“aka the pacifica castle aka mccloskey's castle”
When the zombie apocalypse inevitably occurs, I think I've found the perfect place to hide out: Sam's Castle. It's perched on a hill, offering a beautiful view perfect for spoting the undead from a distance, it's built to withstand earthquakes and natural disasters, and it's filled to the brim with rad art (all arranged by a well-known interior decorator, to boot!) McCloskey castle was originally built to be an earthquake-safe fortress for prominent San Francisco lawyer Henry McCloskey and his family, who he moved into the Medieval-style building before completion in case of another freak accident, like the earthquake of 1906 that left hundreds dead, destroyed much of the city and spurred his decision to make a massive, disaster-proof estate. He chose to build it in the style of a castle for his Scottish wife, who was homesick for the big, old estates of Scotland. In 1916, the building was sold to one "Doctor" Galen Richard Hickok (the dude was known for using aliases and stealing identities), who mysteriously didn't live or work in the building-- or so people thought. It happened that he was actually performing illegal abortions in the castle-- it wasn't long before he was arrested and convicted of running an underground abortion clinic and was sentenced to a few years in San Quentin. Shortly after that, though, the doctor's son, Max, took up his father's practice and once again began using the building as "a retreat for girls and women unwilling to become mothers". Like his father, he was arrested and sentenced to prison once his abortion operation was revealed. Scandal continued to plague the castle when it was then purchased by M.L. Hewitt and turned into Chateau LaFayette, a prestigious restaurant that, despite its reputation, had its own dirty little secret: Hewitt began to use the castle as a badass speakeasy during Prohibition. Like many speakeasies during the day, it was also probably a bordello and was frequently raided by the Feds until it finally closed its doors for good. It was eventually bought by Clarence and Annie Eakin, a less scandal-ridden couple who used the estate to raise money for the Red Cross. They also leased it to the Coast Guard, who used it as a communications post during World War II to guard against Japanese submarines that threatened the coast. Famed interior decorator for movie studios Sam Mazza purchased the house in 1959. He used it to display his "eclectic collection of objects d’art from California and beyond", and frequently held lavish galas and balls in the castle-- you'll see lots of crowns throughout the rooms; they were a favorite motif of Mazza's. Definitely my kind of guy-- a little eccentric, but he liked what he liked. Even though he passed away in 2002, his foundation has continued to take care of the estate and all of its treasures inside. Twice a year, the Pacifica Historical Society offers tours of the castle, which is a rare glimpse inside the gorgeous, unque building to see some truly gorgeous and unique artifacts. -Roadtrippers Built in the wake of the 1906 earthquake as a family refuge away from San Francisco by H. H. McCloskey, attorney for the Ocean Shore Railroad. Since then, the castle has been home to a wide variety of interesting occupants. They have ranged from an illegal abortion clinic and a Prohibition-era speakeasy the "Chateau Lafayette" to a communications center for the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II to guard against Japanese saboteurs potentially coming ashore from their submarines. In 1959, Sam Mazza, a theater painter/decorator for 20th Century Fox, purchased the Castle and created a museum of theater decor; decorating it with period pieces, artwork and decorative items that had been used in films or onstage.
“Stories+Sea views+So much Stuff to See!”
I love California history, especially Bay Area history! So the Tour of Sam’s Castle really filled my tank. The tour was lead by Bridget Oates, who gathered the information and authored a book about Sam’s Castle as part of the ‘Images of America’ book collection. How have I lived for 57 years in the greater SF Bay Area and not know about Sam’s Castle before? So many fascinating stories of the previous owners, yummy stories about parties, prohibition and the paranormal! And then there’s the man himself, Sam Mazza, the last owner of the castle. Wow, they should make a movie about him!
I also have become intrigued with castles in CA, so it was great that this one was just an hour drive from my home in the East Bay. I loved the ocean views, the castle-feel and the architecture.
Last but least the eclectic collection that still decorates the castle, fun and funky. Luckily they do not rush you through the tour, so much to see and snap photos of. A great offbeat activity on the San Mateo Coast for adults or teens who enjoy Bay Area history. The ticket price of $30 may seem a bit high but having visited other Nor Cal Castles (Hearst, Winchester Mystery House, and Tor House in Carmel) the price is in line with other tours that allow photography. And it’s the only one where you get to wear a crown & robes, ensconced on a throne!
The history behind this place is incredible!! The Pacifica Historical Society offers tours twice a year or so, and they're not to be missed. The last owner was a slightly eccentric movie set decorator, so the whole place is tricked out with crazy art.
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