The Mystery of Pasquale’s Tower

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The Mystery of “Pasquale’s Tower”

If you are strolling the Broadway block between Columbus Avenue and the steep slope of Montgomery Street, look up the hill and your eye might alight upon an unusual structure. A white tower, four stories tall, topped with a Mediterranean blue dome, sits among the jumble of apartments and houses clinging to the hillside. If you are not looking for it, this tower is easy to miss.

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Pasquale’s Tower Dome (Instagram by author)

On foot, “Pasquale’s Tower” is accessible only from Dunnes Alley, a short stretch of pavement that juts off from Kearny Street. If you walk down the alley a bit, you approach a set of intricate gates with ironwork forming the letters,”GOGNA.” The original tower has a set of apartments at the base, probably added at a later date.


 Pasquale’s Tower Legend

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Pasquale’s Tower Gogna gates (Instagram by author)

Local legend has it that Pasquale Gogna came from Italy to work at some manner of trade, perhaps at the nearby Produce Market. He bought an undesirable lot for a cheap price and built a 4-story tower with one room on each level. It is said that Pasquale sent to Italy for his wife after the house was finished, but she didn’t like it. She left, and Pasquale was heartbroken.

That’s the legend, anyway. It’s undoubtedly a interesting theory but who knows?


Ti Penso Sempre

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Pasquale’s Tower Ti Penso Sempre (Instagram by author)

When I first walked up Dunnes Alley toward the tower, on the retaining wall someone had painted a tricolor Italian flag design with the words: “Ti Penso Sempre” underneath. Translated from Italian, this means “I Think of You Always.” Was this Pasquale’s tribute to his lost love? I can’t find anything to support this romantic theory, but it is nice to contemplate. Sadly, on my last visit, the bittersweet sentiment had been painted over now and replaced with “Pasquale’s Tower.”

Who Really Built Pasquale’s Tower?

Based on my reading, the building of the tower is attributed to a Pasquale “Pete” Gogna. In her book, “San Francisco’s North Beach and Telegraph Hill” Catherine A. Accardi writes, “In 1930, Pasquale Gogna built his romantic tower dwelling overlooking Broadway.”

I continued with the SFMOMA site, where one photo is captioned with the following: “…Pasquale’s Tower, built in 1930 by baker/hotelier Pasquale Gogna. One of the legendary structures of Telegraph Hill, this tower located at the end of Dunnes Alley consists of four small square rooms stacked together and topped with a dome in a supposedly Genoese manner.” An excerpt from the National Trust Guide, San Francisco claims “Pasquale Gogna, a baker who owned several hotels in the neighborhood built the odd tower at the end of the alley in 1930 for his residence.”

Why the Mystery?

The problem comes when you compare dates. The tower was built in 1930, but records available from that time show Pasquale Gogna living in Stockton that year. The June 1917 Crocker-Langley San Francisco city directory shows Pasquale Gogna’s residence at 548 Green Street, quite a few blocks away on the north side of Telegraph Hill. Another record from 1920 shows Pasquale Gogna, again with a San Francisco residence. Marriage records, however, show that Pasquale Gogna married a Rose Lagomarsino in January of 1920, in Stockton.

The only pertinent record I could locate after 1920 is an annual report from the Superintendent of Banks of the State of California, showing a Pasquale Gogna with an address of 26 Dulles. This is possibly a misprint, maybe referring to the addresses of 2-6 Dunnes Alley, and which he may have still have owned in 1948, the date of the publication.

Looking a little further into Pasquale Gogna’s history, I found census records that showed he was born in Mongiardino, Alessandria, Italy in 1892. Mongiardino is a municipality located in the province of Alessandria and the region of Piemonte. Alessandria is located in the northwest corner of Italy, not far from the seacoast and the city of Genoa. During the early part of the 20th century, there was a large influx of Italians into San Francisco from the regions of Piemonte and Liguria. It would seem logical then that Pasquale would construct a building in the Genoese style, far from his birthplace but in a predominantly Italian district of San Francisco, North Beach.

Aerial photo cropped 1938
Crop of aerial map. (From a historical map collection, author Harrison Ryker)

I found no evidence to show that Pasquale ever came back to live in San Francisco. He lived in Stockton until his death in 1981. We will probably never know why and for whom this mysterious tower was built.

Helping to Solve the Mystery of Pasquale’s Tower

In the time since I first wrote this article, several people came forward to add to my research and to provide corrected information about Pasquale Gogna. I am most grateful to each and every person who helped to contribute. Their comments are reproduced below.

November 18, 2014

By David

Great write up! I’ve always wondered about this building and it is awesome to see that others are curious as well. I recently found a book called “San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill”, by David F. Myrick (1972) that may help shed more light on this mystery. The following was on page 117:


“Pasquale Gogna built the house in 1930. Arriving in San Francisco in 1907, he worked as a baker and through frugality he was able to join his brother in purchasing several small hotels in the city. The tower consists of four square rooms directly above each other, with access provided by an enclosed stairway on the west side of the building. In the northern corners of each room are two alcoves which collectively house the usual appurtenances found in kitchens and bathrooms. With the sink in one corner, the stove in another and so on, this arrangement offered some inconveniences, but the spectacular view offset these minor annoyances. Mr. Gogna must have enjoyed the house, for he lived there comfortably—with all utilities—until January 1956, when his arthritic condition caused him to move into his brother’s home on Russian Hill, after which the tower was rented. As the tower attracts much attention, a wrought-iron gate—with the name GOGNA in black metal letters on the top of the grill—has been erected to keep out trespassers.”


It looks like perhaps Pasquale went by “Pete” most frequently, because in the 1956 & 1961 City Directories, a “Pete Gogna” lived at 1657 Mason with Eugenio and Emily Gogna (perhaps his brother and sister-in-law?). Eugenio was listed as the manager of the Italian-American Hotel at 838 Sansome (about a block away from the tower, on Sansome between Broadway and Pacific). Interestingly, the Italian-American Hotel is still in business as a residential hotel. I found some different pages showing Eugenio was born May 22, 1893 and died in San Francisco in November 1971.


December 8, 2014

By Saybrina

My Great Grandfather was Pasquale Gogna from Stockton, Ca. and My Great Grandmother was Rosa Lagomarsino who lived in San Francisco with her Mother Maria Lagomarsino. After the death of Maria, Rosa and her half brother Leo Arrigoni moved to Stockton and some time around 1919-1920 she married Pasquale Gogna. You can find the family information on along with photo’s and more family information. I’m not sure if this Tower has anything to do with my Great Grandfather but I sure would enjoy finding out more about the history behind Pasquale’s Tower.


January 5, 2015

By Sabrina

I have some info. on Pasquale Gogna who was born 1883 lived in San Francisco. He never married and built the tower for himself. I also have census records and Immigration record from You can find it on facebook I also found a a death record for Pasquale Gogna Sept. 16, 1958 in Colma, Ca. Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery. I can’t prove it is the same Pasquale but it’s the only record I can find on this Pasquale Gogna. In his Immigration it shows father name as Francesco Gogna and again who knows if this is true.

March 26, 2015

By David

Saybrina, great info! I did a little more research (censuses, city directories, etc.) and found more information. It looks like there were two Pasquale Gognas—one in San Francisco and your Great-Grandfather in Stockton. Given that they both lived in Northern California and were born around the same time, I’m not surprised to find several sources that mixed the information for both together. However, in looking at several sources over a span of years, below is what I found:


#1) Pasquale Gogna Family in San Francisco

Born: 7/15/1885 (or 1883—depending on source), Montjardino, Italy

Death: 9/12/1958, San Francisco



Brother: Eugenio Gogna (b. 1893)

Sister-in-Law: Armida (b. 1900)

Niece: Rona (b. 1922)

Nephew: Alnado (b. 1929)


Throughout the 1930s and ‘40s, city directories list this family living at the Italian-American Hotel at 838 Sansome, with Pasquale periodically listed as being the manager. By the late ‘40s, the family moved to 1657 Mason while continuing to manage the hotel. Meanwhile, Pasquale was listed as living at the tower property as early as 1925. The family also started managing the Cavour Hotel at 379 Broadway a block down the street from the tower.


#2) Pasquale Gogna Family in Stockton

Born: 3/17/1890 (or 1892—depending on source), San Lorenzo, Italy

Death: July 1981



Wife: Rosie







On a side note, I discovered that separate parties originally owned the original three lots that make up the tower property. Pasquale Gogna originally purchased the land directly under the tower in 1920 and adjacent land (that I believe mainly encompasses the cliff in front of the tower) in 1933. Interestingly, the land under which the current apartment building, that is attached to the left of the tower, was still owned by someone else in 1944, but was owned by the Gogna family by 1960. That apartment building was built in 1957 after Pasquale moved out. To see a picture of what the tower originally looked like (in 1953), see this link:


June 20, 2015

by Saybrina

David, My grandfather is William Gogna who is the oldest of the five boys that my Great Grandparents had Roy and Ray are twins and the youngest is Uncle Ernie. Thanks for sharing this information and I will keep up on the search.


I welcome your comments or additional information about Pasquale’s Tower. It has been quite an adventure learning about this remarkable building. Thanks to those who have provided me with more insight into Pasquale Gogna’s history! 


North Beach and Telegraph Hill History on Amazon


 Italians of the Bay Area: Gino Sbrana San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill, David F. Myrick North Beach: The Italian Heart of San Francisco San Francisco’s North Beach and Telegraph Hill 


All photos by author except where indicated




The Storybook Houses of Belvedere

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The Storybook Houses of Belvedere

The storybook houses of Belvedere are little known outside of this wealthy island enclave at the southern tip of Marin County, California. There is very little information available on them but I was fortunate to have once been provided a tour by the owner of one of these charming cottages. I live only a few miles away, in San Francisco, so these magical places are there to see anytime I choose to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge—I feel very lucky indeed!

Storybook Houses of Belvedere

The Story Behind the Storybook Houses

The story goes that the storybook houses were built sometime in the 30s by a business executive by the name of Heidelberg, who tired of his humdrum office job and would often escape to work on his labor of love, the storybook cottages of Beach Road. In all, there are three cottages on the steep slope above the bay, one of which was used as a location for an obscure film noir called, “Sudden Fear,” starring the notorious Joan Crawford with Jack Palance playing her mysterious suitor. Of course, a murder plot is in the works as Mr. Palance woos Ms. Crawford in the hopes of making away with her fortune. What would film noir be without intrigue?

Read the article from ReelSF

Another notable resident was said to be Vivian Vance, who played Lucy Ricardo’s sidekick Ethel Mertz in the “I Love Lucy” television show. Ms. Vance used to come up to enjoy the cool summers of the San Francisco Bay Area and to visit her sister who lived in Belvedere, and she would stay in one of the Beach Road storybook cottages, eventually retiring from Hollywood to a home on Beach Road. Vivian Vance lived in Belvedere until her death in 1979.

The Storybook Houses of Belvedere top

Storybook cottages came into favor in the early Hollywood era of the teens and 20s of the 20th century. One of the most well-known examples of the time is the Spadena House of Beverly Hills, designed by art director and set director, Harry Oliver. This house is popularly known as “The Witches’ House” because of the resemblance to the gingerbread house in the Hansel and Gretel tale. Others who became known for the storybook cottage architectural style were: Carr Jones, W.W. Dixon, and William Yelland of the San Francisco Bay Area; and Ben Sherman. Ben Sherman is most known for his “Snow White house” in Hollywood.

Spadena Witch House by Kafziel
“Spadena Witch House” by Kafziel (Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia)

The chief characteristic of storybook architectural design is a whimsical style derived from fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel: crooked chimneys, odd elements such as round doors and circular windows, heavy timber, and use of natural elements such as stone and wood, all combined to look like a dilapidated cabin in the woods. Looking at these, I almost expect to see gumdrops embedded in the brick walls!

In the Belvedere storybook cottages, which seem to teeter on the brink of falling over the cliff and down into the bay, you will find winding staircases, and the timbers which jut out from the exterior walls with carved rustic figures and faces at their ends. Colored glass plates of varying sizes have been inserted in place of windows at different levels of the walls. The brickwork curves and slopes in a dizzying fashion, as do the oddly overlapped wooden shingles of the rooftop. All in all, delightful and quaint—I wouldn’t be surprised to see a wizard or a gnome emerging at any time!


 Storybook Style: America’s Whimsical Homes of the Twenties Carmel’s Fairy Tale Cottages (Hardcover, 2011) Tiny House Living: Ideas For Building and Living Well In Less than 400 Square Feet

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Photos by author except where noted

The Craftsman Bungalow House

Life is a Bungalow The Craftsman Bungalow MyLifeBanquetcom

The Craftsman Bungalow House

The American Arts & Crafts movement emphasized pride of craft, simplicity and substance rather than the over-embellished pretentiousness of the Victorian era and eventually led to the popularization of the “Craftsman” style of architecture, giving rise to the popular Craftsman bungalow house. This familiar style of house is often referred to as the American bungalow or the Craftsman house. The bungalow style house is distinguished by a low, horizontal structure with overhanging eaves, an imposing front porch, banks of windows, often with a central picture window, as well as large square (“elephantine”) columns supporting the porch. The Craftsman bungalow evolved as a more affordable version of the Arts & Crafts home, typically offered for sale in the Sears & Roebuck catalog, to be assembled on the lot. Because this was the house that “everyman” could afford, Craftsman bungalows are ubiquitous almost everywhere throughout the Continental United States.

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Sears Craftsman Bungalow, Brookside Plan

Craftsman bungalow houses can be found all over the United States, since anyone who could afford it could order a house from the Sears catalog using any number of available craftsman bungalow floor plans and have it shipped, usually by railroad, and then have their very own Craftsman bungalow assembled on a lot and move right in. Because of the proximity of many cities and towns to railroad routes, entire neighborhoods of bungalows sprang up across the country. As you can see from the illustrations, available designs ranged from the simple and inexpensive to bigger and more elaborate for a little more money.

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Sears Craftsman Bungalow, The Avalon Plan

Natural and Reclaimed Materials Used in Craftsman Homes

The unique features as well as materials used in the construction of Craftsman homes were often dependent upon the availability of local resources, in many cases natural materials like river rock or reclaimed products like “clinker” bricks. Clinker brinks are the irregularly shaped and often burnt pieces that are left after the better formed bricks have been removed from the kiln. After the earthquake and great fire of 1907 in San Francisco, reclaimed bricks were commonly scavenged and used in construction of foundations and for siding in many houses, not just Craftsman style bungalows, and those are evident to this day in many neighborhoods of the City. River rock is a common natural building material in homes built in prairie towns and in the West, wherever rocks are easy to transport to a building site.

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River rock chimney base, Pasadena, CA
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Clinker brick post, Robson-Harrington House, San Anselmo, CA

















Craftsman Homes History

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Airplane bungalow, Bungalow Heaven, Pasadena (Instagram by author)












The popularity of the Craftsman bungalow house spanned from about 1905 to the early 1930s; however, the heyday of the American bungalow appears to have been from 1915 to the late 1920s, so this comparatively modern style of house is already about 100 years old today. Since in later decades these beautiful homes were looked down upon as old fashioned and low class, many bungalows were destroyed or subjected to misguided renovations. You would be fortunate indeed to find a historic Craftsman bungalow today that still has its original unpainted woodwork and functional built-ins intact.

There are as many styles of bungalows as you can imagine: the typical Prairie-style low horizontal model with a broad porch along its front, simple and built with wood; the Spanish bungalow with stucco and enclosed cactus gardens; the Japanese influenced bungalow with dark paint and red accents; and one of my very favorites, the airplane bungalow. The airplane bungalow got its name from the jutting second story that sits astride the first floor like an airplane cockpit.


Best Historical Places to Visit to See Bungalows

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National Register of Historic Places, Bungalow Heaven, design Toni Devereaux.

I personally have had a soft spot in my heart for these historic American bungalows. To me, they represent family dinners and warm nights sitting on the front porch; truly a home rather than a house. A few years ago, I learned about an area in Southern California called the Bungalow Heaven Historic District, a small neighborhood in Pasadena with a large concentration of Craftsman bungalows within a 16-block area. We of course signed up for the annual Bungalow Heaven tour scheduled for the coming April, and drove to Pasadena to visit the bungalows that were going to be featured that year.

If you love bungalows, Bungalow Heaven is the place to see! Many of the Craftsman bungalows date back a century or so, and most are modestly maintained but there are a large number of bungalows that have been lovingly and accurately restored back to original Arts and Crafts style, with paint colors and furnishings to match.

Now that I’ve seen Bungalow Heaven in Pasadena, I am interested in visiting the Laurelhurst neighborhood of Portland, Oregon to see the magnificent Craftsman bungalows that I have only seen in pictures. But that’s for another blog!


Bungalow Heaven Tour

A few photos I took of the nice Craftsman bungalows that we saw on our trip to Bungalow Heaven.





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Featured Image: Asian influenced Craftsman bungalow, Pasadena’s Bungalow Heaven neighborhood (Photo by author)

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