This French Baroque chateau was designed for Adolph and Alma de Bretteville Spreckels by George A. Applegarth, a graduate of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. In order to build the mansion, Spreckels had to purchase several lots with views of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge - each at a considerable price - and combine them all into one. Alma insisted on saving the beautiful Victorian houses that they had to buy to get ownership of the property they wanted, so eight houses in total were moved from their locations and reassembled elsewhere.
Where did all of this money come from? Adolph Spreckels was the son of a sugar tycoon and he inherited his father's empire, which included access to sugar cane in Hawaii and sugar beets in the Salinas Valley as well as refineries.
Alma didn't come from wealth like her husband. In fact, she was the daughter of poor Danish immigrants and spent time with local artists because of her love of beauty and her taste for the fine arts. She would model for them, and she was the model for the figure on top of the Union Square statue. Legend has it that Adolph saw the completed statue and demanded to meet the woman it was modeled after. They married when he was 50 and she 24.
When Adolph was sich with syphilis, Alma convinced the city to redo the street adjacent to the house, forcing cars to drive more slowly and reducing the traffic noise her husband had to endure.
With access to Adolph's fortune, Alma's love of the fine arts grew; she purchased works that would become incredibly famous by Rodin and others. Adolph died in 1924, but Alma would go on to live for another 44 years, maintaining control of the mansion and expanding her collections.
The magnificent white exterior of the house is made of limestone, an unfortunate material for the foggy hills of San Francisco. It is continually crumbling due to the weather.