Sam Mazza and his Castle

I’ve talked about Pacifica before and I figured it was time to talk about it again since I just discovered that Sam Mazza who owned the castle up on the hill and who died in 2001 now has his castle open to tours on the weekend by the Pacifica Historical Society.

I’ve only been able to see pictures of the inside and a few video clips from local news about the place, but I’ve never been able to actually enter Sam’s place. As it turns out Sam himself never lived there having purchased the castle in 1959 for $29,000 it was more a quirky art installation for him.

Sam was a painter who worked for theaters in the Bay Area and collected much of the stuff that in his mind was what a castle should have, swords, suits of armor, coats of arms and of course, a throne. After doing a little digging I found out the history of this castle on the hill and thought it would be interesting to share.

Built in 1908 originally by lawyer Henry H. McCloskey [grandfather of politician Pete McCloskey] it was to serve as a safe haven after the shake up in San Francisco in 1906 we all refer to as the Great Quake. When McCloskey died in 1916 it soon became of all things an abortion clinic run by a man with a history of identity theft. After his arrest his son continued the business until he also was arrested [remember back then not only was abortion illegal, but an extremely risky procedure.]

In the 20’s the castle passed to a miner from Montana who turned it into a speakeasy during prohibition with it expanding into a brothel. I’m sure the roaring 20’s roared pretty loud there since the police were regulars, but they usually entered with battering rams to try and shut the place down. Since the place kept in business even after the police kept trying to close it down I’m sure there were a few very powerful businessmen and politician probably from San Francisco who were caught in the age when they showed up. After it final closing it made a shift in the opposite direction being turned into a Red Cross station.

That would have been fine if the Eakins family which owned the castle and turned it into a Red Cross hadn’t leased it to the Coast Guard. Apparently the military folk didn’t treat the house too well and pretty much tore the place to pieces.

The castle sat in disrepair for years until Sam Mazza had a chance to realize his dream. I remember seeing him on TV once giving a tour to a field reporter for the local news. He was an unassuming guy that did what he did in the castle just because he could. One day, I’m hoping to have that ability too.

After his death he left money to start the Sam Mazza Foundation. Apparently being a painter could make you some decent money back then. Be sure to check out this site to see the slide shows of the inside and outside of the house. Oh and if you like spooky things the castle is also supposedly haunted, but how could it be a real castle without having a few ghosts walking around?

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The Aftermath…

Yesterday was the day we chose to celebrate the US unfollowing George III. So how did we all fare? Well from accounts of friends and family no one blew a hand off not even my friend Nikolai, the mad Russian who plays with fireworks like most of us played with toy trains as kids.

I noticed something this year that I hadn’t noticed in years previous. If you’re out in the Sunset at least [not sure about the rest of the city] you don’t really need to take a trip down to Crissy Field to watch fireworks. All you need to do it walk out into your backyard or peer out the window from any high point in your house to enjoy the show. Last night was pretty spectacular.

While the noise ran all day it didn’t really get started until around 6pm when we started to hear the M-80’s and bigger going off. They are always used to start the evening around here because they aren’t much to see, but they let everyone in a four mile radius know you’re there. These are usually accompanied by a few bottle rockets and the occasional dim bulb who sends up a decent skyrocket before the sun goes down.

The place really starts to get going around 9pm. This is where the surprises came in this year. Our house was rocked several times by what I first thought were sticks of dynamite only to walk outside and see skyrockets that were more bang than flash. These sounded like canons going off and all the car alarms were being triggered. I think my next door neighbor was sitting in his bedroom waiting for the next bang to pull out his keys and turn off the alarm because his car would only beep twice and stop. Close to 10pm is when everything kicks in for the final finale. Down by the beach there were very large shells being launched that rivaled the size of the Crissy Field shells. The only difference was since we’re up on a hill the were exploding at eye level.

If you get out to the Sunset on the Fourth of July probably one of the best places to go is the Northeast corner of the Sunset Reservoir. It’s high enough up and unblocked by most buildings that you get a clear shot down to the beach and all around you. I’m hoping one day when my daughter who slept through the thunder of the fourth starting at 7:30pm will be awake and we can make a trip up to the reservoir to watch the fun. I think she’ll enjoy it a lot.



Pacifica, CA

I had a chance to travel just a touch south of San Francisco yesterday to visit a friend who was in town and I decided to write about Pacifica for today. Pacifica is a bit of an isolated area in that you can get to it from Highway 280 or Highway 35, but the two intersect and the only way out is Highway 1 which turns into Highway 35, so I think you can see that it’s one way in and one way out.

Now Pacifica has a few little towns such as Lindamar, Vallmar and Rockaway Beach that aren’t really towns, but they kind of think they are. We met up at their hotel in Rockaway Beach which is the part of Pacifica where all the surfers go. If you’re not a surfer then you’re probably there to eat at Nick’s Restaurant. Nick’s was always a kind of getaway for people from San Francisco. It has a feel of the old school restaurants of Las Vegas without today’s prices. If you want seafood, Nick’s is the place to go. My parent’s and everyone in my family have a soft spot for Nick’s. I learned to actually enjoy a dish they have there called, scalone which is a mixture of scallops and abalone served as a sandwich. It was a treat that Nick’s started and while you can find it at other places, stick to Nick’s. They have things other than seafood, but if you want the experience of an old school Italian seafood restaurant it’s probably better than anything you’ll find on the wharf. Nick’s is less crowded, except on Sundays when they have their special brunch menu, but you’ll still be able to get a seat and have some good food while watching the waves and [hopefully not] watch the surfers change out of their wetsuits.

Just as a side note, my friend and his wife I was meeting are from way up north in California and they live in a place that’s somewhere between red and neck [any questions? Just drop Modoc County into google]. It turns out I found out that he has an elaborate set up at home for making his very own corn whiskey moonshine. I received a mason jar full of 145 proof corn whiskey that if I survive the drinking of it I will try and write about that if I can keep my eyes focused and my hand steady. He’s a good old boy and I appreciate that he brought some of his mad scientist brew for me to try.

Now back to Pacifica…Specifically Rockaway Beach is an interesting part of the area because if you look at the picture you’ll see that it has a lot of grass and rocky areas that remind me of pictures I’ve seen of Wales. This is definitely a place for hardy folk as the winds can pick up here in the afternoon and blow you over. On a calm sunny day [which is a bit rare for Pacifica] watching the sunset is one of the joys of this place.

If you go a bit north up to Sharp Park you’ll find one of the few black sand beaches in the area. I unfortunately didn’t have the time to stop and take pictures of the beach there, but the sand had a higher amount of iron oxide in it that gives it a black look and is fun to show off to your kids how cool the beach is with a magnet. Just a touch further north is Manor Drive which has the main shopping district of Pacifica. I have to say that with a bit of a wink because it’s not like any shopping mall you’ll encounter. It’s basically a grocery store with a few small shops around it. My wife and I were in Pacifica years ago looking at the possibility of buying a home there and stopped in for breakfast at Manor Drive at a coffee shop and while looking out at the early morning surfers and shore fisherman had to wonder how often the fisherman and surfers got entangled. We didn’t see any fights, so I suppose they’ve found a way to keep away from each other.

If you stop at Manor Drive, be sure to stop and look up on the hill to the southeast. You’ll see a castle up there. I don’t know if the original owner is still there, but he bought the house that looked like a castle and decided that if it looked like a castle on the outside he should make the inside look like one too. The only sad part was that aside from the occasional local TV show that would showcase him, he never offered tours. For a place like that I’d pay to walk around in.

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