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Sam’s Castle

Tour an ornately decorated coastal castle in Pacifica

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With its square towers and walls made of rectangular concrete blocks resembling ancient stonework, this architectural oddity about 15 miles southwest of San Francisco looks like something out of a Shakespeare play. But even though Macbeth or Hamlet would feel right at home at Sam’s Castle, this bluff-top castle overlooking the ocean actually has a uniquely California pedigree.

In the aftermath of the 1906 quake that rocked San Francisco, attorney Henry Harrison McCloskey decided to construct a home that could stand up to both fire and earthquake. The result was this fortress-like concrete compound in the Pacifica neighborhood of Sharp Park.

On once-a-month tours, Bridget Oates, author of Sam’s Castle, recounts the house’s unusual history. Dubbed the “intrepid castle woman” by a local newspaper editor, Oates explains her fascination with the site. “I lived down the hill from the castle in Sharp Park, and I became very curious as to why there was this beautiful, grand castle in the middle of a suburban neighborhood.” Her tours shed light on the castle’s days as a Prohibition-era speakeasy and its service as a Coast Guard station during World War II. Don’t miss the obligatory suit of armour, and the eccentric collection of furnishings and artwork assembled by Sam Mazza. The castle’s namesake Sam, who purchased the building in 1959, was a theater painter and decorator for 20th Century Fox.

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