A few years back, Steen and I were looking at an apartment for rent in Glen Park (just south of SF’s Mission District). The Craigslist post it was 1,000 sqft, but it appeared to only be 400. It was a very small apartment that had two and a half floors (counting the rather large loft bed). Way too small for us.
But then the property manager said “Do y’all want to see the mansion”
It turns out the property we were looking at was really built as a sort of privacy gate to hide a massive mansion on the other side. From the street, the buildings all looked normal, but behind them was a huge private park that was already becoming overgrown. There were sculptures and murals everywhere, but the real treasures were located inside the mansion. There were a couple of Liberace’s pianos, a fake Rembrandt tapestry that was created to trick the Nazis from stealing the original, and piles of empty pizza boxes and open anchovies containers everywhere. On the second floor, there was an indoor pool with a jet ski in it.
This was Bob Pritikin‘s home, also known as the Chenery Mansion. It was gaudy and weird and so falling apart. We didn’t meet Bob on this trip, though we could hear him coughing and screaming at his tv in another room. Bob was a wealthy eccentric with many legendary tales about him.
As we chatted with the property manager in one of the upstairs kitchens, I noticed a metal sculpture on a table in the middle of the room. It was an Alexander Calder scultpure. It was surrounded by half empty pizza boxes and was held together with duct tape.
We were told that if we rented the smaller apartment, we’d have access to the mansion whenever we wanted. I was tempted, but knew I could never fit all my stuff into that tiny apartment. So we passed on the listing to friends.
I’ve seen a lot of weird things in San Francisco before, but that tour through Bob Pritikin’s mansion was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I really couldn’t do it justice here.
Since then, the property has been sold. Bob has moved into a retirement home, and the new owners are still figuring out what to do with the property. The mansion, I’m told, is empty now. There are still some of Bob’s old tenants living on the property until the new owners decide what to do with the space.