It’s the house that Robert Louis Stevenson built — six years after his death.
The world-famous author of children’s classic Treasure Island left a bounty of personal papers when he died in 1894. His widow Fanny Osbourne-Stevenson cashed them in, using the proceeds to build a grand mansion on a San Francisco hilltop in 1900.
Dubbed the “Robert Louis Stevenson House,” the large home is both a tribute to the Scottish-born writer, with a stained-glass window depicting the ship Hispaniola from Treasure Island, and a posthumous ending to their love story.
The 25-year-old bohemian met Fanny at an art retreat near Paris in 1876 when she was a 36-year-old mother of three whose philandering husband lived in the U.S. After a two-year affair, Fanny returned home to California but a year later the besotted Stevenson followed her there. They married in 1880, enjoying 14 years together until a brain hemorrhage claimed his life at the age of 44.
Fanny, a colourful local celebrity with a taste for Polynesian-style garments and flashy jewelry, spent her remaining 20 years promoting her late husband’s legacy. In addition to his children’s book, published in 1883, Stevenson is known for his adult horror story, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886).
After Fanny’s ostentatious residence changed hands in 1908, it was used as a convent and later, an apartment building. Now, the 119-year-old restored and updated home is awaiting a new family, says listing agent Nina Hatvany of Compass real estate brokerage.
“It has everything homeowners want: grand spaces, comfortable places, views, a big garden and four-car garage parking.”
The villa, designed by local architect Willis Polk in a blend of Mediterranean and Tudor styles, sits at the intersection of Hyde St. and Lombard, the city’s famous crooked street with eight hairpin turns.
“It’s in a fun location, iconically San Francisco, with cable cars clanging up the hill and a lot going on outside that people love,” explains Hatvany.
Its lofty position affords clear views of the Golden Gate, Alcatraz and San Francisco Bay.
With several living rooms, a “spectacular” dining room and a terra cotta-tiled roof terrace overlooking the water, “there are plenty of places to gather,” Hatvany observes.
Indeed, the stately residence was designed for entertaining, she says. More than a century ago, the original host welcomed guests including Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii, famous writers, and seamen from Samoa where the Stevensons had lived for several years, according to the Monterey State Historic Park Guide to the Stevenson House Collection.
While the exterior has changed little, significant improvements were made inside to outfit the house for modern living, according to the realtor.
The four levels of the home are connected by an elevator and also by an “incredible staircase with a beautiful wrought-iron banister that swoops in different directions.”
The entrance level features a hand-painted solarium, private guest suite and double-height ceilings. On second floor, there’s a catering kitchen, den, sunroom, octagonal-shaped sitting room and three ensuite bedrooms.
Large principal rooms and a gourmet kitchen occupy the third floor and on the top floor, a “very serene master retreat” has ample space for a comfy sitting area that’s bathed in natural light.
But for Hatvany, one of the home’s real treasures is its garden.
“It’s just beautiful, with a grassy lawn in the heart of the city. It’s like this oasis, so calm, and even in the garden you can see the blue water of the bay.”
Carola Vyhnak is a Cobourg-based writer covering home and real-estate stories. She is a contributor for the Star. Reach her at email@example.com
Price: $13.8 million (U.S.)
Size: 8,730 square feet
Bathrooms: 6 full, 1 half