Mansion that floated across San Francisco Bay hits market

An ornate 15-bedroom mansion, currently on the market for less than $12 million, may be the only home you spend half your life in. San Francisco before floating through the water to a new direction in another bay area city.

The 5,728-square-foot Moffitt mansion, now located on the edge of the small, wealthy Marin County town of Belvedere, has a 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 physician Herbert C. Moffitt, the house was later expanded by one of San Francisco’s most celebrated architects, William Polk.

8 West Shore Road, Belvedere, California

open house photography

But after Dr. Moffitt and his wife Margaret passed away in the 1950s, the house 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 an on-site condominium building, an exciting new type of housing at the time.

“A renaissance of elegant living is on the horizon,” proclaimed an ad for the planned apartment building in the San Francisco Examiner. “1818 Broadway is the carefully selected site for a wonderful new luxury residential lifestyle in the city.”

But one man was hatching an outlandish plan to save the “luxury trophy house” in Pacific Heights from demolition. Marin architect Norman Gilroy bought the property in 1962 and set about cutting it in half, transporting it on a 285-foot barge, and moving it to a plot across the water at 8 West Shore Road, Belvedere.

8 West Shore Road, Belvedere, California

8 West Shore Road, Belvedere, California

open house photography

the chronic covered the house trip down Pacific Heights and across the water. “A stately old Pacific Height mansion joined the flight to the suburbs yesterday,” read a June 25, 1962 front page story.

Aside from a few burglars stealing some of the house’s fixtures, the slow motion was surprisingly smooth, although some proto-NIMBYs of the time protested the motion. “As a native of San Francisco, I hate to see progress,” a neighbor told the newspaper. “I hate to see him go.”

“Many of our ancient monuments are crumbling,” said another, “and these horrible modern apartments are being built.”

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

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

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

Hundreds of residents watched as trucks carried the two halves of the house, which had been split down the middle with a chainsaw, down Franklin Street. After spending a night at Marina Green, the house was hoisted onto a barge the next day to complete its journey north. In 2020, the Chronicle posted more photos from the files showing the Moffitt Mansion moving through the water.

While it must have been an extraordinary sight, San Francisco has a history of moving Victorians around town. a task that is sometimes performed with horses. Just last year a Victorian house was relocated seven blocks from Franklin street to Filbert street.

Compass and Janet and Sally Williamson list the house that now looks across Richardson Bay toward Sausalito for $11,950,000.

“It’s 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 via email. “This Belvedere residence is truly a showcase and one of the most admired in Marin. We are honored to work with our vendor to find the next generation to enjoy it.”

8 West Shore Road, Belvedere, California

8 West Shore Road, Belvedere, California

open house photography

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

Records show the property was last sold for significantly less, $3.7 million, in 2019. (Find the full list on Janet and Sally Williamson’s website.)

As for 1818 Broadway: The condominium building that replaced the mansion still stands. It has 21 units, each valued at around $1 million or more today.

The listing propaganda for a unit on the top floor boasts that the view stretches across the bay to Belvedere.

Leave a Comment