San Francisco Landmarks
George A. Applegarth, graduate of the École des Beaux Arts, designed this French Baroque for Adolph and Alma de Bretteville Spreckels. (Applegarth reputedly hung out with Jack London. The pair would bicycle from the Bay Area to Yosemite to climb Half Dome.)
To accommodate his château, Spreckels bought and combined several prime lots with views of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate. Mrs. Spreckels insisted on saving the existing Victorian houses. Six houses on Jackson Street and two on Washington Street were moved.
Adolph Spreckels was the son of sugar tycoon Claus Spreckels. He inherited and expanded his father's empire to include sugar cane in Hawaii and sugar beets in the Salinas Valley along with the necessary refineries.
Alma le Normand de Bretteville, the daughter of poor Danish immigrants, was born in the Sunset District. Her beauty and taste for fine art led her to model for local artists. Sculptor Robert Aitken placed her likeness atop the Dewey Monument in Union Square. At about this time, Alma was introduced to Adolph who courted her for five years before marrying her in 1908 when her was fifty and she was twenty-four.
Alma purchased major works by Auguste Rodin and commissioned Applegarth to design the California Palace of the Legion of Honor to house them.
Adolph Spreckels died in 1924.
Alma de Bretteville Spreckels died in 1968.
The Spreckels Mansion had a supporting role in the 1957 movie Pal Joey playing Frank Sinatra's nightclub Chez Joey.
The 1960 photograph at the top of this page was taken when Alma de Bretteville still lived here, and she remained here until her death from pneumonia in 1968. She bequeathed joint ownership of her home to her two daughters.
Until the current owner moved in, the Spreckels Mansion looked as it did in the 1960 photograph, a jewel that any San Franciscan or tourist could admire, unobstructed by hedges.