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Alamo Square's Historic, Run-Down Koster Manse Wants $6.6M

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If you woke up this morning in the mood to purchase a four-story Victorian mansion, then today is your lucky day. The very swoon-worthy 930 Grove Street has just hit the market, and at 8,000+ square feet, it definitely leaves an impression. Built in 1897 (not 1885 as the listing states) for John L. Koster by local architects Martens & Coffey in a pretty regal-looking Classical Revival style, the 33-room mansion is currently carved up into 12 units. Koster was president of the California Barrel Company, which shipped vinegar and pickle barrels up and down the coast, as well as owner of the Mount Hamilton Vineyard near San Jose. He ran in a very well-to-do circle, with the likes of Strauss, Spreckels, Russ, Lilienthal, etc. Who knew vinegar was so lucrative?

Koster commissioned the mega-manse for his wife and seven children from Martens & Coffey, who are known for their ornate Classical style from buildings like the Stanyan Park Hotel and St. Boniface Church. Koster died at his vineyard in 1923, and around the same time the mansion at 930 Grove became the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco. As the story goes, the government took over the building during World War II as housing for military personnel and pretty much stripped its interior. Presumably that's when it got converted into 12 studio units. Nonetheless, the house still hangs onto a healthy chunk of its original flair—herringbone wood floors, coffered inlaid ceilings, column capitals galore—and that's only in the foyer.

The property will require a bit of a spit shine: The epic front-entry porch needs some repairs, and some of the units could use a little elbow grease to get the original floors and built-ins up to snuff. (One looks like it's been gutted to the studs, but it's hard to tell.) Considering the $6.6 million list price, we could see some very wealthy buyer converting this place back into a single-family trophy house. But since the property is a contributor to the Alamo Square Historic District, any potential buyer will be limited on the changes they can make to the outside.


· 930 Grove Street [Redfin]
· National Trust Guide to San Francisco [National Trust via Google Books]
· Alamo Square Historic District [SF Planning]