Beyond the obvious on Bridgeway
Bridgeway is the street locals often avoid ― it’scrowded and full of souvenir shops and mediocre restaurants. Butcome at the right time ― early morning or late at night, oron a rainy day when crowds are scarce―and it’s hard not to beseduced by Bridgeway’s irresistible views: to the east, the bay; tothe south, a mansion-dotted hillside.
Back in the 19th century, William Randolph Hearst was enchantedby these views; one of the mansions standing today is built on thestone foundation of what was once slated to be Hearst Castle.Around the 1880s, Sausalito was a popular retreat for wealthy SanFranciscans, including Hearst. He moved here at age 23 and setabout building a castle on Water Street (then the name forBridgeway), complete with a proposed private bridge leading to thebay.
When the town fathers objected to his plans, Hearst stormed outof town, leaving his project behind. Look for the remains of theoriginal Hearst Castle’s foundation―two wide, fortresslikecolumns at the base of a beige house on the west side ofBridgeway―just north of the North Street Steps, roughlyacross from where Al Sybrian’s bronze sea-lion sculpture pokes outof the bay.
A much more accessible mansion is the Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa (see “Where to Sleep inSausalito,”), which recently expanded into the former Village Fairshopping complex. The original structure of what has becomeSausalito’s major luxury hotel was first built as a family home in1885―look for the baby blue Italianate mansion up on thehill.
Across from the Casa Madrona, the Sausalito Historical Societymaintains the Ice House Visitor Center (11:30-4 Tue-Sun; 780 Bridgeway; 415/332-0505), housed in aformer icehouse. Stop in to browse the exhibits, including imagesof 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 firstopened in 1893 and has since led many lives. In one corner of thebar, look for a Victorian dentist chair―this was the perch ofMarcia Owens, a.k.a. Sally Stanford, the former bordello madam whofamously ran for the Sausalito town council in the 1970s, won by alandslide, and eventually became the town’s mayor.
The Valhalla has kept up with the times―these days itserves remarkably good food. But Sally’s spirit still seems topreside here, echoing Sausalito’s more raffish days. Says Frank,”Sally brought a naughtiness to Sausalito. But really, thatrowdiness had always existed. In the 1800s, people came here forbetting and for the bars.”
Indeed, one of the most happening spots along Bridgeway today isthe No Name Bar (757 Bridgeway; 415/332-1392), which looks anonymous but forthe words “garden patio spirits and beer” near the door. “This wasa watering hole for sailors from all over the world,” Frank says.”And today, it’s a part of old Sausalito that’s remained prettymuch the same.”