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Windows Of History At Haas-Lilienthal House [Video]

Photo: Scott Hahn
By Nathan Falstreau - Published on November 24, 2017.

If you've passed the iconic Hass-Lilienthal house at 2007 Franklin St. in Pacific Heights over the past few weeks, you might have noticed three generations of its former residents in the home's bay windows.

The digital projections that depict the lives of the Haas-Lilienthal family over the decades was created by visual artist Ben Wood, who specializes in highlighting unique architecture and human stories throughout the city using photographs and film. 

Video: YouTube

"It’s an art project within an existing building with a museum," Wood told Hoodline over the phone. "I’m excited about the bridge between and animating a building with its history, how it relates to preserving history, and by telling a story. We're talking about a space in the past and the present," he said. 

The historic house was commissioned by William Haas and designed by architect Peter R. Schmidt in 1886.

It was one of the few homes in the area to survive the 1906 earthquake, but later sustained fire damage in the aftermath. It's said to be the only intact, private home of the period to be operating as a museum and has been open to the public since 1972.

Video: Ben Wood

Wood received help from nonprofit San Francisco Heritage, whose offices are in the attic and also owns the building. Funding for the installation was provided by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, along with David Wessel, CEO of Architectural Resources Group.

The 15-minute looped video is on display each night from 5–9:30pm until the end of the month, and includes rare photos and film from the family archives, many of which have never been shown to the public.

Wood said that when he approaches a new project, he usually focuses on the architecture first, and then comes up with a piece specific to that space. But after working with SF Heritage over the past year, he decided to tell the human story connected to the building, instead of just the architecture.

The most visually interesting are the pictures of the people," he said. 

"It developed into telling the story of the family," Wood explained. "One window [projection] is from pictures of an album with parties, the other window is telling the family's story showing pictures from 1865–1972, and in the other window, are pictures of the interior and exterior at the time."

Haas-Lilienthal house. | Photo: 3dpete/Flickr

Wood said descendants of the Haas-Lilienthal family got involved with the project. "They were really excited to see their ancestors projected on the building the family hasn't lived in for 45 years," he said. "Seeing even some of themselves projected in the windows in at least life-sized, if not bigger."

Looking through another family's photos is quite personal, Wood said, and while the Haas-Lilienthals were known for their wealth and philanthropy, he noted similarities to the lives of "ordinary" people. 

"You're seeing birthdays and seeing them growing older," Wood said. "I’ve learned that the house was a space for celebration like weddings but also tragic events like funerals in the house. [The project] tells the human side of the family." 

Wood said that the work has been well received by onlookers, and that "one of the beauties of the project" is that he doesn't have to be there to make it operate. The projection is timed to turn on and off and loop during the designated hours.

That allows him to walk by, too, and see people "who are intrigued by it and the people in the house." 

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