Historical Saturday: Mark Hopkins Mansion

One does not have to look far to see the grandeur, and sometimes outright vulgarity, of historical San Francisco.  There was money here in the 1800’s, and those fortunate enough to have it did not mind showing it off in the homes they built.  Because of the earthquake and fire of 1906, many of these incredible structures only live today in the pictures of the past.

The Mark Hopkins mansion is one of these victims of the disaster.  Mark Hopkins, bookkeeper for the Central Pacific Railroad, began building a hilltop mansion for his wife, Mary, that was full of Gothic characteristics and ornamentation.  At the time, some criticized it as being too much, but others were impressed by its large scale and attention to detail.  Unfortunately, Mark Hopkins never lived to see the finished product.  He passed away in 1878 at the age of 65 just before the mansion was completed that same year.

Mary Hopkins lived in the expansive residence for only three years before she headed back East and married her Nob Hill mansion’s interior decorator, Edward Searles, in 1887.  She was 67 and he was 47 at the time of their nuptials.  Upon her death four years later in 1891, Searles inherited around 60 million dollars and spent the rest of his life working on building projects in the East, including the Searles Castle in Windham, New Hampshire.  Immediately following his wife’s death, Searles donated the Mark Hopkins Mansion to the San Francisco Art Association to be used as a school and museum. 

The Hopkins Mansion had a short life of only 28 years before the 1906 catastrophe.  It goes to show once again that there is nothing in this life that we have that can’t be taken from us in a few minutes by a match or a natural disaster.

Even though the residence is gone, the name lives on.  It is now the site of that luxury hotel named the InterContinental Mark Hopkins which is home to the Top of the Mark rooftop lounge.

Enjoy the weekend!

Mike

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