It’s like restoring a pair of carefully distressed Levi’s,” said someone who’d been given a preview tour of David Ireland’s 500 Capp Street Project, where a thorough restoration and addition have just been completed. “You don’t want to take them back to their original state, but you do want to shore them up enough so that there’s no unintended further changes.”
Ireland’s Gesamtkunstwerk—or “total work of art”—is an 1886 wood frame Victorian house in the Mission District of San Francisco, purchased by the artist in 1975 for $50,000 and then lived in and worked on for most of the rest of his life. (He died in 2009, at the age of 78.)
Solid enough to have survived the 1906 earthquake, 500 Capp Street would later withstand the 1989 temblor.
Ireland left the house in 2005, and 500 Capp Street remained practically untouched until it was purchased three years later for $895,000.
It was a bit of a philanthropic whim on the part of Carlie Wilmans, granddaughter of legendary San Francisco art benefactor Phyllis Wattis.
Wilmans, who admired Ireland and wanted to save the house from destruction by developers, set up a charitable foundation, and the restoration began.