A row of Arthur and Oliver Rousseau-constructed homes on 35th Avenue, at Lawton Street.
Photos and story by Thomas K. Pendergast
In 1932, the country was going through the worst of the Great Depression: with millions of people being unemployed and thousands standing in soup kitchen food lines.
In San Francisco, money for building large scale projects, like hotels, office buildings and apartment houses, had almost dried up, so two brothers in real estate development, Arthur and Oliver Rousseau, turned their attention to building single-family homes in the Sunset District, much of which at the time was still covered with sand dunes.
While Arthur focused on raising money and running the family business, Marian Realty, Oliver designed fanciful and opulent home for middle-class buyers. Together, they built fewer than 200 homes and within three years their business had gone bankrupt, but the homes they built influenced many San Francisco architects who built after them. They were among the first to make built-in garages standard and they popularized central patios, for example.
Today, 93 of their "Rousseau" homes -- concentrated within city blocks on 33rd, 34th and 35th avenues, between Kirkham and Lawton streets -- are under consideration for historic landmark status.