2550 Webster: Entrance

As a plugged-in reader reported a week ago, “[The Bourn Mansion] is finally being emptied and mountains of trash removed.” And with bankruptcy heading off its courthouse sale, the landmark 2550 Webster has hit the MLS with an asking price of $2,900,000.

2550 Webster: Stairs

The bad news, the past three decades have not been overly kind to the Willis Polk designed mansion. The good news, “Transfer of Possession: Close of Escrow” rather than subject to tenants rights and some gorgeous detailing still remains.

2550 Webster: Living

∙ Listing: 2550 Webster (14/4.5) 9,762 sqft – $2,900,000 [MLS]

92 thoughts on “Landmark Bourn Mansion (2550 Webster) Listed And Your Peek Inside”
  1. I’ve said this before, but you really need 10 million to restore this property to its original grandeur – and that doesn’t include furnishings. You could probably do a half-assed job for 5 but you’d have to trash all the original interior details thus ending up with an unsellable mess like the 2008 Decorator Showcase. It’s waaaaaay more expensive to restore original elements than to trash them and stick in new molding, floors, etc.. Just the structural engineering needed to shore up the foundation will eat up 7 figures like that.
    Honestly, I hope whoever buys this who knows what they’re doing and has enough cash to spare to really give this home the treatment it deserves. The price is so low that I’m concerned an inexperienced person that isn’t sitting on a large amount of cash might think of this as the opportunity of a lifetime and wind up in a a pile of rubble and ruin before the year is out.
    Again, anyone that doesn’t have a starting budget of 10 million (it MIGHT cost less, but I doubt it) should stay the hell away.

  2. The question is how much does a buyer need to make it habitable for a normal, non-fussy person who likes old houses, and does not need every bathroom brand new.
    Everything does not have to be done at once.
    It is the opportunity of a lifetime.
    Let us hope it is bought by people with taste and patience and respect for the history of SF and architecture in general.
    No quick flippers or modernizers should apply, (and we know who you are.)

  3. I think the first improvement I’d make would be to change the locks in case the vampiric Ms. Van Upp didn’t go willingly…

  4. What a magnificent property with so many amazing architectural details. I’d add 10 more bathrooms and convert it into a high-end B&B or whorehouse.

  5. I was thinking along the lines of something more classic, like Carmina Burana.
    I have to agree with Conifer, a lot of people have complained about what a PITA it would be to bring this house back to its original state, but it truly is something that should be taken on by someone who really has a desire to restore it, not flip it.

  6. You need to get permission from the planning department, with the requisite public comment period, before you can dust.

  7. I do not think that one could get a permit for a B&B. With the help of one particular supervisor, however, one might get a permit for the whorehouse. He has said that drug dealers and prostitutes need a place to live, too.

  8. Is there going to be an open house? I really want to see this place. Maybe I can convince the broker that I am a serious buyer and worth giving a tour to.

  9. $3M for 10k sqft. That’s a new low! After clearing out the debt on this place the previous owner will still end up with over a $1M in her pocket. Kudos. Let the liens begin.
    And it does have a view!
    MLS shows as on market for 8 days.
    Whoever bought across the street is in for a serious construction zone for the next few years. If they were smart they’d sell now!

  10. I wanna rent this place for a Halloween party. $50 cover charge at the door. (Except for Socketsiters — they’re $100).

  11. so there are several possible strategies:
    – remodel, flip.
    – inhabit, remodel and hold it as a trophy property when finished.
    – buy for an extended family and do minimal renovation.
    – buy and wait for the market to turn around before sinking any money into it. use as a whorehouse, haunted house tour, reopened powerexchange, etc in the meantime.
    – break it up into apartments or TICs.
    – B&B.
    – let the roof continue to leak til it becomes “inhabitable” and tear down.
    it may take awhile to figure out what the best use is. the reason i think it will sell very quicky is the cost/risk of locking up the building for anyone who can afford the end-product is relatively small.
    i.e. $1M down = easy. if the buyer decides after a year that it’s not worth keeping (assuming flat pricing) he’s spent maybe ~$300K to hold. (=50K opportunity cost on the down, 85K after-tax mortgage interest, $45K tax/insurance, and 116K selling commission). $300K becomes much less if he can decide in 6 months.
    a $300K risk is peanuts for someone that can afford a $3-$11M home. it is a call option on a one-of-a-kind property. get your offer in now.

  12. I think its pretty obvious that this house should be converted into an S&M dungeon for kink.com. I don’t think you’d get any neighborhood opposition to that.

  13. Literally one of a kind SF property that has ridden out both 1906 and 1989. I thought the interior would be in much worse shape than what is pictured.
    A steal for that price – even with the amount of money that needs to be put into it.

  14. For those addicted to DIY home improvement, this would be a lethal dose.
    It is really hard to size up the magnitude of work from these few photos. The interior looks worn though restorable. To size up this job a foundation and termite inspection would be crucial pieces of data.

  15. Let’s talk about how 90% of the above comments almost made me fall out of my chair with laughter. We’re such a funny bunch. I am really surprised, I thought the interior would be in far worse condition. 13 fireplaces? Whoa…

  16. the trick is to remodel the house without the seismic retrofit / structural upgrade. That will certainly break the bank. I would refurbish the house by restoring the finishes, upgrading the MEP system, insulating walls and roof, installing new windows and doors, and putting a new roof. Adding a garage, elevator, or changing the layout would certainly trigger some structural work – therefore opening a can of worms.

  17. wow, the interior is amazing!
    i would imagine that trying to get a mortgage and/or insurance is going to be quite a challenge if it’s even possible given how deteriorated it is, especially if it has termites.

  18. I think the odds of remodeling without major foundation work and very slim.
    Since it is a landmark can the interior be changed without major oversight from the preservation folks?

  19. Pardon my ignorance on the type of restoration needed by this type of project…
    Say a new owner comes around and purchases the mansion with the desire to restore to historical accuracy.
    With some of those features, most likely no longer produced, how does one go about that? Also, how long would it take to figure out what is what in the house and what you need (based on the era)? That alone could take months before construction could ever commence, I’d imagine.

  20. totally Addams Family chic. I’d live it in as is… but “I’m creepy and I’m kooky and all together spooky” like that.

  21. I would leave everything as is, maybe a little fresh paint and some wood rework, fill the place with expensive Italian furniture, and a $10,000 music system… and just hang.

  22. With some of those features, most likely no longer produced, how does one go about that? Also, how long would it take to figure out what is what in the house and what you need (based on the era)?

    You hire a contractor who knows something about historical reproduction and have them reproduce it. That’s why people go to college for two years to learn about historical/preservation carpentry.
    On the east coast, North Bennet Street School has a well-regarded program. On the west coast, College of the Redwoods offers a program that is a little underfunded, but great nontheless.
    But the asking price on this place fills me with despair, because deep inside I know it’s going to be purchased by some flipper who cares not a whit about restoring it, or alternatively it’ll be somebody who wants to restore it because they imagine themselves a latter-day Bob Vila but don’t have either the knowledge/experience level or the financial wherewithal to really do a thorough job (meaning: including the foundation and masonry).

  23. Although I can appreciate the architecture of this mansion…it’s totally creepy looking. Plus a brick house in SF. No thanks.

  24. Brahma is right. The top contractors have great carpenters and nationwide connections to various subs who can make anything you want. Reproducing such details is of course terribly expensive, but it can absolutely be done.
    As I already mentioned, I share the same concerns. A DIYer cannot attempt this project. It simply can’t be done piecemeal. These houses are like fragile tapestries: you pull on one thread and the whole thing comes apart. Honestly, I’m hard pressed to think of another project in Pacific Heights that is comparable to this in terms of its magnitude and complexity.
    Someone in a previous thread said that the Sacred Heart Schools should buy it, and that makes sense to me.

  25. Did Ms. Van Upp live in this place like this? WOW! This is the end of another SF era yet will live on via the SF tourist tour buses I am sure. I can’t believe the rich live like this ‘over there’…

  26. “With some of those features, most likely no longer produced, how does one go about that?”
    Anything can be reproduced though at a high price. Haas Woodworking for example can reproduce any wooden detail no matter how bizarre or ornate. Their prices are reasonable.
    “Also, how long would it take to figure out what is what in the house and what you need (based on the era)? That alone could take months before construction could ever commence, I’d imagine.”
    I don’t think that selecting the finishes will be on the critical path at all. You’re looking at at least a year’s worth of structural work. That’s plenty of time to travel to Romania to find the craftsman who has the skill to rebuild that chandelier.
    “What is this place worth if it is totally restored?”
    given todays’ market, this would unfortunately be worth less than the cost to restore it properly. But that’s not an issue because the market will hopefully be much better by the time this project is done.
    As others have mentioned, there’s a big risk that this won’t be restored but rather gutted and reconstructed with a much less ornate interior. This would both reduce the construction costs as well as increase its resale value.
    The only way this gets restored is if the buyer is passionate about preserving the home.

  27. MoD,
    That’s what I was getting at; you can’t “dwell” it since it’s HS, and you can’t make money on restoring and selling it. Yet there are already 6 flippant flipper comments.

  28. Honestly, I’m not sure what type of authority the city and the new Historic Preservation Committee has over the interior of a SFH. Obviously, you can’t change the facade of the house, but there may very well be limits to what the city can impose on interior renovations. I think the only thing the city CAN do is forestall progress with various impact studies and huge fees. I say this with some degree of certainty because I know the Koshland mansion (also a landmark) was scheduled for a 8 figure renovation that involved totally gutting the interior. That was, of course, before Fall 08. Things have changed somewhat since then.

  29. So I forget, what was the formula for Victorian renovation, reality vs. expectation? Was it twice the time and three times the money, or twice the money and three times the time?
    All I can say is that I hope it gets the dedicated buyer it needs.
    Bit of a shame that we’ll never see the “after” pics.
    If I were to buy it, I don’t know how I’d decide whether to sport the striped suit and moustache, or the black housecoat and a shaved head. Decisions, decisions.

  30. “However, Mr. Barnes’s idea of “trash” includes my possessions.”
    “These manuscripts are potentially worth millions.”
    Maybe he should sell a manuscript and buy the mansion.

  31. Oh wow!! The editor should put that link to Sloan’s e-mail on the main page… Wow, just freaking wow…
    “I am well aware of everything in the house, including the trap door, the secret passageways, the dumb waiter, the elevator, the crawl space and the dungeon, all of which pose significant dangers to anybody who enters. There are significant dangers of serious injury or even death to anybody who enters this building. I have advised that anybody who enters the building should be required first to sign a statement holding harmless the building or its owner should any serious injury or death result from anybody entering the building.”
    I LOVE it.
    [Editor’s Note: Yeah, that paragraph couldn’t help but catch our attention too.]

  32. http://www.anusha.com is Sam’s website, more ludicrousness, some about the mansion. His formal complaint to a court about Arden and His phone bill dispute. Apparently she kept opening lines in the names of all the tenants in the house to run her Party Fax business and would run up the bills then close the account. Poor, Poor Sam got pegged for like 300 bucks or something. That’s when the 2 had a falling out. It’s on his site.

  33. It might just be me but as a real estate agent it kills me when out of town agents get prime SF listings.
    I just don’t get how they choose to go with an agent in South San Francisco with little to no knowledge about SF and its unique neighborhoods.
    Arrrrggggg… drive me NUTS!!!

  34. Um, who sent this? It is creepy and should be forwarded to the police. It was probably that lady that used to live there Van Up Ark? LOCK HER UP AND THROW AWAY THE KEY!
    [Editor’s Note: The lines are from a sworn affidavit in Bankruptcy Court.]

  35. Um, yeah. I hope Mr. Sloan gets his manuscripts back so he can reap his deserved “millions”.
    Chess nuts boasting in an open foyer, indeed.
    Also from the court doc :
    “..the case Polgar vs. USCF, Sloan et al, 5:08 CV 00169–C, now pending in the United States District Court in Lubbock Texas, in which I am being sued for $25 million. It is necessary for me to defend against this $25 million lawsuit, because it will put a serious dent in my finances should such a judgment be entered against me.”
    I too would like to take this opportunity to state that if a $25M judgment weighed against me that it would also put a serious dent in my finances.
    … still looking for an appropriate opening to brag about my carnal exploits.

  36. Dungeons are called “oubliettes” in French. A very cute name meaning you’d dump people (for instance unruly servants) in there and forget (“oublier”) about them.
    Another more common usage was as a meat storage room. In some cold regions, you’d lay a depth of snow, throw cattle or game carcasses over, one layer of snow, one layer of meat, and so on. The food would stay cold way into the spring.
    I don’t know which of the 2 usages he was talking about, but I’d open the dungeon doors with extreme precaution…

  37. I must be missing something here, because I fail to see why this Sam Sloan character is backing Arden Van Upp now based upon his previous drivel and how he can claim he is “still a resident” there.

  38. Another more common usage was as a meat storage room.
    plus ça change…
    But more seriously, I wish that there were real consequences for false depositions. NOTE, I’m not saying which side is wrong, but it is impossible for toilets to be dry and overflowing at the same time.

  39. It might just be me but as a real estate agent it kills me when out of town agents get prime SF listings.
    I just don’t get how they choose to go with an agent in South San Francisco with little to no knowledge about SF and its unique neighborhoods.
    Arrrrggggg… drive me NUTS!!!
    This particular agent happens to know everything about San Francisco.

  40. Sounds like a fun house! I would love to restore this place if I have moola in the bank! Where are my lottery tickets again?

  41. The rich don’t live like this. I don’t think “Van Up” is rich at all. After all she has filed bankruptcy so many times. And if she couldn’t afford that house by herself when she first bought it I doubt she qualifies as rich!

  42. I have been in there, Arden Van Upp does not come across as the monster that many suggest…she has a duaghter who has been working very hard to get the place organized for this sale. I have NOT seen any dungeons nor have I seen secret passage ways etc. The place has many special and architectural attributes that are still in fair/good condition.

  43. After reviewing all these comments I’m surprised there isn’t a more coherent discussion of this home / situation. At $3M it’s probably priced at a slight premium to lot value. The home in its current state is probably not as bad as many here are speculating. It’s clearly a disaster but I’m not convinced that its in total ruins. These homes are generally built well and even a few decades of disrepair are not going to destroy this property. 2421 Pierce (in escrow, btw) probably has similar issues with foundation. But why anyone thinks this is a 3M foundation job is beyond me. It could just as easily be a much cheaper situation.
    Fully restored and pristine this home probably sells for $1300-1400 psf, or $13/14M in 2006/7/8. It’s really hard to speculate on homes of this stature in todays market since there just aren’t that many people looking for a museum quality home. Frankly, the Metallica mansion, 2009 decorator showcase, and the $9.99M home on the corner of Divis/Pacifc, and the other landmark home that was foreclosed (with no bids at $10M) are all fair comps. None of which sold. As a result, I think that this home has a very small chance of ever being fully restored unless purchased by the unique buyer who has no regard for value and truly wants a historic / landmark masterpiece.
    I wouldn’t be surprised to see this home picked off by a Callan & Co. or other developer for $2.2M and watch them start a major modernization of this home. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it flat out doesn’t sell.
    That said, a major contractor just set up some no parking zones and a port-o-potty out front (www.webbsf.com) so someone is doing their homework! 😉

  44. Wait a second, am I being impersonated, obliterated (op. cit, or supra, or something), or is this just a big coincidence?

  45. A dungeon and secret passages!?! That $2.9M suddenly looks way too low. Do you know how much money it takes to put in a secret passage? I don’t, but it’s probably really expensive.

  46. Link doesn’t really work unless you copy/paste it. Anyway, Barbra Callan so happened to sell the listing that was also rehab’d by WebbSF, who has a bunch of signs up in front of 2550…..
    Webb, Webster, OK, now this is getting spooky.

  47. Lol, no. Sorry, jus7tme, but this has been my terribly uncreative nym for several years now. Consistency, and the sort of laziness and utter disregard for quality and originality that led to the use of such a moniker in the first place, require that I continue.

  48. Well, there’s nothing like seeing something for yourself. I’m goin’ in. Legally, of course. Brokers tour is coming up soon.

  49. want to change my prediction a bit. this legally can’t go into contract within a week so I’ll say instead that within a week there will be multiple bids, one of which will turn out to be the eventual buyer (probably at a higher price).
    i think the water damage will be the biggest issue with the home, not the foundation.

  50. I hope Bob Villa buys this place and puts his minions to work.
    I’ll donate $500 to KQED if I can watch a season or two of restoration on this place!

  51. That might be the way to go to fully restore this place, turn it into a TV show. In return for the increased cost of the TV production, you get the opportunity for revenue from product placement (or donated goods/service), you get tax benefits since the whole thing would be business related, then you have the potential revenue from selling the finished TV show.

  52. The inside is worse than you think. FAR worse than the pictures. The pictures don’t show the Kitchen with the ceiling 1/2 gone, or the whole solarium falling off the back of the building. They must have intentionally destroyed it because even after 30 years of neglect, it shouldn’t look this bad. Maybe it was the parties.

  53. I’m in the middle of a similar project – albeit scaled down to ‘only’ 4500 sq ft. Its my first and unless you’ve done one its hard to comprehend the level of attention required, luck/work in finding the right architect and general.
    The work involves more than ‘just’ restoring. You’re not going back to 19c plumbing, gas lights and appliances. And there the real challenge begins (well…after you’ve gotten over the seismic implications) because you must meld two worlds a century apart.
    And then there are the neighbor issues. I’ve been incredibly fortunate – in part perhaps because we kept all our work “inside the envelope”. But I still cringe as I think about neighbors suffering through 2 years (and this project would be 3+) of hammering and nailing. ugh.
    I’m a preservationist at heart, but projects like this do give one pause to think..

  54. yeah, that was weird… I drove by it on my way home around 9 or 9:30 and there was an old lady going in the gate… Not sure what was up with that…

  55. I noticed that Ms. Van Upp has moved into one of her other slums, er houses. There’s a rotting home in Cow Hollow that’s always puzzled me. When I saw her coming out of it, it all made sense. I hadn’t bothered to check the property records before and, sure enough, it’s hers.

  56. Since you know what Arden looked like, can we assume you went through the brokers tour, or did you meet her in her hey day?

  57. Was that a little stalky? I actually didn’t go on the tour… although I was promised a trip to the house that hasn’t materialized yet… I’ve just seen the same woman coming and going from 2550 a few times over the past week or so wearing the same outfit… When I saw her today (again wearing the same outfit) I put it all together… I googled, and there she was… So no, I don’t know her, and yes I have WAY too much free time…

  58. lol, no harm in being observant. You can’t help it if you can put pieces of the puzzle together well. I was hoping you knew her in her hey day. I’ve run across a few people that have, and apparently she was an eccentric then as well.
    I wonder if her story will ever be made into a movie.

  59. I was inside with a good friend who was a potential buyer who loved the house, wanted to restore it to its historically accurate original condition, and had the cash and the time to do it. The house is a can of worms as is, and is not currently habitable, unless you enjoy the feeling of living on the street without actually doing so. There were three offers on the house at the time I toured it, all under asking price. Did not know who the other parties were. And, yes,because of the extent of the damage and decay, there is actually the threat of death or serious bodily injury. That was not an exaggeration. My jaw was on the floor (or what was left of it) the whole time.

  60. I just noticed today Plath got the job on this one… I guess the buyer really did have that 10 million to spend on the remodel! Anyway, good for them. This home will definitely be a remarkable showplace when it’s finished.

  61. Sparky-b. if you even read this this far after, i was wondering if the Koshland Mansion at 3800 Washington was ever “gutted” like you said? It is also a SF historical landmark so i thought that that would help to save the interiors. The interior i understand that the it is almost 18,000 square feet, has a grand marble staircase leading to a front terrace & a three-story atrium with marble columns. The first floor features conservatories on either side of a marble rotunda. The house originally had eight marble fireplaces and more than 20 rooms. I believe that it also used leather for its study or its library’s walls which was really not ever been done really back then. I believe it was the SF designer showcase house way back in 1982. I am doing a little studying on the topic. Thanks!

  62. Emelie,
    Why don’t you type “3800 Washington” into the search space. There have been several posts on it.
    Also, I don’t recall saying 3800 was or would be “gutted”. Maybe I did and don’t remember, either way I don’t have any information about that place.

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