Two of the most retro-distinctive homes in Bernal Heights are even more so because they sit side-by-side together.
We’re talking about the two houses with the faux-stone facades located on Florida between Precita and Cesar Chavez in theEven flatlands of northeast Bernal Heights. Each is totally over-the-top, because each looks like it could be home to Fred and Wilma Flintstone, if Fred and Wilma Flintstone lived in mid-century Bernal Heights. But there are actually two of these houses, so you can also imagine Barney and Betty Rubble living right next door.
How did this happen?
Well, to understand that, you need to imagine yourself owning one of these homes in the 1950s or early 1960s. Each of these houses was built during the early decades of the 20th century, so by the time the ’50 rolled around, each was already 40 years old. That means the original wooden facades were likely faded, aging, and in need of repair. That’s probably about when Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner opened up their newspaper and saw an ad that looked something like this:
You can practically see the lightbulbs going off: YES! We can Perma-Stone! We can Add Beauty, Permanence, and Strength to our Home at Low Cost! We can Eliminate Painting Forever!
The Noe Valley SF blog recently wrote a capsule history of Perma-Stone:
Perma-Stone – and several other variations of the artificial molded stone such as FormStone, FieldStone, Dixie Stone, and yes, Stone of Ages were popular in the 1930s, 40s and 50s and applied like vinyl siding to existing homes. Perma-Stone was invented in Columbus, Ohio and [was] most popular in places like Baltimore and the East Coast, but found a foothold in San Francisco too, mostly in the Avenues. According to this article in SF Gate from 2010, film director John Waters dubbed Perma-Stone “the polyester of brick.”
So how did both of these houses, side-by-side, end up getting the faux-stone treatment? It’s not to hard to envision the scenario:
THE SCENE: Fred and Barney are grilling brontosaurus burgers in Barney’s Florida Street back yard. Eisenhower is president, and in the distance, a radio is tuned to the baseball game that’s underway at Seal Stadium on 16th and Bryant.
BARNEY: Hey Fred, have you noticed our houses are looking a little shabby? They’re starting to show their age.
FRED: Careful with the brontosaurus Barney. You know Wilma likes hers medium rare.
BARNEY: Yeah yeah. Look, did you see that ad in the paper for the Perma-Stone? They put it up once, and the house never needs painting again.
FRED: Can you hand me another Rolling Rock?
BARNEY: Sure thing, Freddy-Boy. [Tosses can of beer] But you know, I’ve gotta tell you, I kind of like that “Modern Stone Age” look.
FRED: Yeah, Wilma won’t shut up about it ever since we got that subscription to Dwelling magazine. No painting, ever again, huh?
BARNEY: Never again. [Pokes a burger tepidly with a spatula, then flips it over] Whaddya say we do both our houses at the same time? Maybe we can get a package deal. Plus, we could split the cost of the construction parking permit.
FRED: Now you’re talking, Barney-Boy! You know, I do kind of like that Bernal Boulder treatment they have.
BARNEY: Betty said she likes the Manor Flagstone. I’ll have guy come by to do an estimate for both of us.
FRED: Dammit, Barney, keep an eye on those burgers! [long pause] Oh hey I’m ready for another Rolling Rock.
… and the rest, as they say, is pre-history.
PHOTOS: Permastone ad, courtesy of Eric Fisher