When Neal Ward says there's nothing like the mansion at 2250 Vallejo St., you have to assume he knows what he's talking about. After all, this is the super agent who sold Belvedere's much vaunted Locksley Hall for a cool (and record-breaking) $47.5 million. Now he and Malin Giddings are jointly listing this house for $28 million, making it the most expensive house on the market. To illustrate his point, he has us sit down in the living room upon entering the 9,052-square-foot manse. From a seated position, you can look straight out to the San Francisco Bay and the Marin Headlands, thanks to a steep downslope in back, a new open plan, and the gigantic windows that line the rear exterior. "There aren't many places you can do this," he says. "This is a very unique, very special property."
The house has an interesting backstory. It was created by local architect James Francis Dunn for James Madison, a man who made a fortune in the packing industry with the Alaska Salmon Company. His legacy lives on more than a century later in the ornate ironwork on the front of the house where a script "M" is part of the design. Another reported resident of note is the 31st mayor of San Francisco, Angelo Joseph Rossi. Rossi was the first mayor of a U.S. city whose parents were Italian immigrants. During World War II, the home was transformed into an apartment building to house wounded soldiers. Ward says it remained an apartment building up until a few years ago, when it was purchased by a family who intended to renovate it for themselves. Their living plans changed, but the remodel continued.
According to Ward, the home's interior had suffered after spending more than 50 years as an apartment building. As the marketing statement delicately puts it, "there wasn't much left" inside. The current owners hired Los Angeles-based Paul McClean of McClean Design to make the old place a family home. (McClean is having something of a moment, and his most recent SoCal project was sold to Calvin Klein.) When construction began in 2013, it was decided that the exterior would be preserved and restored and the interior would be modern. That means that all of the hand-carved, wedding-cake-like adornments on the outside were painstakingly brought back to a pristine condition. In some cases, elements were broken or missing, and casts were made of the intact pieces in order to exactingly recreate the molding.
Inside, the house begins a new chapter. We'll start at the bottom, where workers removed about 20 feet of soil to pour a concrete-and-steel foundation. According to the agents, "this home has been constructed with some of the structural requirements of brand-new, high-rise buildings."
That's nice to know, but it's what you can see that is jaw dropping. In the most basic terms, the home has been redesigned with an eye to enjoying the view and modern living. When Mr. Madison lived in this house, he likely dined on his salmon from a formal dining room at the back of it. Today, the main level of the home is organized this way: a combined family room and kitchen are at the rear of the house with a front seat to the view, a dining room is in the middle of the layout, and the formal living room is at the front (Vallejo Street side) of the manse. Large openings are between each room, which is what allows visitors to see the water from the sofa.
A dramatic, elliptical spiral staircase with glass rails is on the east side of the house, so as not to take up space. You can climb this feat of engineering to the top, or just take the elevator.
Upstairs, the master bedroom is also placed to take advantage of views of the water, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the hills across the bay in Marin. Ward stressed the ability to see it all while seated in the living room. To us, waking up to the sight of the Golden Gate Bridge that's thisclose is pretty spectacular. If you want to get even nearer, roll aside the floor-to-ceiling glass doors and step out on the balcony
Throughout, the background is white from the walls to the generous marble appointments. There's a notable exception on the upper floor in the study. Back when the house was built in 1901, it isn't much of a stretch to think that it would have included a library and study paneled in dark wood. Perhaps that is what McClean had in mind when he designed a modern study that's completely lined in walnut-hued wood. The room has a sitting room by the view and walls lined with shelves. In the back of the space, there's conference area with a wet bar (that last feature is probably for the sitting area, but it could certainly help take the edge off a meeting).
The topmost floor is the spa level. Here, there's a steam room on inside, but outside is the crown jewel: an infinity-edge plunge pool that is a watery seat to what is surely one of the best views in the city.
By the numbers, there are five levels, five bedroom suites, three powder rooms, a three-car garage, two guest bedrooms, and one lower level media-recreation room that leads out to a lawn. However, the question is: Can real estate pros make lightening strike twice with a record-breaking sale? Time will tell.
· This $28M Manse is the Most Expensive Home in SF Right Now [Curbed SF]
· Exclusive: Locksley Hall in Belvedere Sells for $47.5M, Shatters All Records [Curbed SF]
· 2250 Vallejo [Neal Ward Properties]
· Neal Ward Properties [Official Site]
· Malin Giddings [Official Site]
Watch: How a 426-Square-Foot Cottage in Bernal Heights Evolved into a Family Home for Three