Estate Sale: Bohemian Russian Hill


The best estate sales are full of mystery and melancholy, not to mention great finds and bargains. No one understands this like Old Hat, a company that stages some of the best ones. This week, they have a goody on Russian Hill (1080 Francisco St., Apt. 31, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., today through Sunday). The folks who run Old Hat get that the past and present mix and mingle as bargain hunters and antique lovers dig through the sum contents of someone’s life. When closets are thrown open, boxes emptied and basements cleared, the personal items that are revealed tell a story as clearly as if the departed ones were speaking aloud.

With this knowledge, Old Hat partners strive to tell the tales of the people whose things they are selling. “People want to know about the place where they live, and nothing makes a city’s story come alive more than personal details,” says Noah Sanders, Old Hat co-owner. “We try to tell a person’s history and be respectful of it in every sale. By telling their life story, we are telling people about San Francisco’s past.”

The legend of the couple who lived at 1080 Francisco St. is that of bohemian San Francisco circa 1955. Joe was a linguistics professor at San Francisco State University and Addie, his wife, was a patron of the arts and a lover of  literature. Their possessions tell the story: dozens of fine art prints and stacks of poetry books fill the apartment, many inscribed with or accompanied by personal notes to the couple. Poetry books by Ralph Pomeroy (a famed poet who courted many scandals) are signed in a way that indicates he was close to the pair. “It’s really clear that they had a strong network of artistic friends,” says Sanders. “We found letters from artists tucked behind prints and paintings that thanked Joe and Addie for their help.”

The massive book collection also reveals their tastes and passions. There are scholarly tomes (many penned by Joe himself), the aforementioned poetry books, texts about modern art and a small library of classics. “These people loved learning,” says Noah. “Apparently, it was a love that lasted throughout their lives.”

These lives spanned several eras (Joe died this year at age 92, Addie died six years earlier), and the furniture and accessories they owned reflect that. Visitors will find everything from Oriental rugs, a turn-of-the-century trunk, reproduction Baroque foot stools and chairs and a midcentury modern desk.

“What’s really interesting is that Joe and Addie were avid estate sale shoppers themselves,” says Sanders. “It’s like everything has come full circle.”




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