home Features Crazy Houses Around Here

Crazy Houses Around Here

By Whitney Wisnom

There are some pretty interesting houses in San Mateo County that not everyone knows about. Or maybe you know them by sight, but have no idea what the deal is. Well, here’s the deal.

Flinstones House. Photo by author

The Flintstone house. If you live in the Bay area and have driven on I-280, you should know what house this is. It is the funky looking residence on the very edge of Hillsborough, that’s bright orange and purple, and looks like it was taken right out of the Flintstones cartoon. The house was built in 1977, and has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and sits on two acres of land. In 2015, the house was put on the market, and is available to anyone willing to pay $3,195,000. It was listed in the four million dollar range, but surprisingly no one wanted this Bay Area landmark at that price.

Flinstones House kitchen. Via Google free use images

When speaking with the house’s realtor, Judy Meuschke, one of the first thing she said, “I love the conversation pit. The house feels very private.”

Conversation pit in the Flinstones House. Via Google free use images

She also mentioned that, “there have been some interesting people from various work fields and age groups” interested in purchasing the house. Although the house may seem a little oddly shaped, she says, “I don’t really find anything dysfunctional. You do need to be creative when you hang artwork.”

The Carolands Mansion

Carolands, via Google free use images

Hillsborough is home to many mysteries, and the Flintstones house is just one of many. The Carolands Mansion, (most of you probably haven’t heard of it) is the biggest house/private estate west of the Mississippi, and lies right in the middle of Hillsborough. The house has had a long, rich history and has been on the market multiple times. In the Great Depression, the U.S. Government even considered buying Carolands and using it as a Western White House. The Kennedy administration also considered it for this purpose.

The house was built  in1916, by Harriet Pullman who hired a French architect. Harriet was the daughter of George Pullman, 19th century industrialist, and one of the wealthiest men in Chicago. (He designed and manufactured the Pullman sleeping cars, which allowed people to travel overnight in trains – the height of luxury travel at the turn of the century.) Harriet expected the best-of-the-best, considering her upbringing, so when she married Francis J. Carolan and moved to San Francisco, she purchased 554 acres in the hills overlooking the bay and began constructing her dream chateau.

Harriet Pullman in her wedding portrait. Press photo from the book The Heiress and Her Chateau

In recent decades, the house fell into disrepair, then was purchased and restored  by Mr. and Mrs. Charles B. Johnson in 1998. Ann Johnson even went to Paris to learn about the architecture, so it would be authentic. They then moved into the Château as their personal residence, and have thrown lavish events on the property.

Carolands, via Google free use images

When talking with my grandmother, Ruth Wisnom, a frequent visitor of the estate, she shared some of her happy experiences there. She says, “When you are driving up and walking in, your first impression of the house is grand. When you enter, there is a double curving staircase in two directions to the second floor and a gorgeous ceiling and marble floor. There is a ballroom, a solarium, and rooms that don’t have a purpose,  but you can use them for anything and there are just so many.”

Her favorite room is the library, which is two stories high, and designed as a replica of ones found in great English houses. It has beautiful wood paneling, and all the books are on the second floor accessible via a balcony. She includes, “The dining room will seat at least 30 people [at one table].” There is also a garage underneath the house that could house around 35 cars.

Carolands library, via Google free use images

If you have an interest in taking a tour of the estate, they give tours in the summer.



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