Caselli Mansion in Castro – A Different Kind of Apartment Building


Built in 1892, the legendary Caselli Mansion was the Mac-Mansion of its time. Its enormous size and height simply dwarfed all the buildings on the nearby blocks. Attracted by this architectural wonder, I decided to check out the mansion today.

Caselli Mansion sits at the corner on the bottom of a sloped hill. To approach it, you have to first walk up the steps at the corner to the base of the building foundation. And then a flight of step would bring you up to the colonnaded porch which offers an amazing vista of the downtown. Inside the entrance lobby, there is grand staircase that takes you to the first upper floor. To go up to the attic or the lower level, you have to take the servant staircase in the back. Although the original open space on the main floors have been partitioned and divided into different apartments, the former glory of the mansion can still be felt in the detailing and craftsmanship of the wood panels, door moulding, ceiling plaster work and giant double hung windows.

On the outside, Caselli Mansion has a fairly symmetrical façade with a pair of turreted towers and tall chimneys. The attic is formed by a steep hip roof topped by a decorative tower in the center and a projecting pitched roof in the front. A third larger round tower in the back soars further into the sky than the two towers in the front.

Because of the building complexity, a variety of spaces were created when Caselli Mansion was divided into apartments. Some rooms have a flat ceiling and a rectangular layout; some rooms in the tower would have a circular floor plan; rooms on top of the tower have a coned ceiling and almost 270 degree view of the city; rooms on the upper attic have their own private staircases leading up from the top floor; I was told by a resident that a couple room in the tower even their own mezzanine. I find it very intriguing that how different types of spatial experience were created when they retrofitted the mansion into an apartment building. This collection of interesting and weird spaces would not be made possible if the mansion was planned as an apartment building from the beginning.

around 1892, photo copyright of


entry steps leading to the platform of the mansion

steps leading to the colonnaded porch

view of the colonnaded porch from below

view from the colonnaded porch, including the top of the transamerica pyramid

detail of the front door on porch

detail at doorway corner

detail of balustrade and post

detail od mouldings

grand staircase

wood panel at grand staircase

tiled painting of the original mansion

hallway at third floor (above main and second floors)

hallway at lower floor

caselli mansion was at one time the california general hospital

view of mansion from across caselli st.

view from afar on caselli st.

the enormous size of caselli mansion can be seen from up the hill, click to zoom in!

zooming into the previous photo

another view of the mansion from afar

250 douglass st., san francisco – 2:09pm, jan 30, 2013


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