Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lafayette Park, the Spreckels Mansion, and Danielle Steele

Before I moved, I had big exploration plans.  I would be Shackleton and San Francisco would be my Antarctica! Well...Shackleton had a lot more "get up and go" than I do.  Shocking, I know.  Instead, the last month has been primarily consumed with parking permits, job hunting, and Game of Thrones and only a little bit of exploring.  Well today I decided to change all that and decided to start with the Spreckels Mansion.

I decided to start with the Spreckels Mansion because it the residence of prolific romance author Danielle Steele.  I'm not really a fan of Ms. Steele's books and have actually only read one of them.  It was called The Long Road Home and I found it at my grandma's house when I was in high school.  This book puts all Lifetime movies to shame.  Some of the major plot points include; child abuse, an illicit affair between a nun and a priest, a suicide, a miscarriage, a love interest/con artist, murder, assault, another love interest, and finally a happy ending.  In hindsight, this book is absolutely ridiculous, but at the time it totally wrecked me and I'm not ashamed to say it made me cry.  I guess it was a little too emotionally draining, because I never read another Danielle Steele novel.  However, that was not going to stop me from creeping around her home.

I did a little research and found out that Spreckels Mansion is directly across the street from Lafayette Park in the Pacific Heights neighborhood.  Pacific Heights is a very fancy shmancy area of San Francisco full of unbelievable mansions, expensive boutiques, and breathtaking views of the bay.  I packed up some reading material and headed over to see if I could get a peek at Danielle Steele and see how the other half (or the other 1%) live.  Perched on a park bench across from Spreckels Mansion, I took in the views and began some librarian caliber research.

Spreckels Mansion was built in 1912 by Adolph Spreckels, heir to a sugar kingdom.  Spreckels built the 52-room mansion for his young wife Alma, the daughter of poor Danish immigrants who rose to fame as a model (a nude model!) for local artists.  Alma, widowed quite young (her husband died of syphilis...ew) would become known as much for her eccentricities as she was for her philanthropy and devotion to the arts.  Alma swam nude in the backyard pool and often hosted garage sales to raise money for her multiple charities.  The picture below shows the mansion as it would have looked during much of Alma's residence there.  She lived there until her death in 1968 and left the house to her daughters who ultimately converted it to 4 different apartments until selling it to Danielle Steele. 
Spreckels Mansion 1960 (source)
Steele converted the house back to a single family residence and pissed off a bunch of people by planting huge hedges.  Apparently I'm not the only person creeping around the mansion trying to get a glimpse of the famous author.  I probably wouldn't have seen her anyway, because she spends most of her time in Paris.  According to Ms. Steele, "San Francisco is a great city to raise children, but I was very happy to leave it. There's no style, nobody dresses up—you can't be chic there. It's all shorts and hiking books and Tevas—it's as if everyone is dressed to go on a camping trip. I don't think people really care how they look there; and I look like a mess when I'm there, too'" (WSJ, 2011).  Whoa.  Sassy! Anyway, here are a couple of pictures I took today.  They'd probably be better but the hedges were really high and I kept tripping on my Tevas. 


  1. So...I don't live on the coast...I'm just a poor, unsophisticated, public school employee...what the hell is a Tevas???

  2. Wow - wish I could come snooping with you! Too much fun!