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After a near-death experience, an iconic SF mansion gets another chance at life 

An ornate Victorian house with a tower, intricate woodwork, and a clear sky.
The 1886 Queen Anne confection known as the Haas-Lilienthal House is owned and maintained by the nonprofit SF Heritage. | Source: Courtesy SF Heritage/Barry Schwartz

The Instagram post announcing the Haas-Lilienthal House’s closure last November was as abrupt as it was cryptic: “I will miss you so.” There was no further explanation until San Francisco Heritage, the nonprofit that manages the historic house, later clarified that financial constraints had led to the landmark 1886 manse to shutter. 

Now, just as abruptly, the grand dame of San Francisco Victorians is coming back to life. 

An ornate room with wood paneling, a round table with chairs, floral centerpieces, and a crystal chandelier.
The interior of the Haas-Lilienthal House, an 1886 Queen Anne confection, is crammed with ornate millwork and coffered ceilings. | Source: Courtesy SF Heritage/Barry Schwartz

To celebrate the return of the millwork-covered, witch hat-roofed Queen Anne for public viewing, SF Heritage is throwing open the doors of the home on Saturday for a big book sale that will raise money for the organization, which is tasked with preserving San Francisco’s cultural heritage. The books come courtesy of a longtime SF Heritage supporter, the late Gee Gee Platt, who helped create the California Preservation Foundation, as well as from a deaccessioned Wells Fargo research library donated to the nonprofit. 

“It’s going to be treasure hunting,” said Woody LaBounty, president and CEO of SF Heritage. 

Along with book perusing, attendees can guide themselves for free through the exuberant Pacific Heights home, commissioned by the wealthy grocer William Haas and donated to SF Heritage in 1973, with docents stationed on each floor to answer questions. The 11,500-square-foot mansion will open for formal tours the following Saturday, May 11, offering three tours a day every Saturday thereafter. 

An elegant room with wood-paneled walls, coffered ceiling, antique furniture, and a chandelier.
Visitors will once again be able to roam the ornate interiors of the Haas-Lilienthal House come Saturday. | Source: Courtesy SF Heritage/Barry Schwartz

According to LaBounty, the house’s resuscitation was made possible by reducing the staff—four employees of SF Heritage were let go last year—and by filling in the gaps with a fleet of volunteers. 

“A lot of people stepped up to help out when they heard we were in trouble,” he said. The help has come in both an increase in donations and a league of docents in place to lead tours of the historic home. Because of the reduced expenses, LaBounty said, SF Heritage will finish the year in the black. 

“We’re ambitious about our mission,” he said. “But conservative about finances.” 

A collection of antique books, some with titles on Californian themes, history, and finance.
Around 3,000 books about the history of San Francisco will be on sale at the grand reopening of the historic Haas-Lilienthal House. | Source: Courtesy SF Heritage

For those looking to shop the stacks, the 3,000 books on sale will range from glossy, beautiful art tomes to lavish collections of colored maps to quirky, one-off self-published books. There are items worth thousands of dollars—such as an 1872 business directory with sketches by Mark Twain—and inexpensive gems like a colorful 1949 United Iron Works booklet. There’s even a one-of-a-kind historic document, an 1860s Consolidation Act defining the borders of San Francisco, that was a gift from one mayor to another. 

Open House and Big Book Sale

Opening hours
Saturday | 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Julie Zigoris can be reached at