Thursday, August 5, 2010

A timeworn beauty

One of the best ways to explore any city is to wander around. While in San Francisco and heading to Grant Gibson's apartment (where he was kind enough to throw me a little birthday brunch for a group of bloggy friends that you can read about over at katiedid; thanks again!!) I decided to waste a morning and walk. Along the way I came across this beautiful old house with a lovely worn patina. I love this freize along the cornice.
Not to mention an amazing view. One of THE views in a city of views; Notice Alcatraz in the background. All I could concentrate on though was this house and the similarities to the Petit Trianon.
Built of sandstone (or some other soft facing) the facade is slowly wearing away. At some point an attempt at stopping this had been made by painting the stone but even the paint is now peeling. The house might not be around for another 100 years but it will be lovely in the meantime.
The property is huge, with an enormous backyard facing the bay built over a garage with entry from the rear, seen here. A much later addition, this was faced with marble and is wearing much better.
And who lives here? Well according to my sources, none other than Danielle Steele! The house certainly is fittingly romantic.


David Toms said...

It is so beautiful. I wish that someone would take the time and money to preserve properly instead of just painting the stobe. Up for it?

Kathy said...

She certainly has the funds for restoration....I say you go for it! Nice post..K

Anonymous said...

That is the old Sprecels (sp?) mansion, home of Alma Debretville Sprecels. Did you see the Petit Trianon down the street?

Toby Worthington said...

That was one of the houses that impressed me the first time I visited San Francisco. There's something forlorn
about it, it has the mood of an aging beauty. Had no
idea it belonged to Danielle Steele! Kind of appropriate.

Regina Joi said...

Alma de Bretteville Spreckles built that home in 1913 and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park which I hope you had a chance to visit...a copy of the Hotel de Salm in Paris. It is an amalgamation of Petit Trianon on some facades and the original entrance was where the hedges are now in middle..but a Porte Corchere was created off the side near the indoor swimming pool.

She was friends Isadora Duncan and Rodin which she had the largest collection of his work outside of France and Queen Marie of Romania whom she build a Museum to in similar style.

She lived there her entire life, and even had garage sales from the GARAGE to raise funds in Wartimes.

In Union Square, she is the Bronze figure on top of the Eleanor Nesbitt was the model for Diana the Huntress on top of Madison Square Gardens by Stanford White.

She had Oysters delivered to the house daily by Swans Oyster Depot and a lovely Martini for lunch

How do I know all this...her granddaughter who lived there at times is a friend of mine and has wonderful stories of a beloved legend of San Francisco.

Almas' daughter sold it to Ms. Steele.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

I've been doing some research - apparently the facade is limestone -which I would think is more hearty than this appears. Obviously it's a very soft limestone.
Regina, I read that before Steele had purchased the mansion it had been split into 4 apartments/condos - is that true?
Such a fascinating place! I wish I could find some interior photos!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the post.....sadly restoring that house would cost millions of dollars and while steele is rich she has not improved the exteriors of the house ever since she bought it back in the 80's. as a native to SF, she is one of the most loathed people in SF mainly because she not willing restore the mansion to it previous glory. I know several interior designers who have worked on the inside of the house and the interiors are updated frequently and the house holds some pretty expensive historical pieces. Its just sad she won't spend a couple million to make it beautiful on the outside. While her bank account is not as big as the getty's (who own huge house on broadway which is actually two mansions that were fused together in the early 90s) she does support several of her childrens (adults now) lavish least gordon's kids are making their own cash.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

I don't mind the outside as much, but from a preservationists this condition it won't survive another 100 years.
Do you know some of the designers who have worked on the interiors? Maybe there are photos on their websites/portfolios?
I'm dying to see inside!

Woody said...

Oh no, Danielle Steele sounds terrible. I say we make her public enemy #1. Let's storm the castle with torches and an unwavering mob mentality! If it's really not going to last more than 100 years, couldn't the city of San Francisco do something about it?

Regina Joi said...

There are some people who do love a house with Patina...I do know that Ms. Steele is a polished woman of Style and Taste, and therefore perhaps the best Chatelaine for this home as others might have altered it or added on. Yes, it was made into a few apartments, if that is what one can call each floor...Pied a Terre more like it, Alma removed the main entrance staircase which had most magnificent bronze railings and moved the new entrance to where it is today.

Dodie Rosekrans lived there when first married and now lives down the street in splendour in a Michael Taylor Vision, historically correct and infused with great pieces of Antiquities and Art.

I do not know what the interior looks like, but Slim Aarons has a few pics in a book somewhere. I do think she pulled the whole together with much ease. Is it Marble on the exterior? The Sea Salt and Fog of San Fran is really all consuming...

eddieross said...

Sounds like such a lovely time! Gorgeous photos too!

Eddie & Jaithan

Terry said...

This is NOT wasting a morning.

Gramercy Home said...

Wow. Few people could pull off living there. Danielle can. Gorgeous shots!

ChipSF said...

The house was cut up into either three or four apartments. They were primarily occupied by family members such as grandson John Rosekrans although at one point Mr. and Mrs. William Roth (Filoli) gave up their city residence (on Jackson directly below this house) and took one floor as a pied a terre. They were family friends of the Spreckels.

Unfortunately the stone is incredibly soft and is not suitable for the SF weather; there is not an easy fix short of carving new columns and cornices in a harder material.

There are some interior shots in the Gabriel Moulin book.