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2830 Pacific Avenue House

by Jan Lachman

This house is one of the spectacular Georgian brick mansions atop the Gold Coast Hill. It is the westernmost of a pair of twin homes designed in 1910 by Nathaniel Blaisdell for George Lingard Payne, a manufacturer of carriage bolts. Payne shared the $42,500 residence with his wife, five children, chauffeur, cook, and four lodgers, but only for the winter seasons; they summered in Mill Valley.

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2830 Pacific boasted up-to-the-minute conveniences, like an early Otis elevator, laundry and trash chutes, and two walk-in Hermann safes. It featured a ground floor ballroom, landscaped garden terrace, and an unusual side driveway commodious enough for up to ten vehicles, leading to a rear garage.

By the time Blaisdell drew up plans for 2830, he had designed numerous homes in Pacific Heights, Cow Hollow, and Presidio Heights, as well as two commercial buildings. An avid tennis player, he would later design the 1926 clubhouse for the California Tennis club.

Many glorious weddings would be celebrated in the home, from that of the Payne daughter, Marie, to the 2007 vows of the current owners’ daughter. The most dramatic and lavish affairs occurred during the tenure of its second owner, fifty-two-year-old interior designer Clarence “Clary” Slade, partner in Regency House Imports and co-founder of historic Jackson Square, who moved in with his mother and his apricot-hued miniature dachshund, named Spazza after his fifteenth-century villa. Slade painted the staircase, shutters, and floors startling black, and sketched life-sized Roman statues on the dining room walls. He would literally roll out a red carpet for guests, bedecking the rooms with countless shimmering candles. Once, he threw a fete “in honor of a new chandelier.”

From 1965 until the 1990s the house belonged to Hartley and Helen “Nellie” Cravens and their five children. Nellie had grown up directly across the street at 2855 Pacific. Her Uncle, Frank Norris, penned The Octopus, while grandmother Kathleen Norris was the best-known, best-selling writer of her generation. In 1985 Nellie became a professional actress, performing on stage, television, and in several films. Continuing that dramatic tradition, the current owners allowed actor Don Johnson to film three episodes of Nash Bridges at 2830, and their son, an artist, hosted a series of Art Events in the garage-turned-gallery.

Drawing of hoouse by Clay Seibert. Courtesy of Decorator Showcase.

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