KENSINGTON -- One of the largest and most unusual properties in this exclusive unincorporated community has come on the market for the first time after being in use as a monastery for 65 years.

The 60-room mansion on a 3.12-acre property at 68 Rincon Road was built in 1925 by Edwin Blake, whose father was a rock quarry operator in the East Bay hills.

The property was donated in 1948 to the Discalced Carmelite Nuns, who converted it into a monastery.

Many of the rooms are small spaces in which the nuns resided. The house has several larger rooms, including a former chapel, a dining room, a three-room kitchen with a pantry, and panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay.

Stained-glass windows at former Carmelite Monastery are photographed in unincorporated Kensington on Nov. 26, 2013.
Stained-glass windows at former Carmelite Monastery are photographed in unincorporated Kensington on Nov. 26, 2013. (Anda Chu/Staff)

The founders of the monastery, known as the Monastery of Christ the Exiled King, came from the Carmel of the Infant Jesus in Santa Clara, which had planned to establish a monastery in China with the help of Jesuit missionaries, according to a 2005 article in the Catholic Voice.

However, the Communist revolution and resulting suppression of religion in China doomed the plan, and the monastery was established in the Kensington house instead.

The community of nuns in Kensington dropped from a high of about 18 in the early 1960s to four in recent years, and the remaining nuns are moving to another monastery out of state.

The house has a number of issues that might need to be addressed, including water leakage from the roof and a settling foundation that has caused some of the floors to tilt.


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There is no parking on the property, only an auto turnaround that the monastery used for deliveries.

The new owners will need to apply for a permit from Contra Costa County for whatever they plan to use it for, including as a single-family home, said listing agent Michael Korman of Korman & Ng Real Estate Services in Berkeley.

The asking price is $1.95 million.

"I'm just putting it up for sale for whatever purpose," Korman said. "Commercial activities are unlikely."

The more famous and more substantial Blake House, next door at 70 Rincon Road, was built at the same time by Edwin Blake's brother Anson, using the same architect, Walter Bliss.

Anson Blake and his wife, Anita, donated Blake House to the University of California in 1957, and it served as the home of the president of the university from 1968 to 2009. University regents in September approved $620,000 for restoration planning and basic roof repair at the 13,000-square-foot Blake House.