: views from the Hill

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Fallon House (reprise)

I've written about the Fallon House before but because the folks over at Flickr's GUESSWHERESF photo pool asked, I'll gather together the loose threads.

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The house that Carmel built, The Fallon House at 1800 Market St, across the street from Destino, home to the best Pisco sours in the City.

The Fallon House was named for Carmel Fallon, his nibs' grandmother's grandmother.

Family history is there on the site.

Carmel Lodge Fallon grew up outside Santa Cruz on her mother's Mexican land grant. Rancho Soquel included land from the Santa Cruz Mountains ridgeline to the sea, from Santa Cruz to Watsonville. Martina Castro Lodge lost it all within years of the American influx. She divvied up the grant amongst her children, including Carmel, sold off the rest (with her much younger third husband as witness to the transaction) and years later died penniless and crazed.

Simon Cota, Carmel Lodge Fallon's father, died when she was a toddler. Carmel's mother, Martina Castro, then married Michael Lodge, whose last name Carmel adopted.

Carmel was the classic spinster rich girl who fell for the dashing Irish adventurer Thomas Fallon. They married and raised a family. The children died of cholera and they moved to San Jose (where Fallon had raised the Bear Flag many years earlier) to raise another family. Carmel, never an easy keeper, wound up whacking Fallon over the head (with what is sometimes called a fireplace tool, sometimes a lead pipe) when she found him in "a compromising position" with the housekeeper/dressmaker/maid some twenty-seven years into the marriage.

Carmel left San Jose and Tom and with her younger unmarried children in tow resettled in San Francisco, where she used her divorce settlement to become a business woman and landlord, owning and operating the Hotel Carmel and the Fallon Hotel.

Carmel never remarried. She built the house at 1800 Market Street and lived in it until her death. Family legend has it that she was up beating out embers on the roof, helping save the building from the fires after the 1906 quake and that for the rest of her life she suffered from "weak lungs" due to smoke inhalation. She did save the house, though. Her house was the first house left standing and unburnt on Market Street after the earthquake and fire.

Carmel Lodge Fallon was in her nineties when she died. Her great-grandson, his nibs' father, could remember visiting his great-grandmother when he was young. She wasn't your warm, cuddly great-grandmother but rather a dour old woman, dressed in black.

One of the children Carmel brought with her to San Francisco, Isabella (Belle) Fallon, married Nathaniel Jones Brittan of the City. His father, John Wesley Brittan, had been a young hardware store clerk in New York until the hardware store owner had the brill idea to send his young clerk out to California shortly after the Gold Rush with a shipload of hardware supplies to sell to the 49ers.

JW Brittan sold out all the supplies he'd brought, kept his share of the profits and settled in the City, bringing more hardware on other ships around the Horn. He made a good living selling hardware, pans and pick axes to the gold miners and hinges, door knockers and nails to the San Franciscans.

NJ Brittan and Belle had three children, a set of twins Natalie and Belle, and Carmelita, his nibs' grandmother. The girls were raised for the most part down the peninsula on NJ Brittan's Rancho San Carlos. NJ's name and the ranch are entwined in the history of what eventually became San Carlos. You can still see Brittan Avenue and streets named after Belle and Carmelita (but not Natalie, why?) from when the ranch was subdivided and sold.

As was the case with many of the Brittan and Fallon holdings, there were squabbles over rights and inheritances. Lawsuits and lawyers ate up what money and property there was. The Fallon House in San Francisco was sold to honor a pledge Carmel Fallon had made to the San Francisco Opera -- but only after the Opera had to sue Carmel's estate.

Eventually, and appropriately enough -- our older son's gay -- Carmel's house became San Francisco's LGBT Community Center.

And there ends a short history of Carmel Fallon's house at 1800 Market.

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