The owner of the historic, three-plus acre Spring Estate in Thousand Oaks commissioned a tasteful update of several elements of the 12,000 square foot main house that successfully demonstrates how majestic Beaux-Arts Mansion can be brought back to glorious life. Bay Sotheby's International Realty's Top Producer Herman Chan enlisted HGTV host and Berkeley native celebrity designer Cora Sue Anthony to revamp the landmark estate. The Mansion's exterior was repaired and given a coat of gleaming white paint. The result returns the exterior close to the original state and it is easy to see why, in the days before the hillside was forested, the mansion resembled a glittering jewel visible from San Francisco across the bay.
Inside, many rooms in the Mansion have undergone an elegant metamorphosis. In the right hands, the home's over-sized grandeur can be modernized to achieve an intimacy more in keeping with today's aesthetics and lifestyles.
The Mansion is now awash in understated classic muted colors. The gleaming whiteness of 4 huge, stucco covered Tuscan columns now helps disperse light from the original stained-glass ceiling that tops the 30-feet atrium. Atop the stained glass is a colossal glass pyramid skylight. The total effect brings to mind a modern, livable version of San Simeon's Hearst Castle. A large dining room, billiards room, the kitchen, butler's pantry, breakfast room and servant's quarters complete the first floor.
Upstairs the 26-foot long master bedroom, with en suite, a separate dressing room with skylight, inglenook, and carved fireplace has also been dramatically staged to highlight the room's panoramic views of San Francisco Bay from Marin County to the South Bay.
JOHN HOPKINS SPRING:
The mansion was built by John Hopkins Spring, an entrepreneur who developed much of north Berkeley and Albany, and was instrumental in the building of Berkeley's Claremont Hotel. Spring began buying land in the East Bay prior to the San Francisco earthquake. He made a fortune after 1906 selling San Franciscans who fled the city for safer locations across the bay. In 1912, he commissioned John Hudson Thomas to design a grand residence designed to promote his development of the Thousand Oaks area. The result was an imposing structure on the nearly bare hillside that was visible for miles even, reportedly, from San Francisco.
John Hudson Thomas graduated from Yale in 1902 and completed graduate work in the Department of Architecture at U.C. Berkeley in 1904. He is considered one of the most innovative California architects of the first quarter of the 20th century. Thomas' homes span, and sometimes combine, California bungalow, Prairie, Mission, even Gothic and Vienna Secession styles. He was also a master at combining materials in his exteriors. Thomas is noted for his deliberate over-scaling, and the Spring Mansion is built on a grand Roman scale. Spring Mansion features many of Thomas' signature elements: bays, multi-shaped windows, and the eclectic and romantic mixture of visual influences. These combine with the more formal and classical elements of the Mansion's design to illustrate Thomas' skill and ability to borrow from many modes and fuse them into a unique and powerful overall design.
The Springs moved into the Mansion in 1914, but Spring himself lived there barely a year before abandoning it and his family to run off with a nurse 25 years his junior. He sold the mansion after his divorce in 1918. Sixteen acres of the original garden were subdivided and sold, and the house and remaining acreage became the Cora L. Williams Institute of Creative Development. For the next 5 decades the estate operated as a private school. Many prominent people taught or lectured at the Institute including dancer Isadora Duncan and psychiatrist Alfred Adler.
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