When people think of San Francisco, typically a few visuals pop up — the Golden Gate Bridge, Cable Cars and The Painted Ladies, to name just a few. But interestingly enough, the famous Alamo Square isn’t even the most impressive or interesting residences in our fair city. Read on to discover the lesser-known (but much more intriguing) must-see homes of San Francisco.
The Spreckels Mansion
In 1912, Alma de Bretteville Spreckels and her real-life “sugar daddy” Adolph Spreckels commissioned the largest single family home in San Francisco. Nicknamed “The Sugar Palace,” this 55-room limestone French Baroque home sits perched high atop Washington Street, with pristine views of the San Francisco Bay. Alma de Bretteville would eventually become known as the “The Great-Grandmother of San Francisco,” but her early life was impoverished and full of hard work. To escape the laborious duties of her mother’s Danish bakery/laundry service, Alma enrolled in the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art, and it was during her time there that Alma became an artists’ model, scandalously posed for the Dewey Memorial in Union Square, and caught the eye of sugar magnate Adolph Spreckels. The Spreckels Mansion, a Beaux-Arts style masterpiece, was built by George A. Applegarth and was completed in 1913. Alma Spreckels devoted her life to providing the city of San Francisco with amazing art, even commissioning the stunning Legion of Honor and eventually filling it up with priceless relics, including Rodin’s “Thinking Man.” Alma lived in the Spreckels Mansion until her death in 1968. The best-selling author Danielle Steel currently resides in the lavish mansion and has grown an enormous privacy hedge that conceals most of the grand architecture, but the best view is from across the street at Lafayette Park.
The Flintstone’s House
It’s a little bit outside of San Francisco proper, but The Flintstone’s House is a local legend and an architectural wonder. Nestled high up on the hill in picturesque Hillsborough stands a free-form dome residence that is like no other. Built in 1976 by William Nicholson, the home was an experiment in implementing new building materials and techniques, and the modest three bedroom, two bath underwent extensive renovation in the late 1980s and received its bright orange paint job in the 2000s. With its cozy cave-like interior, sunny skylights, and one-of-a-kind design, it’s no wonder that this property is currently listed for the sale price of $4.2 million.
The Old Vedanta Temple
Appearing out of nowhere in an unassuming San Francisco Marina neighborhood stands one of the most unique buildings in the city. The Old Vedanta Temple is the first Hindu temple built in the Western Hemisphere and is 111 years old, and when it was built, Swami Trigunatitananda paired up with architect Joseph A. Leonard to create the temple that would eventually house the Vedanta Society. The design of the building and the most minute details are extremely significant and clearly convey the message of The Vedanta Society — unity and respect for all. The first two floors are heavily influenced by Joseph A. Leonard and feature traditional Queen Anne details, but the Swami is responsible for the most unique aspects of the buildings design. The exuberant arches and the five large hollow domes each have a story to tell, and the structure is a blend of traditional Christian church motifs, Bengal temples and Russian Orthodox architecture — one dome is even an exact replica of the domes of the Taj Majal. The Swami wanted to demonstrate unification and reverence for all religions by showing that their symbols and religious art could coexist as one breathtaking building.
By Amanda Walker-Storey
Amanda Walker-Storey is a makeup artist, glamour model and writer living in San Francisco, Ca. When she’s not writing for the Culture Trip, Amanda writes content for Deal Killer, a live comedy dating/relationship gameshow. Amanda has a severe addiction to buying lipstick and will flip out if there are tags left inside of her clothing. No, seriously flip out.
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