Danish Consul Called Alameda Home

Taaffe’s 19th-century estate is today’s Lincoln Park

Gustav Frederik O’Hara Taaffe was born on in Denmark on Dec. 1, 1825. He arrived in San Francisco in 1851 and worked at first as an agent for the Commercial Union Assurance Co. He later served as the consul for Denmark and the vice-consul for Sweden and Norway. (A consul is an official appointed by a government to live in a foreign city and protect and promote the government’s citizens and interests there.) Before coming to Alameda he lived at 2114 Mason St. in San Francisco. 

Taaffe married Anna Södring on July 24, 1856, in Denmark. She was born in Denmark on July 11, 1838, and bore seven children before she and Gustav either separated or divorced. Six of their children survived into adulthood: four sons — Christian, Teodor, Viggo and Gustav — and two daughters, Agnes Elizabeth and Catherine Taaffe served as president of the Scandinavian Hall Association and played an important role in starting the newspaper California Scandinav. He worked as a trustee at Our Savior’s Scandinavian Evangelical-Lutheran Church. He was also an amateur sculptor. 

Taaffe traveled in important circles. In 1869, three years before purchasing the Farwell estate in Alameda (“Vigilante, Rope Maker Once Made His Home on Site of Lincoln Park,” June 12) he affixed his signature to the papers that formed the “California Immigrant Union.” 

He and his associates formed the organization to encourage immigration from Europe to California. The union appointed him one of its first trustees, and he sat at the table with such luminaries as railroad baron Charles Crocker, cattle tycoon Charles Lux and sugar magnate Claus Spreckels.  

In 1869, the same year the California Immigrant Union set to work, Taaffe wrote a 40-page document that he called “Californien som det er,” (California as it is). He had this published in his native county’s capital city of Copenhagen.

“This pamphlet is, on the whole, a sober and seemingly accurate account of conditions in the state, which he knew intimately through travel and business,” a reviewer wrote. He aimed his treatise specifically at Scandinavian farmers, people he felt would help California thrive. 

In 1872, three years after he penned “Californien son det er” he purchased James Farwell’s estate “Homebush” in today’s Lincoln Park. He renamed the place “Rosebush, and live long enough to enjoy the place for just two years.” 

He died in Alameda on April 16, 1874. He was only 48 years old. His obituary described him as “the most distinguished Dane in the city of San Francisco. He was laid to rest in San Francisco.” His body was later disinterred and moved to Woodlawn Cemetery in Colma, where a small stone marks where Taaffe rests today.

Next time we’ll meet the third man who called today’s Lincoln Park home, Captain Robert R. Thompson.