Built by Alma Spreckler (grande dame of San Francisco) and her husband Adolph Spreckels (his name comes second on purpose if you get my drift) from 1912-1913, the 55 room beaux-arts limestone mansion was designed by George Adrian Applegarth. Applegarth had graduated from the renowned Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and after returning home to the Bay Area, he designed many of the cities most famous properties. Applegarth was, for a time, partner with another graduate of the Ecole, Kenneth MacDonald, in the firm McDonald and Applegarth. They were young architects directly after the devastating 1906 earthquake which definitely helped their careers along! The partners split in 1912 during the construction of the Spreckels Mansion. Applegarth went on to a very long and prosperous career in the Bay Area, most famously the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park for the Spreckels (which I briefly mention in an older post HERE). Alma lived in the house until her death in 1968. At one point she had the original front door, seen above, moved to the side where it currently is beneath a porte cochere. After her death, the house was divided into 4 full floor apartments until being sold by the family to Danielle Steele, who returned it to a single family residence.
The house has been somewhat controversal since the day it was built, mainly through its' association with the gregarious and eccentric Alma Spreckels. Alma allowed the house to be used as the setting of a nightclub in the 1957 Frank Sinatra movie 'Pal Joey' (my grandma's favorite movie!). She also hosted garage sales on the property to raise money for numerous charities. However, the controversies don't stop after Alma; they continue under the current owner, the author Danielle Steele. Apparently Steele is chastized for not taking better care of the exterior of the house (despite numerous remodels of the interior over the years) and shrouding the house in TALL bushes, hiding it from Lafayette Park across the street. She likes her privacy I guess! However in the days of the Spreckels, the house was painfully lacking in landscaping, allowing the public to enjoy the beautiful home. Also, despite having an indoor garage and large outdoor parking court, Steele apparently is hogging parking permits for 24 street spots in a very congested area. Tsk, tsk Danielle!
Thanks to everyone who helped fill me in on this magnificent estate. If anyone knows of any interior photos, please send them my way!