When we met in San Francisco to explore the city for settings and locations for Soul Keeper and our Brotherhood of Shadows series, we also went on some fun tourist sightseeing adventures. We wanted to see the famous Painted Ladies, otherwise known as “Postcard Row” or the “Seven Sisters,” the colorful Victorian houses located on Steiner Street across from Alamo Square Park.
The Ladies were wonderful, but as we looked across Alamo Square Park, we couldn’t believe our eyes.There stood the most incredible home, standing all dark and brooding, a Gothic Victorian mansion from another time. We couldn’t believe it! This was it! We had found the perfect location for the home Aurora Montgomery shares with her closest friends, Solaya Lawton and her twin Aseneth Lawton.
We were thankful we had taken the time to see those lovely Painted Ladies. Without them we might never have discovered the Lawton house! It is with great pleasure we bring you the history of the Westerfeld House.
Feel a Chill Run Down Your Spine
It isn’t hard to find beautiful homes and stunning architecture in San Francisco, but if you ever find yourself driving up Fulton Street and feel a chill run down your spine, you could be near the historic Westerfeld House.
Located at 1198 Fulton Street at Scott Street, this gothic Victorian mansion was built in 1889 by builder Henry Geilfuss, who was hired to design the building for William Westerfeld. A German-born confectioner, Westerfeld arrived in San Francisco in the 1870s, and he owned a chain of bakeries in the area.
Whether the rumors are true that the Westerfeld House was built to one-up his brother who already had a beautiful local home or as a personal legacy to Westerfeld’s success in the San Francisco area, this property has earned a storied reputation as a place where haunted visions from the past can be felt as soon as you step inside.
Twists and Turns of Fate for the Westerfeld House
After William Westerfeld died in 1895, the property started its long, eccentric journey through some of the most colorful names in history. Although first sold to the Mahony Brothers who converted the estate’s gardens into housing flats, the house changed hands multiple times between the turn of the century and the 1980s:
- 1928: Czarist Russians purchased the home and turned the ballroom on the ground floor into a nightclub called Dark Eyes. Locals referred to the house during this time as the “Russian Embassy”.
- 1948:After being converted into a 14-unit apartment building, the house became home to a number of African-American musicians, including John Handy, who played at the local jazz clubs.
- 1965:The next owner of the house never even lived in it! Charles Fracchia purchased the house as a residence but didn’t reside there, although the house was featured in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Eventually, a 50-member collective known as The Calliope Company moved in.
- Late 1960s:These were the years that mark the beginning of the haunted legends of the house. Kenneth Anger, an underground filmmaker, moved into the home—often hosting guests that included Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, and Charles Manson.
Eventually members of the Family Dog moved in to have a base for promoting acid rock concerts at the Avalon Ballroom. Guests to the home during this time included members of the Grateful Dead.
- 1970s:The house was purchased in 1969 by two men who wanted to restore it but ultimately made only a half-hearted attempt to resurrect the home to its former glory. However, they were able to save it from destruction during the urban renewal project of the time.
Rising from the Ashes through the Hands of Jim Siegel
While the Westerfeld House was changing hands, acting as the setting for satanic rituals, and eventually falling victim to a less-than-ideal restoration, Jim Siegel was planning his dream of owning the home and returning it to its original majesty.
Obsessed with the architecture of the house in The Addams Family from the age of eight, Seigel was mesmerized the first time his parents drove him by the Westerfeld House.
Making Good on His Dream to Own the Westerfeld House
Down the road, Siegel returned to this dream after claiming that he had a vision of himself owning the home during an acid trip, and in that vision, he understood exactly how to make it happen. After that point, Siegel took off in a career in real estate development, purchasing Victorian homes throughout the area. When the Westerfeld House came up for auction in 1986, he quickly sold three other properties to narrowly win the bid for the house at a price of $775,000.
Restoring the Home through a Labor of Love
Since that fateful day in 1986, Siegel has made it his life’s mission to restore the home one room at a time. But first—he had the property blessed by Buddhist monks, because, as he put it, “The Satanist stuff kind of freaked me out”. Once that was taken care of, he earned his licensed contractor certification and slowly worked his way through restoring 25 rooms of the house.
As for the future? Well, that remains to be seen.
Siegel has said that although the property is worth millions, he has every intention to protect it during his lifetime, and he’d like to see it become a museum, like the Haas-Lilienthal House. Regardless of what the future may hold, he says it well when stating, “For me, it was never about the money. It has always been about the house, and my love for it.”