Long before San Francisco mayors troubled themselves with worldly issues like the Kyoto Protocol and same-sex marriage, James Rolph ran The City. “Sunny Jim” was San Francisco’s mayor from 1912 until he resigned to become governor of California in 1931.
“Sunny Jim” was larger than life. His former guesthouse, Casa Cielo, is evidence. The one-of-a-kind residence is now on the market for the first time in 60 years, listing at $3.75 million.
Rolph, who lived next door at 775 Sanchez St., built Casa Cielo in 1930, reportedly to house his mistress, silent-film actress Anita Page. The house had no kitchen. Servants brought over her meals. “She lived here, but she got fed,” listing agent Payton Stiewe said dryly.
That the home has two detached bedrooms — one a studio apartment over the garage, the other accessible via an outdoor stairway — suggests that perhaps the mayor was keeping more than one mistress idling at the ready.
Rolph hosted parties and smoky backroom meetings in Casa Cielo’s grand, lodgelike top-floor living room. With no written records of individual gatherings, we can only imagine what deals were struck in the room, as dignitaries stood on Rolph’s ostrich skin floor, overlooking his grand city.
Prohibition was the rule in 1930. Rolph ignored it.
When Rolph died in 1934, the home was purchased by a prominent eye surgeon, who owned it for 10 years. During his ownership, the surgeon managed to do some work on a relative of Benito Mussolini. So pleased was the Italian dictator that he sent over a lavish fountain as a gift. The fountain still stands in Casa Cielo’s entrance courtyard.
Joseph Salaman, who owned tanneries in what is now Redwood Shores, bought the property in the mid-1940s. The Salaman family has owned it since, passing it down through several generations until finally putting it on the market as a trust sale in early August.
Over six decades, the Salamans updated the property with grandeur consistent with Sunny Jim’s original vision. Walls are covered with Italian Fortuny silk. Stained glass windows and embossed ceiling details are the norm. Some of these details may recall San Luis Opisbo’s over-the-top Madonna Inn, it is also quite clear that there is no other San Francisco residence like Casa Cielo.
3690 21ST ST.
Where: San Francisco
Asking price: $3,745,000
Property tax: $48,685 (estimated)
The property: Historic Liberty Hill home with four bedrooms, four bathrooms, three fireplaces, approximately 5,000-square-foot lot, 180-degree views.
Notable: Built in 1930 by former San Francisco Mayor (and California Gov.) “Sunny Jim” Rolph — for parties and to house his mistress, Anita Page.
Agent: Payton Stiewe, Sotheby’s International Realty. www.casacielo.com.
1810 EDGEWOOD DRIVE
Asking price: $3,980,000
Property tax: $51,740 (estimated)
The property: Ranch-style Hillsborough estate with 3,810 square feet, five bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, half-acre lot.
Notable: Completely remodeled 1953 home has a pool and a semi-circular Travertine driveway.
Agent: Lily Wu, Coldwell Banker, (650) 291-8282.
1170 SACRAMENTO ST. NO. 7C
Where: San Francisco
Asking price: $3,350,000
Property tax: $43,550 (estimated)
The property: Top of Nob Hill condo with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, 2,052 square feet and stunning views.
Notable: Located in a full-service building.
Agent: Stephen Patton, Gomez & Patton Real Estate, (415) 345-4200.