Known as “The Igloo,” the home includes intriguing Alaska-themed details courtesy of its original owners, George Breck and his wife, Ella. The Brecks had the 4,300-square-foot home custom-built over a century ago, in 1913.
According to George’s obituary—provided by Judy Coy, chairperson of the San Anselmo Historical Commission—Breck was a successful businessman who specialized in stage lighting and photography equipment, and who spent time in Alaska.
Breck’s travels to the last frontier left an impact, and he had architect Maxwell Bugbee incorporate design elements into his Northern California home that he gleaned from his trip to the far north.
The focal point of the main living space is the amazing and cozy “indoor campfire nook,” featuring a redwood header beam carved with the words “Sitkum Nika Piah Six.” According to listing agent Michael Fanelli, this translates to “Share my fire, friend” in the Chinook Jargon trade language used in the Pacific Northwest.
The fire pit is surrounded by a banquette for cozy seating, and is graced with Alaska-themed carvings and totem poles. On the windows at the back of the nook are images of Alaska on glass plates, which are original to the house.
The interior space also offers a spacious living room, which features a vintage 10-foot leaded-glass window. Along with five beds and four bathrooms, there’s a formal dining room that seats a dozen, a sunporch, and an eat-in kitchen.
Outdoors is patio space, a pool, and a shingled, 65-foot-high water tower. No longer in use for irrigation, the structure has five rooms that could be used for storage, office space, an art studio, or even a gym.
The Gump’s department store heiress Marilyn Gump bought the house in 1973, and the antiques collector set about “lovingly” restoring it and the eye-popping water tower, according to Fanelli.
“The water tower was an entire state of disrepair,” Fanelli says. “She had it painstakingly restored.” Previously covered in ivy, it’s now fully shingled to match the main house, and includes an interior staircase. Gump has since passed away, and the home is now being sold as part of her estate.
“It’s very unique. I do think it’s architecturally interesting,” says Coy. Apparently, so do many others, who have been dropping in to see the “Igloo” for themselves.
“The woodwork is all original,” Fanelli says. He notes that the handful of owners who’ve lived under the Igloo’s roof have all carefully maintained the home. He’s fairly certain a new owner will also treasure the home’s original details. “Based on likely candidates, [they] are all folks who really appreciate the home and have no intentions of changing it.”