharf. Whether you prefer to walk or opt for a quick Uber or Lyft ride, the house is approximately one mile away from the western end of Fisherman’s Wharf and about a mile and a half away from the eastern side.

Where to Discover the Remaining Octagon Residences in San Francisco

In San Francisco, there exist three octagon houses that still stand proudly. While the primary one, as mentioned earlier, is accessible for tours, where can you locate the other two?

Feusier Octagon House: Situated merely a mile away from the McElroy Octagon House in San Francisco, the second captivating historical gem awaits. Although this particular dwelling is privately owned and not available for public tours, you can appreciate its magnificence by strolling by and capturing photographs. It can be found at 1067 Green Street in Russian Hill.

Land’s End Octagon House: While most of the octagon houses in San Francisco were constructed in and around the Russian Hill District, there is one distinct abode nestled in Land’s End. Once serving as an observation point overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this historic dwelling was abandoned several years ago and now lies concealed amidst a cluster of aged trees.

Presently under the ownership of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, efforts are being made to determine its viability for reopening or potential usage in the future. You can locate it in close proximity to the parking lot of the Land’s End Trail.

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