The Real Estate Developer


“In 1849, when San Francisco flourished overnight into a metropolis, Dr. John Townsend and Cornelius de Boom laid out in the Potrero what was probably the city’s first real estate development project. But it was too far from the center of town, and failed,” wrote Robert O’Brien in his article Riptides: “On the Outskirts of Town”, printed in the San Francisco Chronicle July 18th, 1951.

Hunter’s Point

“Two substantial citizens – Dr. John Townsend and John Cornelius de Boom conceived the idea of developing a nearby community where the weather was good, the air clean and fine fresh water springs were to be had. They acquired in 1849 the eastern portion of the Bernal Rancho touching the bay, had a surveyor lay out a tract and engaged the youthful, cultured brothers, Robert Eugene and Philip Schuyler Hunter, as their real estate agents….Those were the Hunters whose name had been attached to the point, the nucleus of this project, ever since.” wrote Millie Robbins in her August 22, 1973 column titled “The Many Aliases in Hunter’s Point History”  (Milllie Robbins on Hunter’s Point) printed in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The California historian, Helen Marcia Bruner, continued “The Story of Hunter’s Point” in an essay printed years before in the September 1953 National League. “Lots were for sale at $150 each. The advertisements drew attention to the fresh water, the deep harbor, the clayey soil which was fertile and would not blow around, and above all to the beauty of the surroundings…..There was no response to the advertising; the new city remained just a plan on the map and a few advertisements in the papers. But the Hunters continued to live on at the Point….When the new city, South San Francisco, failed to materialize, the Hunters supported themselves by selling fresh spring water for use in San Francisco…Vessels in the Bay filled their water casks there, too….All this time the Hunters were squatters on the land….Finally through a series of gifts, purchases, friendly family law suits and other arrangements, the Hunter titles to the land were settled.”  Helen Bruner on Hunter’s Point

Portsmouth Square Neighborhood

Johanna DeBoom (Cornelius’ sister) and her husband, Henry Laurencel, gave a lot at Kearny and Clay on May 21, 1855 to her sister-in-law, Marie Badarous, Cornelius’ wife. Click on this file 34_Deed _23May1855 to see a transcription. Note the attachment at the end, verifying that the wife was not coerced by her husband into the transaction!  Here are scans of the actual document (click on them to enlarge view):

The following month, on June 11, 1855, Johanna and Henry gave Marie one-third share of three more lots in the the same area. Click on this file 38_Deed _2Jun1855 to see a transcription. Below are scans of the actual document: