Mansion that floated across San Francisco Bay hits the market

An ornate 15-room mansion — currently on the market for a hair under $12 million — may be the only home to spend half its life in San Francisco before floating across the water to a new address in another Bay Area city.

The 5,728-square-foot Moffitt Mansion, now sitting on the edge of the tiny, wealthy city of Belvedere in Marin County, has a very unique history.

Built in 1904, for more than half a century the house sat happily at 1818 Broadway atop Pacific Heights. Designed for renowned UCSF doctor Herbert C. Moffitt, the home was later expanded by one of San Francisco’s most celebrated architects, William Polk.

8 West Shore Road, Belvedere, Calif.

Open Homes Photography

But after Dr. Moffitt and his wife Margaret passed away in the 1950s, the home fell into disrepair.

As the city’s need for housing increased in the early 1960s, the building was put on the chopping block to make way for a condominium building at the site — a new and exciting type of housing at the time.

“A renaissance of gracious living is on the horizon,” an ad for the planned apartment building in the San Francisco Examiner proclaimed. “1818 Broadway is the carefully selected site for a wondrous new-mode of in-town luxury residence living.”

But one man was making an extravagant plan to save the “luxurious trophy home” on Pacific Heights from demolition. Marin architect Norman Gilroy bought the property in 1962 and set about slicing it in half, trucking it onto a 285-foot barge and moving it to a plot across the water at 8 West Shore Road, Belvedere.

8 West Shore Road, Belvedere, Calif.

8 West Shore Road, Belvedere, Calif.

Open Homes Photography

The Chronicle covered the house’s journey down from Pacific Heights and across the water. “A stately old Pacific Height mansion joined the flight to the suburbs yesterday,” a story on the front page on June 25, 1962, read.

Outside of some thieves stealing some of the home’s fixtures, the slow move went surprisingly smoothly, although some proto-NIMBYs of the time protested the move. “Because I’m a native San Franciscan, I hate to see progress,” a neighbor told the paper. “I hate to see it go.”

“So many of our old landmarks are going,” said another, “and these horrible modern apartments are going up.”

The mansion that formerly sat at 1818 Broadway heads north on Franklin Street, June 25, 1962.

The mansion that formerly sat at 1818 Broadway heads north on Franklin Street, June 25, 1962.

San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst N/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

Hundreds of residents watched the trucks take the two halves of the home, which had been split down the middle with a chainsaw, down Franklin Street. After spending a night at Marina Green, the home was hoisted onto a barge the following day to complete its journey north. In 2020, the Chronicle published more photos from the archives showing the Moffitt Mansion moving across the water.

While it must have been an extraordinary sight, San Francisco does have a history of moving Victorians around the city, a task sometimes performed with horses. Only last year a Victorian was relocated seven blocks from Franklin Street to Filbert Street.

The home that now looks across Richardson Bay to Sausalito is being listed for $11,950,000 by Compass and Janet and Sally Williamson.

“It is an exciting opportunity for us to represent this example of historic San Francisco architecture that has traveled across the bay on a barge to find a new home,” Sally Williamson told SFGATE over email. “This Belvedere residence truly is a showplace and one of the most admired in Marin. We are honored to work with our seller to find the next generation to enjoy it.”

8 West Shore Road, Belvedere, Calif.

8 West Shore Road, Belvedere, Calif.

Open Homes Photography

The home features hardwood floors, custom moldings, four fireplaces, a secluded spa and a private covered balcony.

Records show the property last sold for a significantly smaller sum, $3.7 million, in 2019. (Find the full listing at Janet and Sally Williamson’s website.)

As for 1818 Broadway: The condo building that replaced the mansion is still standing. It has 21 units, each valued at about $1 million or more today.

The listing blurb for one unit on the top floor boasts that the view stretches all the way across the bay to Belvedere.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: