Spreckels Mansion, the 27-room estate at 2080 Washington in history-laden Pacific Heights, is one of those establishments where if the walls could talk, they’d dish about some of the most illustrious characters San Francisco has ever known.
The French Baroque chateau was completed in 1912 and was designed by Beaux-Arts savant George A. Applegarth, who was also friends with novelist Jack London at the time. London and Applegarth would often go on long California bike rides together.
Sugar magnate Adolph de Bretteville Spreckels built the mansion for his wife, Alma, who later became known as “the great-grandmother of San Francisco.” Fun factoid: Alma was the model for the figure on top of the Dewey Monument in Union Square. In Adolph’s youth, he shot Michael H. de Young, co-founder of the San Francisco Chronicle, over an article suggesting his sugar companies had committed fraud, but was acquitted after pleading temporary insanity. When they married, Alma was nearly half the age of Adolph, who was 50 years old at the time.
In order to achieve the perfect view, Adolph bought the adjacent lots to later tear down. Alma, in her infinite wisdom, asked that these Victorians be disassembled, moved, and built again somewhere else.
When Adolph passed away, Alma lived in the house, reputedly swimming naked in the pool at times, until her death. It was then split up into four units until famous romance novelist Danielle Steel restored it to its original single-family glory. She still lives there, but being a private person, the property is now surrounded by a barrier of hedges to keep prying eyes out.
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