Queen-Anne Masterpiece Graces San Jose Avenue

Mark and Henry tenderly, painstakingly restored the home to its glory of yore.

Queen-Anne Masterpiece Graces San Jose Avenue

Keller Williams Real Estate

For those who shy from the public eye, the grand and glamorous Queen Anne at 2070 San Jose Avenue may not be for you.

She’s the maison célèbre of Alameda, possibly the most photographed, most recognizable Victorian in a city of 4,000 Victorians, oft featured in sculpture, in paintings, on city phone books, and websites. During the current owners’ stay, nary a day has passed without a passerby snapping a pic or setting up an easel to capture her likeness.

“It’s kind of fun, really,” says Henry Villareal, who has cherished this gem with partner Mark White for 17 years. “We looked out one time and saw a wedding group out there taking pictures. We opened the door and asked them if they wanted to come up on the porch and take some more. They were thrilled.”

And that’s just the allure of the exterior with its layers of period adornments, witch’s caps, gingerbread railings and a wraparound, turreted porch -- perfect for iced-tea time on a lazy summer day.

Just wait ‘til you get inside.

Built in 1893 as the home of David S. Brehaut, this eight-room mansion by architect Charles S. Shaner comes complete with a classic Victorian “fainting room,” a full attic and full unfinished basement that once served the home’s 1920’s owner — wine merchant Sophus Federspiel — as a speakeasy. (There’s even a secret room to hide the booze). The home changed hands a couple of times in the ‘30s, then was owned by the Brown family and their descendants for the following seven decades until Mark and Henry purchased it in 2004.

When they first walked inside, Mark and Henry were surprised to find plain white walls and lots of carpeting – lime-green shag, in fact, from the mid-20th century. Still, the home had clearly been well-loved and they would go on to develop a close bond with the previous owners.

“We wrote a love letter to let them know we’d cherish the house and take care of it.”

Over the course of the next 14 years, Mark and Henry tenderly, painstakingly restored the home to its glory of yore, preserving original details like stained-glass windows and the lincrusta and anaglypta wall coverings along the stairwell.

They’ve added crown moldings and ceiling medallions (hand-painted by Mark) and dressed every room, ceiling, hallway, nook and cranny with richly toned Bradbury & Bradbury wallpapers, making this showplace a walk-through work of art.

Enter the foyer and travel back in time, gazing up at the grand staircase, pictured above right. Ten-foot ceilings soar in every space thanks to one-time gaslight fixtures — plenty of airflow was needed above the chandeliers.

The parlor fireplace — originally coal, now wood-burning — has what looks like a gleaming brass insert but was called a “nightguard” to control the heat from the coal.

The dining room boasts more tall windows, gold-finished crown molding, sage-green wall coverings and glittering stained-glass windows. There’s another fireplace, this one now gas, but with original tile depicting a hunting scene.

Across the hall is their favorite room — originally a bedroom, but they call it the library. It’s beyond cozy with deep-burgundy-based wallpaper.

“At the front of the house, you’ll find the ‘fainting room,’ a 10- by-10 space where tightly-clad ladies of the era could ‘have a moment,’” Mark said.

It now makes for a perfect office. Next to it is a tiny porch that overlooks the witch’s cap. And next to that is the primary suite, seated above the parlor.

Each room in the home has its own theme by virtue of the wall coverings. There’s a Jack-and-Jill “bathroom” — really just a small room with a sink, The wall and ceiling papers in the last two bedrooms were gifts from Bradbury & Bradbury and used in a photoshoot for their paper patterns.

The basement — once the speakeasy — has multiple rooms and as many tales to tell. Here you’ll find the pocket-door bar, and there’s a small space nearby with a “canned goods” room, its door hard to distinguish from the rest of the wall.

“You could put your illegal booze in here, then close this and slide a shelf over it,” Mark said. “No one would ever know.”

More than anything, Mark and Henry hope new owners will love the place as they do.

“We want the same thing the previous family did — somebody to cherish the house,” Mark said.