Oak Street between Divisadero and Broderick is full of historical homes, old firehouses and former cable car houses, but in the hustle and bustle of these modern times, it can be easy to overlook some of the area's towering Victorians. Here's the story of one of our favorites.
Built for the Mish Family in 1885, this house is designed in the Stick-Eastlake style, a unique take on Victorian architecture that was briefly popular in the late 1800s. Its aesthetic inspiration was drawn from the Carpenter Gothic style—which became trendy with the creation of a steam-powered scroll that enabled builders to get creative with highly-detailed facades—combined with the Queen Anne style more commonly seen throughout San Francisco.
The house is currently located at 1153 Oak Street, but it didn't always live at that address. It was moved from its original location on Divisadero Street to its current address a mere four years after being built, in 1889. Details are scarce, but it's possible that the move to a slightly quieter Oak Street was spurred by the development of Divisadero as a commercial corridor in the late 19th century.
When we talk about the Mishes, what we're really talking about is the missus. Sarah Mish was both the family matriarch and a renowned businesswoman, not an easy accomplishment at the time. She ran a highly-successful dressmaking and milliner businesses out of shops at both 133 Kearny and 708 Market Street. Her Polish-born husband Phineas passed away in 1895, leaving her with a legacy of 10 children (named Barrow, Rachel, Lilian, Flora, Isabella, David, Solomon, Julius, Oswald and Horace).
Dedication of the Mish House at 1153 Oak St. (Photo: San Francisco Public Library)
After Sarah's death in 1916, the house was rented out by her children until it was sold in 1928. It was then turned into apartments, and in 1930 a dance school operated out of a portion of the building. In the 1960s, the house was operated by a private social welfare firm, and the National Park Service certified Mish House as a national historic site on May 20, 1979.
Today, it's home to Westside Community Services, whose mission is to support the mental needs of our local community, with a special focus on veterans, African Americans, and the unemployed and mentally ill. Just one example of the services they provide is that of assisting late-stage AIDS patients by helping them stay in their homes through the end of their lives.
So there you have it: a little slice of history on a street we all know well. Next time you're strolling past, be sure to tip your hat to the history of female entrepreneurs at the turn of the century and to the community services the building provides today.
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