Sausalito Walk 3

Beyond the obvious on Bridgeway

Bridgeway is the street locals often avoid ― it's crowded and full of souvenir shops and mediocre restaurants. But come at the right time ― early morning or late at night, or on a rainy day when crowds are scarce―and it's hard not to be seduced by Bridgeway's irresistible views: to the east, the bay; to the south, a mansion-dotted hillside. Back in the 19th century, William Randolph Hearst was enchanted by these views; one of the mansions standing today is built on the stone foundation of what was once slated to be Hearst Castle. Around the 1880s, Sausalito was a popular retreat for wealthy San Franciscans, including Hearst. He moved here at age 23 and set about building a castle on Water Street (then the name for Bridgeway), complete with a proposed private bridge leading to the bay. When the town fathers objected to his plans, Hearst stormed out of town, leaving his project behind. Look for the remains of the original Hearst Castle's foundation―two wide, fortresslike columns at the base of a beige house on the west side of Bridgeway―just north of the North Street Steps, roughly across from where Al Sybrian's bronze sea-lion sculpture pokes out of the bay. A much more accessible mansion is the Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa (see "Where to Sleep in Sausalito,"), which recently expanded into the former Village Fair shopping complex. The original structure of what has become Sausalito's major luxury hotel was first built as a family home in 1885―look for the baby blue Italianate mansion up on the hill. Across from the Casa Madrona, the Sausalito Historical Society maintains the Ice House Visitor Center (11:30-4 Tue-Sun; 780 Bridgeway; 415/332-0505), housed in a former icehouse. Stop in to browse the exhibits, including images of the Liberty Ship-building effort. At Bridgeway's southern end, where the street curves up a hill, you'll find the Valhalla Restaurant (closed Mon; 201 Bridgeway; 415/331-9463), which first opened in 1893 and has since led many lives. In one corner of the bar, look for a Victorian dentist chair―this was the perch of Marcia Owens, a.k.a. Sally Stanford, the former bordello madam who famously ran for the Sausalito town council in the 1970s, won by a landslide, and eventually became the town's mayor. The Valhalla has kept up with the times―these days it serves remarkably good food. But Sally's spirit still seems to preside here, echoing Sausalito's more raffish days. Says Frank, "Sally brought a naughtiness to Sausalito. But really, that rowdiness had always existed. In the 1800s, people came here for betting and for the bars." Indeed, one of the most happening spots along Bridgeway today is the No Name Bar (757 Bridgeway; 415/332-1392), which looks anonymous but for the words "garden patio spirits and beer" near the door. "This was a watering hole for sailors from all over the world," Frank says. "And today, it's a part of old Sausalito that's remained pretty much the same."