The Architectural Turf of Oliver Rousseau.

5 05 2009

SF Gate has been doing some interesting pieces on early 1920’s Sunset architect Oliver Rousseau. I was stoked to realize that several of these homes were in one of my first posts. I’m familiar with this guys work, or at least familiar with his work from the outside. I’ve just never been able to put a name to it till now. Dave Weinstein of The Chronicle described the Rousseaus as “wonderfully quirky Hansel-and-Gretel homes.” I would agree. It adds another surreal layer to The Outer Sunset. From the outside it almost looks like being on the set of a movie filled with silly Euro-Disney impersonations of real houses, but then you have to remember that these homes have been standing for some 90 years now. There are high winds, Ocean Beach fog that eats metal alive, and tropical rain forest levels of humidity and mold in the air. Yet almost a century later these homes that were all built on sand dunes are still standing and going for over a million dollars and change.

I make no claims that any of these homes were actually designed by Oliver Rousseau. These were just some of the more interesting sights that have caught my eye over the years in what is generally accepted as being Oliver Rousseau’s architectural turf: 33rd Ave to 36th Ave between Kirkham and Lawton.

Oliver Rousseau 33

Oliver Rousseau 29

Oliver Rousseau 26

Oliver Rousseau 31

Oliver Rousseau 24

Oliver Rousseau 21

Oliver Rousseau 19

Oliver Rousseau 18

Oliver Rousseau 20

Oliver Rousseau 12

Oliver Rousseau 11

Oliver Rousseau 5

Oliver Rousseau 9

Oliver Rousseau 8

Oliver Rousseau 2

Oliver Rousseau 3

Oliver Rousseau 4.5

Oliver Rousseau 1

Oliver Rousseau 17

Oliver Rousseau 28-tr

Oliver Rousseau 30

Oliver Rousseau 22

Oliver Rousseau 15

Oliver Rousseau 14-tr

Oliver Rousseau was partial to towers and these neat little single person balconies.

The guy was making Super Mario levels decades before Nintendo was invented.

Oliver Rousseau 25

Little know factoid – it’s a severe zoning violation if you don’t have at least one house per block in The Outer Sunset that is not painted in some form of a loud, tacky, color.


Related Posts –

Little Boxes



5 responses

9 07 2009
Daniel Saint James

Hi there. Just one small thing to add. The Rousseaus in The central Sunset District on 33rd through 36th Avenues between Kirkham and Lawton were built between 1932 and 1935. So to refer to them as 90 years old might be a bit of a stretch.

I love your photos and write up. As someone who lives in the neighborhood, in a gorgeous 1935 “Rousseau Style” house on 32nd Avenue, I love your appreciation of these houses. It’s great to see someone recognizing these beautiful pieces of San Francisco history and architecture.

Here is an absolutely fantastic article that was published in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2004. It will tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about these houses and about Oliver Rousseau himself.

BTW, there are more of these houses on 17th Avenue, between Vicente & Wawona in the West Portal/Inner Parkside neighborhood. They are, in fact, the ones pictured in the SF Chronicle article.

Thanks, Daniel.

9 07 2009
Daniel Saint James

Sorry, forgot to include the hyperlink to the SF Chronicle article about Rousseaus from 2004.

18 11 2011
Daniel Saint James

Hey there. I see that it’s been just over 2 years since I commented on your post about Oliver Rousseau Houses. I’m surprised that in all that time no one else has chimed in! Anyhow, I wanted to add something. Since I last wrote, I realized that I neglected to tell you where there are more fabulous Rousseau houses. They are on 29th Avenue between Irving and Judah, on the West side of the street. For some reason, because the “largest concentration” of Rousseaus is between 33rd and 36th, people (including article writers) tend to dismiss the other locations where there are smaller concentrations of these houses. Like this cluster on 29th Ave and on 17th Ave. By the way, a good way to tell a Rousseau is that they are 27 feet wide, rather than the usual 25 feet. If you look at where I mentioned on 29th Ave and you compare one side of the street to the other, you will see there are less houses on the Rousseau side of the street, because they take up more space. Thanks again for helping to keep people informed.

12 01 2012

he lived in hayward calif when he passed, anyone know what that house looked like?

11 02 2013
Jane D.

I don’t know what his house looked like but I do know that there are a few Rousseau-built neighborhoods in Hayward, including Fairway Park and Fairway Greens, dating from the late 50’s.

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