The Haas-Lilienthal House has been selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of thirty-four sites across the country to receive the Trust’s “National Treasure” designation. The House is the only “National Treasure” located in San Francisco.
Built in 1886, the Haas-Lilienthal House is the city’s only Queen Anne-style Victorian residence regularly open to the public, complete with authentic furniture and artifacts. The House is a living monument to the history of San Francisco and its pioneering Jewish community, with roots extending to the founders of Wells Fargo Bank, Levi Strauss, and MJB Coffee. Since 1973, it has been Heritage’s headquarters and an icon of San Francisco’s historic preservation movement.
The National Treasure designation marks a watershed moment in the life of the Haas-Lilienthal House. By granting this status, the National Trust has elevated the House as a historic site of national prominence. The listing, however, also identifies the Haas-Lilienthal House as a national asset in peril.
Like hundreds of house museums across the country, the Haas-Lilienthal House has maintenance and capital improvement needs that far exceed the revenue drawn from its visitors. Through this project, Heritage and the National Trust are bringing together some of the brightest minds in historic sites stewardship to create a long-term, sustainable vision for the House to ensure that its unique history endures for future generations.
Efforts to secure and reinvent the House are well underway. Museum assessment studies have been completed by the National Trust and the American Alliance of Museums. With support from the Columbia Foundation, Heritage commissioned the Sustainability Management Plan for the Haas-Lilienthal House, authored by Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA and released in March 2012. The plan provides “a road map for greening the maintenance procedures and capital building improvements at the Haas-Lilienthal House.” In August 2012, Heritage and the National Trust convened a two-day visioning workshop attended by historic sites experts from across the country as well as representatives of the Contemporary Jewish Museum and the San Francisco Arts Commission.
The new vision will also identify groundbreaking interpretive and marketing strategies to revitalize the House, increase earned income, and create a broad awareness of the important stories that it has to share. Together with the National Trust, we seek to demonstrate how the Haas-Lilienthal House can be a replicable model for bringing new life to urban historic house museums.