Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Arts & Culture
Published on June 22, 2017
NoPa Home's Head-Turning Exotic OrnamentsPhoto: Camden Avery/Hoodline

Among the architectural oddities encountered around the Haight—which include a sneaky Maybeck, the I. Magnin house and a 125-year-old Cranston and Keenan—are the mysterious bird heads of Hayes St.

The facade of the two-story house at 1855 and 1857 Hayes St. is adorned with eight ornate, carved bird heads. 

Built in 1909 and 1910, the house was designed by C. F. Whittlesey, an architect who trained and worked in Chicago in the late 19th century before becoming chief architect on the Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and settling in California.

Whittlesey designed a number of homes on Russian Hill, a few apartment buildings, and the glittering green-tiled art deco behemoth at 800 Market St., now the Hotel Palomar.

William, a long-term resident at 1855 Hayes, told Hoodline that the birds were installed by owner W. Craig McDermit, a psychologist who lives and works in the building.

"He's got an artistic sensibility that's spilled to the outside of the house," said William. Originally carved in Indonesia, McDermit installed the ornaments about 15 years ago.

"People have been taking pictures of the building ever since," said William. "Some have rung the doorbell to ask if this was a temple."

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