1-2-3 Things - Life before the 1906 Earthquake - visit the Haas-Lilienthal House

Hello Adventurers!

I hope you have a chance to walk the Yerba Buena shoreline at some point. I had walked pieces of it before, but walking it from end to end gave me a different perspective of downtown San Francisco. I first visited the plaque on First and Market when I was in 3rd grade, but the idea of the shoreline being there was always abstract. Walking the shoreline, feeling the small elevation changes still present today really brought a lot more of this home. I'm still a bit in awe of the massive undertaking it took to create what we have today. 

We have one more historical stop before we start our nautical month in March. We find ourselves at the newly restored Haas Lilienthal house at the edge of Pacific Heights. Being on the east side of Van Ness, this Victorian survived the fire following the 1906 earthquake. It's one of the few places today that can give us a taste of what a slice of life was like over a hundred years ago. 

Also I wanted to give you an idea of what is planned for our nautical month of March:

Somehow we’ve never been up to Mare Island, but it seems like they have a wonderful museum up there. The Tall Ships visit every year and actually stop at a number of spots around the Bay Area (the Port of Redwood City for this visit), go have a Pirates of the Caribbean adventure with the family. The USS Hornet parked over in Alameda is one I’ve heard a lot about and somehow never visited. And finally the Bay Model I’ve mentioned a couple of other times gives you a nice perspective on the Bay and how vast it actually is. I love that even having spent my entire life here there are still new things to go experience with my kids. 

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 


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1-2-3 Things — Life before the 1906 Earthquake - visit the Haas-Lilienthal House

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com

  1. Wander around Japan Town

  2. Picnic at Lafayette Park

  3. Visit the Haas-Lilienthal House

Trip Note:
We will be heading up on Saturday February 27th.
If you are planning on going, let me know so we can look for you. 
~9:00-10:00 Arrive at Japan Town
~11:30 Picnic at Lafayette Park
~12:30 Haas-Lilienthal House Tour

Our main destination today is the Haas-Lilienthal House for a taste of what life was like prior to the 1906 earthquake. Much of the city we see today was a result from the efforts that went into rebuilding the city after the devastating fire. However this little slice of life from an upper middle class family remains. 

Usually these notes string together one main destination and offer some supplementary locations to support the main one. This is in case your main destination doesn't work out or ends up being a really short visit, you still have a backup plan to make sure your day isn't a failure. Ideally I would have picked two supporting locations that were a bit more in the theme of the primary destination, but I couldn't work that out so I chose some fun ones instead. I’ll probably need to go on one of the Walking Tours offered by the SF Heritage organization to plan something better in the future (http://www.sfheritage.org/walking-tours/) . I hope you enjoy them. 

Japan Town

Parking on the weekend can be a bit tricky, so I'd suggest arriving on the earlier side. You may be lucky and find street parking, but it's likely metered. We've usually headed to the underground parking and have been pretty lucky with that. Still if it's a nice day or there is an event going on, you might have some difficulty. 

It's probably best not to approach your visit with a plan aside from approaching what you encounter with curiosity. A couple of must visit areas for us are

  • May’s Coffee Shop - to pick up some Taiyaki (fish shaped waffle like treats with tasty fillings)
  • Bookstore - to find some of our favorite books to see how they look in Japanese
  • Daiso - Dollar store from Japan - we could spend hours here. 
  • Nijiya market - to pick up some goodies for our picnic
1906 Refugee Camp Lafayette Park

1906 Refugee Camp Lafayette Park

Lafayette Park





Initially while planning out the trip today, I thought oh we can go picnic in the same park as the kids from the Haas-Lilienthal House. And although this is partially true, the current park was built in 1936. However in looking at the history of of this space, the city had set aside this 4 block area to be used as a park in 1855, but was not officially established to be a park till 1867. During this time a prominent San Francisco attorney claimed part of the land and built himself a house on the hill’s summit and successfully defended his property for over 30 years. The house was eventually torn down in 1936 and the park was formally established. A couple of other historical notes:

  • The first astronomical observatory on the west coast was built here in 1879
  • After the 1906 earthquake, refugees camped here. 

You can find some lovely views here. There are tennis courts, playground, restroom, picnic areas, as well as an off leash dog area here. I would suggest finding parking adjacent to both our next destination and the park. 

Haas-Lilienthal House



House Tours
Saturday: 12PM - 3PM
Sundays: 11AM - 4PM
General Admission is $8
Kids under 12 are $5

Designed by Peter R. Schmidt, William and Bertha Haas built it in 1886. This is the only period Queen Anne style victorian house open to the public in the city. It shows what life was like for an upper-middle class family in the latter part of the 19th century. Amazingly the house cost over $18,000 to build, and the land cost them $13,000 (average property costs during this time were between $700 - $2000), a fairly extravagant house for the time. 

William and Bertha Haas moved in with their 3 children: Florine, Charles, and Alice. The children were raised there and eventually Alice married Samuel Lilienthal at the house in 1909. After William Haas died suddenly in 1916, Alice and her husband along with their two children moved in with Bertha (Alice eventually went on to have a third child). In 1973 Alice Haas Lilienthal’s heirs donated the house to the Foundation for San Francisco’s Architectural Heritage and donated many of the furnishings. 


  • Take a stroll along Fillmore Street, lots of wonderful shops and restaurants to see. 
  • Look for May's Coffee Shop in Japan Town and order a couple of Taiyaki. They are filled fish shaped waffles that are delicious. Try a filling you are unfamiliar with. 
  • Have a wander through the Japanese bookstore, it's fascinating to look for familiar books in another language. What does Harry Potter look like in Japan?

Feeling Adventurous 

  • Stop in for a movie at the Kabuki Cinema, a very popular destination. 
  • Find a restaurant for sushi lunch and try something new.