Click on the play button above to see this story in images.
I couldn’t sleep last night. After hours of flailing from side to side, I was convinced I had dreaded restless leg syndrome. But then, I sat straight up in bed and instantly whispered two words that softly emerged from the dark blue night – ghost turret?
Hidden in the Shadows
I sensed a reckoning was looming as evidenced by the mysterious two words that came out of nowhere. What could ghost turret possibly mean in terms of our Golden Gate renovation? Perhaps the discovery of some long-hidden secret was materializing like a ghost from the shadows?
After strongly affirming our cherished house with good bones had stood the test of time, I humbly confess I was wrong. The fabled turret with five old-world fireplaces, multiple charming nichos, and tiny ancient corbels had indeed appeared strong and stable. But lately we discovered the old girl has undeniably hidden her age.
One of my favorite interior architectural elements in Golden Gate is a dramatic archway that connects the dining room and family room. Sadly, a fissure has unceremoniously appeared in the top of the arch, reaching across its 24″ depth and around the corner into an adjacent brick wall.
About a month ago, following the demolition of doors, windows, ceilings, floors, stucco and plaster, the crew began excavating under the house to repair the cracked foundation. When I arrived at the jobsite one day after this process began, I was startled that the crevice running down the side of our majestic turret had spread even wider and deeper than the first time I discovered it the week before.
Turret Dilemma & Danger
When our team had an on-site meeting the following week, Edwin, our general contractor told Marshall he couldn’t sleep at night due to worrying about stabilizing the turret.
Then Marshall called from the jobsite urgently asking if I would consent to taking down the turret. He said the engineer, general contractor, and project manager had all agreed with him that it was the right thing to do. I swallowed hard, took a deep breath and asked why in a wobbly voice. Then I felt sick to my stomach.
The following week, Marshall and I arrived at Golden Gate to learn our project foreman, Carlos, thought the still-standing turret had become a safety issue. We immediately sought an expedited approval from the local Planning and Building Department to dismantle and rebuild every brick structure in the exact shape, size and location where each presently stood.
Bricks Come Tumbling Down
Within a few days, scaffolding went up, templates were made, photos were taken, and measurements were recorded on each of the existing brick structures.
Then, one by one, ancient bricks came tumbling down from the 35′ high turret until nothing was left except the large concrete base and a half-moon shaped imprint in the edge of the roof. I cried when I saw the huge pile of archaic clay blocks and fragments scattered around a large, lonely blob of concrete that had lost its purpose.
Once the turret came down, one of our outstanding crew members, Christian, carefully disassembled the bricks comprising the interior dining room wall that held a charming arched fireplace opening.
Deconstruction of the family room fireplace wall and brick archway came next. But the crew were careful to separate the chiseled pieces used to compose the bottom ledge of the nicho, from the adjacent rectangular bricks
Hundreds of old bricks were loaded onto multiple pallets then diligently placed on trucks and transported to our general contractor’s storage yard across the Bay. They will remain protected there until the exterior and interior brick elements are recreated on site exactly as they were a century ago.
Resurrecting Golden Gate
Although I was initially devastated by the loss of our historic turret, I now feel fortunate the issue presented itself when it did, and we had the opportunity to make the decisions that would keep our team safe.
And even though the turret ultimately tumbled to the ground, it will rise again to look exactly as it did in 1929 when this photograph was taken. Marshall and I, along with the dedication and skill of our talented team, will make sure of that.
Until that process begins, I believe the spirit and energy of the ghost turret in its pinnacle position on this tiny island will continue to watch over our magical property in the San Francisco Bay.
Happy fall, everyone. Thanks for sticking with me on this audacious journey. Be sure to pay attention to words whispered in the night and no matter what you do, don’t give up the ghost!
For the love of old and new turrets,
The only thing there is to say is that it will be better, safe, and ultimately the same when done and focus on the rest. Don’t get overwhelmed. I say this because it’s how I’d feel, but then time to look forward. A lot of progress is being made.
I loved the short clip at the end, the bricks are irreplaceable and spectacular! What a journey this is, and I am so proud of you and Marshall for keeping the faith and holding steady on your long-term vision.
Three cheers to the spirit and energy of the ghost turret!
I love the spirit of that photo from 1929! I’m sure it was a devastating blow at first, but this unique turret and all of its idiosyncrasies will be back soon. So grateful for the intersection of modern technology and time honored construction practices that will result in her return, safer and better than ever.
This is such a magical journey that you both are sharing with us. I can’t wait as more is revealed….
PATIENCE, INTEGRITY, LOVE. AND WISDOM…………AND THE MUSIC IS MAGIC! CARRY ON BRAVE AND COURAGEOUS MEN.
It will be beautiful again. And what a view to enjoy looking at the bay.
You’ve got this, Linda, even with tears in your eyes. Sail on….
I am so intrigued with the history you are showing us.
Also the fortitude and ambition you and Marshall have, to see the ghost turret coming down must’ve been an agonizing trip.
I bet that was Marshall playing the piano while letting you know that he would make sure the bricks will be back in place in your turret.
Absolutely fascinating! Thanks Linda for taking us along on this journey!
Holy moly!!!!!! What an ordeal! It’s positively Shakespearean!
This shall come to an end and then a spectacular reincarnation of Golden Gate shall emerge! Saving those fabulous old bricks and documenting their positioning will return that turret to safely beautiful. The photos are certainly eloquent!
As one who lived in this fabulous home in the late 50’s and early 60’s, I appreciate you saving the core of this majestic home. I look forward to the reconstruction. Thank you.
Coming from a long lineage of New England brick layers and who continues to work in the field of masonry construction I can totally empathize with your internal stress and loss of sleep .
You did the right thing, as painful as it was to demolish . The challenge will now come in rebuilding as brick laying skill and craftsmanship is hard to come by these days. Fortunately our technology for building with brick has greatly improved since your original construct so your new construction will be safe and sound and will last another 100 + years ( and quite expensive as fine masonry construction is time consuming and takes great skill)
Here in Marin we are lucky to have a group of talented masons who immigrated here from Mexico and now live in Sonoma. I hope your general contractor has tapped this inceredibly talented group of men. They are a joy to work with.
WOW what a story – what photos! You have created such a work of art out of the chaos and catastrophe of “remodeling” – and I think that prepares you to speak to the world, because our structures of everything from healthcare, to the financial realm, to education, infrastructure, energy and on and on ALL in the same sad shape with cracks and falling apart that you discovered… Anyway Linda – much love to you! And blessings from Mexico!
This is a time capsule of past and present which should be captured in photos (as you have done expertly) and in words to perverse the history of this home and the home it is to become.
WAY TO GO Marshall and Linda
Love the 1929 photo you have of the house. Looking forward to seeing it all rise again. This has been like reading a favorite book except the pages turn slower, but your new home will be safe and spectacular for you when finished🌻