Beyond the obvious on Bridgeway

Bridgeway is the street locals often avoid ― it’s crowded andfull of souvenir shops and mediocre restaurants. But come at theright time ― early morning or late at night, or on a rainyday when crowds are scarce―and it’s hard not to be seduced byBridgeway’s irresistible views: to the east, the bay; to the south,a mansion-dotted hillside. Back in the 19th century, WilliamRandolph Hearst was enchanted by these views; one of the mansionsstanding today is built on the stone foundation of what was onceslated to be Hearst Castle. Around the 1880s, Sausalito was apopular retreat for wealthy San Franciscans, including Hearst. Hemoved here at age 23 and set about building a castle on WaterStreet (then the name for Bridgeway), complete with a proposedprivate bridge leading to the bay. When the town fathers objectedto his plans, Hearst stormed out of town, leaving his projectbehind. Look for the remains of the original Hearst Castle’sfoundation―two wide, fortresslike columns at the base of abeige house on the west side of Bridgeway―just north of theNorth Street Steps, roughly across from where Al Sybrian’s bronzesea-lion sculpture pokes out of the bay. A much more accessiblemansion 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 HistoricalSociety maintains the Ice House Visitor Center (11:30-4 Tue-Sun;780 Bridgeway; 415/332-0505), housed in a former icehouse. Stop into browse the exhibits, including images of the LibertyShip-building effort. At Bridgeway’s southern end, where the streetcurves up a hill, you’ll find the Valhalla Restaurant (closed Mon;201 Bridgeway; 415/331-9463), which first opened in 1893 and hassince led many lives. In one corner of the bar, look for aVictorian dentist chair―this was the perch of Marcia Owens,a.k.a. Sally Stanford, the former bordello madam who famously ranfor the Sausalito town council in the 1970s, won by a landslide,and eventually became the town’s mayor. The Valhalla has kept upwith the times―these days it serves remarkably good food. ButSally’s spirit still seems to preside here, echoing Sausalito’smore raffish days. Says Frank, “Sally brought a naughtiness toSausalito. But really, that rowdiness had always existed. In the1800s, people came here for betting and for the bars.” Indeed, oneof the most happening spots along Bridgeway today is the No NameBar (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.”

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