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Luxury property focus: The ‘Western White House’ in California

We take a closer look at this luxury San Francisco Bay mansion inspired by The White House.

By Michael Atkinson  |  March 13, 2022
western white house header

The White House is one of the most famous and iconic residences in the world, the home and office of the President of the United States of America, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. Known at times over the years as the ‘President’s Palace’, ‘the President’s House’ and the ‘Executive Mansion’, the exclusive address became known as The White House in 1901, named as such by President Theodore Roosevelt.

It was Roosevelt who undertook a major and extensive refurbishment of the historic property, first resided in by President John Adams, who moved into the unfinished building in 1800, which had been over eight years in construction, the site for the property first selected by America’s first President, George Washington, in 1791. Designed by the Irish born architect James Hoban, it has been extended and remodelled considerably since its original designs. Roosevelt created the now famous ‘West Wing’ and his successor, President William Howard Taft, commissioned what has become the most famous office in the world – the Oval Office.

western white house exterior
The exterior of the property mirrors many aspects of The White House

Given it’s unlikely that The White House will ever be seen for sale with any luxury property realtor, those aspiring to live like the President and with $25 million available, could acquire 401 El Cerrito Avenue in Hillsborough, California, which is the next best thing, complete with its very own Oval Office.

At over 17,000 sq ft with 11 bedrooms and on a plot stretching to 2.9 acres, 401 El Cerrito Avenue is described by Sotheby’s International Realty, as one of the region’s ‘finest legacy estates’. This exquisite and grand neoclassical Georgian mansion was built in 1915 and is known as the ‘Western White House’. The stunning mansion clad in white is styled similarly to The White House, its external look mirroring many aspects of The White House with the likes of a colonnade similar to the Colonnade of The White House which leads to the Oval Office.

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The palatial mansion features a bright and elegant interior

A man familiar to Presidents and no stranger to The White House and the Oval Office, was William Randolph Hearst, the famed American newspaper magnate. One of the world’s most famous and influential media magnates (at the peak of his career, he had around 30 newspapers in American cities and expanded into magazines, creating the largest newspaper and magazine business in the world), his lasting legacy is the extraordinary Hearst Castle, which sits on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Architect Julia Morgan was employed to develop the spectacular retreat in San Simeon, a home with 165 rooms and 123 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways. The property housed Hearst’s enviable art collection including American and European Old Master paintings and sculptures, as well as tapestries, oriental rugs, Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities, silver and rare furniture.

Hearst Castle is now a celebrated national property in California and welcomes visitors from across the globe to take a glimpse into the world of one of the most influential Americans of his time. The famed and stunning property, a remarkable creation, is now a State Historical Monument and designated a National Historic Landmark.

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A large swimming pool sits within the manicured grounds

It was to Julia Morgan that the Hearst family subsequently turned to re-design 401 El Cerrito Avenue in 1930, the spectacular mansion having first been built in 1915. The estate is in the exclusive Hillsborough area of California, formed in 1910 when wealthy residents voted to keep it as an prestigious enclave and place restrictions on what could and could not be done in the area. Today, no property can be in a plot less than half an acre in size and apartments, condominiums and townhouses are not permitted. The area became renowned for its sprawling estates, some of which remain today, whilst others have disappeared over time and their plots subdivided for newer housing, still of opulent nature, but without the acreage associated with some of the early estates.

Other famous properties in the area include ‘Carolands’, similar to Hearst Castle, now a California Historical Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a sprawling American Renaissance and Beaux-Arts designed chateau, built by Harriett Pullman Carolan, the daughter of George Pullman, the 19th century industrialist who founded the Pullman company, manufacturer of the famous Pullman train carriages. In 1939, the Secretary of the Treasury investigated the possibility of Carolands becoming the ‘Western White House’.

The Tobin Clark ‘House on Hill’ Estate is also in Hillsborough, originally built for the bank heiress Celia Tobin Clark. The stunning Tudor styled estate was last on the market in 2012, listed for $29 million and eventually sold in 2014 for a reported $22.8 million.

western white house library
A key feature is the Oval Office inspired and wood panelled library

The immaculate ‘Western White House’ is reached via the gated entrance, a sweeping drive taking you to the mosaic motorcourt in front of the Georgian mansion. It has a magnificent entrance, the property entered after climbing the steps between white towering columns. The palatial mansion is bright and light throughout, with beautiful spacious formal entertaining areas, featuring oversized intricately decorated fireplaces and large Georgian sash windows and doors on to the expansive terraces.

A key feature is the Oval Office styled and wood panelled library. The property features its own movie theatre and has an expansive wine cellar. For fitness, there is a sizeable gym and a large swimming pool within the manicured grounds. As well as the Oval Office, The White House is famous for its rose garden, a garden bordering the Oval Office and West Wing and often used to stage receptions and media events. 401 El Cerrito Avenue likewise has its own rose garden, as well as extensive well kept lawns, trees and ivy arches running alongside the statue-studded pool.

Sotheby’s International Realty describes 401 El Cerrito Avenue as ‘unmatched in pedigree and amenities’ and ‘an estate truly fit for royalty’. An exquisite, opulent, grand residence set within beautiful and tranquil manicured gardens, this is a unique opportunity to own the ‘Western White House’ and to live like a President in one of the most impressive homes in the San Francisco Bay area of California.

Factbox

401 El Cerrito Avenue is listed with Jennifer Gilson with Sotheby’s International Realty.

Images courtesy of Jennifer Gilson and Sotheby’s International Realty.