Located on Laidley Street in Fairmount Heights, San Francisco, this historic house has many good stories. A short history of the house can be found below image. Here are posts on this website:
- The Widows Do Business: How the Poole-Bell House Got Its Name
- Bodies in the Well, Trapdoors in the Foyer: How the Poole-Bell House Became Mired in Myths
- The First Black Family in Glen Park
- The Gilmores and the Poole-Bell House
- Chipped! The Poole-Bell House in the 1930s
- The Contractor with a Heart of Gold
The Poole-Bell House is located at 192-196 Laidley Street. This petite San Francisco Stick/Eastlake-style mansion was built by attorney John Pascoe Poole (1832-1895), whose widow Annie Poole lived there until 1906. She sold it to Teresa Bell, wealthy widow of the financier Thomas Bell. The Bells’ lives had been interwoven during the nineteenth century with that of the legendary Mary Ellen Pleasant, but Pleasant never lived in this house and died before Teresa Bell acquired it. Teresa Bell added a third story to the structure, giving the present mansard roof line, and lending it a Second-Empire touch.
In the 1930s the house was divided into three apartments by real estate dealer Robert Chipps and much of the original enormous lot surrounding the house was sold off for development around the house. In the 1950s, the first floor was divided, giving the present four units, and the trapezoid window on the third floor was added. In the 1970s and 1980s, Read Gilmore, restaurateur of some of the city’s premier gay spots, lived in the house. In the 1990s, its fortunes were revived by the dynamic activist couple Moher Downing and Luis Kemnitzer, who made it into a tenancy in common.
Read more about the founding of Fairmount Heights here.
Local mythologies aside, Mary Ellen Pleasant never lived in the Poole-Bell House, but she did own a ranch in Ingleside for nearly a half century. Read about that here.
Header image: The Poole Bell-House c.1956. Courtesy Diane LoPresti Christensen.