Monday, December 14, 2009

A Home of Historic Proportions

I grew up around the block from this home. I can never remember anyone ever living in it, but what I'll always remember about this house, was an annual Christmas tradition that my brothers and I will always cherish as an important part of our collective childhood Christmas memories. It would happen seemingly overnight...all of a sudden the front window would become brightly lit, illuminating, behind thin gauzy drapes, a pair of reindeer. It was pure magic! Their silhouette was larger than life! It signaled to us that Christmas was here! We begged our Mom to drive by it every evening so we could see this mysterious house come alive once a year! Of course, we all made up stories over the years about this grand old home that kept up it's annual homage to Christmas, but continued to remain vacant for all these years.

Well, it was big news all around town this month when it was advertised that for the first time in over 50 years there was going to be an estate sale at The Mulvaney House!
Being the treasure hunter that I am, coupled with years of fascination surrounding this iconic home, I just had to get there early and secure my place in line. When my number was called, I eagerly made my way into the house that had captured my imagination for so long!

Aside from years of neglect, it did not disappoint! It was an architectural masterpiece. It was built in 1928 for approx. $20,000. Everything was original except for the kitchen. One of the most unusual architectural features about the house is the placement of the 2 garages. Because the house sits on the corner of Gibbons Drive and Northwood Drive, it wraps around both streets. There is a separate garage on each side of the house, one accessed on Gibbons Drive, the other on Northwood Drive, the street I grew up on.

The trustees for the estate were there and regaled the throngs of curious visitors, who came through the house over the 4 day sale, with the storied history of it's owner, John Jacob Mulvaney.

John J. Mulvaney was a prominent figure in the Republican Party. He was a Delegate to the Republican National Convention from California in 1944, 1948 (alternate), 1952, and 1956. He founded one of the first banks in Alameda, which later merged with The Bank of Italy, which then went on to become The Bank of America.

"Alameda's John J. Mulvaney, was a visionary. Back in 1917, he scouted the west end of Alameda, then known as Alameda Point, and envisioned a naval base that might be erected on the 1700 acres of marshland. Through determination and vision his dreams became a reality. And for over 60 years Alameda and the East Bay benefited from the activities that maintained our ships and repaired the military aircraft."

The Mulvaney's entertained many historical figures in their beloved home over the years, such as Admiral Nimitz and Presidents Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Nixon.

At the end of World War ll, The Mulvaney's suffered an unbearable tragedy, the loss of their only son. The war had ended and he and his driver were on their way home when they were ambushed and killed by a rogue Nazi. It is said that The Mulvaney's were never the same.
After their deaths, their daughter, Marion, could not bear to live in the family home but could not bear to sell it either, and just kept it as a sort of monument to her family's legacy.
She continued to live in Alameda and was involved in many local charitable organizations.
I heard that she moved back into the house during the last few years of her life, and quietly passed away earlier this year.

It seems fitting that the final chapter in this family's story ends in the month of December, as it has always been an integral part of Christmas for me throughout my entire life.

The garage located on the Gibbons Drive side, one of the most beautiful streets in Alameda.

A side entrance located on Gibbons Drive.

The front door and formal entry which is on Gibbons Drive

Here is the infamous dramatic front window where the "reindeer" would appear illuminated behind the sheer drapes every December, signaling the beginning of the Christmas Season!
There is my sweet, ever patient husband, taking a stroll around the property.

This is the view looking down Northwood Drive.

The left side of the house on Northwood Drive.

Here is garage #2 which is located on Northwood Drive. There is also a side entrance on this side of the house as well. They really knew how to design houses in the 1920's!

The sidewalk going past the house, down Gibbons Drive.

This is a view of Gibbons Drive. It's truly breathtaking during the Fall and Winter months.
Did you know the word, "Alameda", means tree lined street?

This is the house across the street. It too, was vacant for many years. A young couple purchased it several years ago and have lovingly restored it. I was told they acquired the piano and dining room set from Marion before she died.

The living room

A beautiful tiled fountain just outside the french doors off the entry, beyond the living room.

The separate garage accessed off Gibbons Drive, from the backyard.

Check out the amazing ceiling in the living room. Unfortunately, Marion talked her mother into re-painting the interior this awful blue color. Fortunately, she didn't paint over the dining room which is still original and quite breathtaking!

One of the upstairs bedrooms. One my favorite things about this house is the floor plan.
It's so intimate and cozy, especially for such a grand home.

Another bedroom. You can see the charming covered balcony just outside the windows.
There are 3 bedrooms upstairs and one downstairs, just off the paneled den.

The formal staircase. There is another back staircase hidden behind a door in the paneled den, which leads to another bedroom.

The last of the 3 bedrooms located upstairs.

Descending the formal staircase leading to the formal entry

Here again is the view out to the backyard and tiled fountain off the entry. Notice the fabulous arched curtain hardware...all original!

A close up view of that fabulous ceiling in the living room.

More fabulous curtain panels and hardware...all original!

The infamous reindeer, still in position and ready to ring in the holidays!

Brings back memories!!!
Apparently they are such a part of Alameda Christmas lore that a price tag couldn't be determined, so they are going to be auctioned off to the highest bidder!

The paneled den just behind the staircase, off the entry.

The dining room with it's original painted ceiling, walls, light fixtures, draperies & hardware.
It is well known that there were many parties that took place in this gorgeous room!

The original rag rolled finish which is very close to what was once throughout the rest of the house before Marion decided to re-paint it blue :(

This leads down to what they called, the ballroom.

I found an amazing treasure down here, but you'll have to wait until my next post to find out what it is!


Kathysue said...

Terri, what an amazing house and oh look at all the treasures, how fun, I wish I could have joined you. Can not wait to see your treasure. Looking forward to tomorrow,Kathysue

Kitty said...

Uh-oh. I think my comment got messed up. Anyway, as I was saying... this place is marvelous! Loved the tinsel tree. What a shame no one has been living in and loving this amazing house!

Happy To Be/ Gl♥ria said...

Terrie...what a fun tour girl...I grew up in Alameda on Benton street and we were surround by all these old homes which I just loved...we even had a pull chain toilet in our house with 12 foot ceilings and an old farm house sink and built in ironing board in the kitchen...Oh how I loved that house...I think its been tore down now...we had huge high heavy pocket doors also...Thanks for sharing...Hugs and smiles Gl♥ria

cjsullivan133 said...

I guess I missed this post as I did not know you yet! (Met you on Christmas Eve.?).. Anyway, I will strangle you next time if you do not let me know you are going into one of these GRAND ESTATES!! I too love that house! They actually had the reindeer lit up these last two years unless I am dreaming!! Gosh I miss Alameda. I would drive home down that street to get to our house. What a ceiling! Wowie. You know that baby-powder blue (Robin-egg blue) is a great color when you see it matched with black framed sepia toned photo's in a very stark environment. I agree though that it does not look good here. Gorgeous light fixtures!