Mortimer Adler's Institute for Philosophical Research
2090 Jackson Street San Francisco, CA
The Whittier Mansion was one of the first California residences built of stone on a steel framework, a construction technique which served it well during the 1906 Earthquake. It was designed by Edward R. Swain and built in 1896 at a cost of $152,000 for William Frank Whittier, who had made his fortune in mercantilism and shipping.
In contrast to the forbidding Richardsonian Romanesque exterior, the interior is opulent. Each of the four levels is 3,500 square feet with an undeveloped fifth level, or attic, for the handyman. Most of the mansion's thirty rooms have carved paneling of mahogany, golden oak, primavera, and tamano with hardware of hand-wrought German silver.
Mr. Whittier lived in the house until his death in 1917 at the age of 85. His heirs retained possession of the property until 1938 when they sold it to the government of the Third Reich. For the next several years, until the United States entered World War II, the Whittier Mansion was the German Consulate headed by Fritz Wiedemann who successfully cultivated the San Francisco Nobs with lavish parties and receptions.
When the United States declared war on Germany, Herr Wiedemann fled. For the next decade, the house was under the jurisdiction of the Alien Property Custodian.
In 1952, Mortimer Adler's Institute for Philosophical Research took up residence, but only for a few years until 1956 when the California Historical Society moved in and remained until 1993.
Today the California Historical Society is located in less flamboyant quarters on Mission Street, and the Whittier Mansion is once again a private residence.