Skip to main content

This Victorian once housed a large hippie commune. Now it rents for $15K a month

With apologies to the Tanner family, this was actually once the fullest house in San Francisco

The image depicts a multi-story Victorian house with ornate white and gold trim, stained glass windows, and a prominent red door.
The three-story residence, originally built in 1894, once served as the headquarters for the ‘Good Earth Commune.’ | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

In David Talbot’s celebrated “Season of the Witch”—which tracks how San Francisco’s Summer of Love gave way to two decades of “discontent”—an aspiring hippie named Robert McCarthy arrived in the Haight fresh off of serving a tour in the Vietnam War, in search of good vibes.

But by 1969, the neighborhood had slid into a den of boarded-up storefronts, panhandling and open-air drug dealing, with speed and heroin taking over as the preferred choice of users. 

(Talbot, a longtime chronicler of the city, recently suffered a life-threatening stroke, according to his family.)

In that despair, McCarthy found a beacon of light—and a place to live—in a three-story Victorian located at 1915 Oak Street, which served as the headquarters for the Good Earth Commune, a loose collective of hippies that historians and longtime residents credit with helping save the neighborhood via its philanthropic work in the community. 

The image shows part of a building's exterior with ornate columns featuring gold accents and the number "1915" displayed on a dark blue panel.
This Victorian house used to be a beacon of light in the once-blighted Haight Ashbury in San Francisco. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

That very same property today is currently a luxury home rental available to live in for a paltry sum of $15,000 a month—a testament to how the neighborhood and city have changed over the decades. 

The current owners of the house bought it for $2.9 million in 2017, but recently moved to a different part of the city, says Inna Rubinchik, a Compass luxury broker who is handling the listing. They’re renting it out instead of selling so their young children might one day inherit the property. 

The Victorian is a rare breed. Built in 1894, the home survived the great earthquake and fires 12 years later. And while it officially only has four bedrooms and three-and-half bathrooms, that actually undersells it. During a recent Thursday afternoon tour, Rubinchik pointed out the hidden room inside the upstairs library and the underground au pair suite that comes with its own kitchen and bathroom. 

Over the years, various owners have come in and upgraded the 3,600-square-foot property, but remnants of its quirky past still remain. The wooden door to the wine cellar downstairs, for example, still has an engraving of a Wendigo, a mythological half-deer, half-human spirit. Meanwhile, the original entryway fretwork, the stained glass windows and brass staircase lamp remain. 

“You have to love the history of this place if you’re thinking about moving in,” Rubinchik said. “If you’re looking for something modern and new, this is not going to be for you.” 

The broker, who specializes in high-priced rentals and goes by the name of Leasing Agent 415, said as potential tenants she envisions either a group of young professional roommates going in on the rent together (hacker house anyone?) or a wealthy international family with children who might attend the French immersion school nearby. Although anyone who is “financially qualified” is certainly welcome, she said.

“Generally, when people move to [San Francisco] for the first time, they rent before they buy,” Rubinchik said. Although the asking rent for 1915 Oak seems exorbitantly high at first blush, it’s still cheaper compared to buying a house of comparable size, Rubinchik says.

Some quick back-of-the-napkin math partially supports her assertion. A Victorian on the same street just recently sold for $3.5 million—meaning the monthly mortgage payment would come out to be somewhere between $23,000 and $25,000, not including the down payment and other related costs. 

“Anytime someone comes into an open house asking too many questions, I know they’re not going to be a good fit for the home,” Rubinchik said. “But when someone’s eyes light up and they immediately ask where to sign, that’s how you know it’s right.” 

Whoever moves into the house next will have access to a lush backyard landscaped with a heated gazebo and lounge area. The upstairs desk also comes with a beautiful spiral staircase. However, the psychedelic mural that once adorned the dining room is now covered over.

A woman stands in profile within a doorway. The room features grey curtains, ornate wood flooring, a stained glass transom, and decorative wall art.
This is the first historical home Compass real estate agent Inna Rubinchik has listed in her career. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

As for McCarthy? While he ended up smoking a ton of pot and changing his name to “Mouseman,” the veteran would put his military skills to good use by chasing out the local drug dealers on the street. 

But the idyllic time was short-lived. One year after McCarthy found his new home, then-Mayor Joe Alioto unleashed the police on the house, repeatedly raiding it for drugs while trashing the living quarters, smashing guitars and overturning furniture. 

Talbot dubbed this period—and effectively the end of this era of 1915 Oak Street—as “Love’s Last Stand.”