881 Innes Ave, San Francisco, CA 94124
For Sale: $975,000

Most talk these days is about homes that are underwater, but how about a home for sale with underwater stone caverns? This unique property on the San Francisco real estate market is the Albion Castle, and even listing agent Debbie Herzfeld, who has been in real estate for nearly 30 years, says she even hasn’t seen anything like it.

“It’s an interesting property to sell,” Herzfeld said.

Started as a brewery

According to San Francisco City Guide, London brewer John Burnell immigrated to San Francisco in 1868 and purchased waterfront property in a section of San Francisco now known as Hunter’s Point. The parcel featured underwater springs, and he set about starting Albion Porter & Ale Brewery.

Burnell dug out low, arched tunnels to serve as reservoirs and built a three-story, Norman castle-style stone tower in which to store the casked beer in a cool, dry space. Although popular, the brewery was short-lived. Upon the onset of Prohibition in 1920, the brewery was shut down and the property was abandoned.

In 1928 the property found new life. Leonard Mees, president of the Mountain Springs Water Company, purchased the water rights to the springs and reportedly supplied San Francisco with spring water until 1947. Whether the water is still good to drink is unknown; no testing has been done, according to Herzfeld.

While Mees was tapping into the spring water, the property was falling into disrepair until 1933 when sculptor Adrien Alexander Voisin purchased the property and built a home and adjacent studio amidst the ruins. But whether Voisin was the one who installed the throne-like toilet (photo, right), which plays “Le Bon Roi Dagobert” when the seat is lifted, is unknown.

Bounced around real estate market

The unusual mix of medieval-style stone work and 1930s home is now for sale for $975,000. The Hunter’s Point home has bounced on and off the San Francisco real estate market in recent years, first listed in 2009 for $2.95 million with a few price changes before the listing was removed in 2011 and re-listed at $1.1 million, and then $975,000, respectively.

The home last sold at an auction for $2.1 million in 2005. Median San Francisco home values are currently $655,000. According to a mortgage calculator, at the current price, this home will have a $3,619 monthly payment with a 30-year-fixed rate mortgage and 20 percent down.

Currently, the home is a receivership sale, meaning that the court has assigned the sale to a receiver to liquidate the assets for the owners. An offer has been accepted, but Herzfeld says that she’s continuing to show the property for possible overbids.

Although the home would work as a great single-family home with 1,436 square feet of living space and an updated kitchen with new Viking appliances, many of the people who have been interested in the property are brewers, restaurateurs or people who are looking for a place to hold special events.

And, the home’s three caverns are still accessible, said Herzfeld.

“You just go down through a gate.”



About the Author

Erika Riggs, the Zillow Digs manager, covers home design and trends.

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