Russell House

3778 Washington Street

San Francisco




Erich Mendelsohn, 1951


The Russell house is one of the architectural Jewels of the City of San Francisco. It was built by Madeleine Haas Russell, the great grandniece of Levi Strauss and heiress to the Haas family fortune. Located in the wealthy neighborhood of Pacific Heights, the Russell house is the only residential work built in the United States by German architect Erich Mendelsohn, and is one of his last creations.



The house has four floors and two wings forming an "L" that create a large ground-level patio. This patio occupies the full length of the lot, extending under the main wing of the house and becoming a terrace with a view of the Bay at the north end.



The east-west wing contains kitchens, utility rooms and other service areas on the 1st level as well as a lower level garage underneath.



Mendelsohn capitalized on the magnificent existing views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge from this elevated site, by laying out along the north-south direction the main wing that contains dining and living areas, and bedrooms respectively, on the top 2nd and 3rd levels. The most striking and dramatic element of the house, located at the northwest corner of the top level, is the master bedroom's circular sitting area with bay windows overlooking the San Francisco Bay.



Structurally, the main floor consists of a steel frame platform. Above this level, the house was built with the typical local wood-frame construction and finished with Californian Redwood siding.



Rafael Cazorla 2011


How to visit


The house is a private residence and is not open to the public. It is located at the northern part of San Francisco close to Presidio Park at the corner of Washington and Maple Streets. The house is only partially visible from Washington Street as it is hidden behind a dense shrubbery. The building is still in hands of the same family and remains in its original state.