Entry Author: David
Hollis was born in Iowa in 1839. He arrived in California
in 1852, along with many other young adventurers, to seek
his fortune in the Gold Country. He moved to San Francisco
at the end of that decade, working as a clerk, a mining secretary
and as statewide secretary of the Sons of Temperance. In September
1866 he formed and incorporated a company called The Real
Estate Associates (TREA) to buy and sell, manage, and improve,
business and residential real estate in San Francisco. The
company had an initial capitalization of $240,000 which was
doubled by 1870. Initially Hollis acted as Secretary, Treasurer
and Business Manager with a Board of Directors which included
real estate brokers, bankers, attorneys, and a title researcher.
Progress was slow at first and it wasn't until 1870 that the
company began to construct houses. But the decade of the 1870's
proved to be extremely productive for TREA, during which time
they built over 1,000 Italianate-style homes, of which about
200 survive today, mainly in Pacific Heights, the Western
Addition, the Mission district and Noe Valley.
In October 1870, TREA purchased the three-block parcel of
land bounded by Sacramento and Clay, extending from Webster
west to Pierce. The first section to be subdivided and advertised
was the block from Fillmore to Steiner. The first sales of
completed homes were recorded in June 1871. Several of that
initial group of houses remain, including 2503 Clay, 2211
and 2229 Fillmore, 2530-32, 2538-40, 2552-56, and 2564 Sacramento.
The homes on Steiner were the last to be built by the company
on that block, in late 1873, and five are still intact - 2204,
2206, 2208, 2242 and 2244.
Hollis had taken over as President of TREA at the end of
1873 and the strong real estate market of 1874 triggered a
growth period for the company. Between 1874 and 1876 the company
employed as many as 400 craftsmen at a time (day laborers)
building houses. Later homes remaining from that initial three-block
purchase of land can be seen at 2231-51 Steiner, built in
1874, and 2637-73 Clay, opposite Alta Plaza Park, built in
1875, and pictured in the Junior League's 1968 book Here Today.
A typical house would take 60 days to build and their record
was 41 houses completed in one five-month period. The homes
were sold on installment plans with 10-25% down payments and
the balance carried as a loan by the company at a very reasonable
interest rate. 35 years later, John P. Young, in volume two
of his 1912 work San Francisco: A History of the Pacific Coast
Metropolis recognized TREA's "worthy motive of promoting
thrift and the desire for a home", which resulted in
"rows of houses of frame, two stories in height, all
of which were alike externally and internally" and "were
sold on easy terms to people who had only two objects in view,
and who were necessarily compelled to subordinate any esthetic
aspirations they may have had to considerations of thrift."
However, among TREA's buyers for homes were prominent architect
Albert A. Bennett, who designed the State Capitol in Sacramento,
and was the original owner of 2373 California (1876), and
Frederick B. Wood, the original owner of 2237 Steiner, a draftsman
for architect Charles Geddes at the time, who went on to become
a successful San Francisco architect in his own right.
Other TREA houses from 1875 can be seen at 2115-25 Bush,
part of the Bush Street-Cottage Row Historic District, and
2524, 2530, and 2536 Clay, which, along with the earlier house
at 2503 Clay, were added as a group of four to the National
Register of Historic Places in 1985. Also in 1875 TREA built
seven homes on the south-east corner of Broadway and Gough,
of which two remain, 1787 Broadway and 2312 Gough, the latter
pictured in Joe Alioto's book The San Francisco I Love.
In 1875 TREA commissioned architect David Farquharson to
design a six-story office building at 230 Montgomery. In 1870
Farquharson had designed a group of 40 single-story bay-windowed
cottages on a Pacific Heights block (later called 'Tuckerville',
after the project's financial backer, jeweler J. W. Tucker).
Only one of those houses remains - 2209 Jackson. But there
is no record of Farquharson designing any houses for TREA.
In 1878, New York architect John Remer was reported to be
preparing 'plans, elevations and working drawings' for the
company. He bought two TREA houses on Buchanan, living in
one with his family from 1878 to 1881 as well as keeping his
office in the 230 Montgomery building. But the TREA houses
of the late 1870's that Remer may have been involved with
are indistinguishable from their earlier ones. Consequently
it is reasonable to assume that Hollis not only provided the
continuity and driving force for TREA, but that he had also
overseen the evolution of the standard TREA house plan.
Hollis moved into 2319 Webster in 1878. He signed for the
water connection on December 23, 1878. There are five homes
remaining on Webster from that development (2311, 2315, 2317,
2319 and 2321), all now part of the Webster Street Historic
District. They were TREA's only group of houses in that Historic
As was typical of the standard TREA plan, the house is fully
detached, set back from the street, with a walkway and windows
on the south side to admit lots of light into the house. A
few steps lead up to the entry door which opens into the lower
hallway. To the left, on the south side, is the double parlor
living room and dining room. The living room has a bay window
overlooking the front garden and the dining room has an original
coal-burning fireplace. The living room and dining room both
feature high ceilings with center medallions and crown moldings.
From the dining room one door leads back out to the hallway
and another door opens to the kitchen. A door from the kitchen
leads out to the rear porch and garden. On the upper level
the plan provided for three bedrooms, the largest of which
is at the front of the house with a bay window and attractive
moldings. The bedroom at the rear overlooks the garden. The
middle bedroom is the smallest of the three and is adjacent
to the single bathroom in the house.
Hollis lived in 2319 Webster for almost 10 years and the
house externally appears almost the same today as it did 124
years ago. Unlike the three remaining houses of the group
to the south of it (2311, 2315 and 2317) the challenge of
putting a garage underneath it has not yet been met here.
A four-year long depression which had started in 1877 brought
the TREA model down. The company had carried back too many
mortgages, over-committed on its land purchases and probably
sold its finished product too cheaply. In 1881 creditors successfully
petitioned the Superior Court for the dissolution of the company.
Although the 1880's and 1890's became boom decades for residential
construction in San Francisco, the TREA easy-purchase installment
plan model advanced by Hollis would not be repeated.
Entry taken from the website of David Parry at www.classicSFproperties.com
and is used by permission. Unauthorized use of this copyrighted
material is strictly forbidden without permission from the