ALAMO -- The old manor at the end of Hemme Avenue has been there since 1929, but how much longer it will remain is in doubt.
The 8,000-square-foot home is set on eight acres in a quiet upscale neighborhood near a trailhead for the Las Trampas Regional Wildlife Preserve. The old manor, called the Westminster Retreat, long predates the large houses nearby.
The San Francisco Presbytery, located in Berkeley, has owned the Westminster Retreat since 1953, but now has it up for sale.
"We had a lot of sentimental attachment, a lot of history, but it wasn't getting a lot of use," said Pastor Leonard Nielson, chairman of the Presbytery's finance and property oversight committee. "It gets used. It just doesn't get used by us."
Nielson said the Presbyterian Church has seen a decline in its numbers across the country, and church retreats aren't as common as they used to be.
The Presbytery has used the house as a retreat center since 1953. The center is managed by United Camps Conferences and Retreats, which hosts retreats and conferences there for a variety of groups, from churches to businesses and professional associations.
The house can accommodate 30 people and another 20 in the old carriage house that was converted into a lodge.
Nielson said the Presbytery is hoping to get $4.4 million for the property, but the amount depends on how it is subdivided, which could be between five to eight lots.
Viki Spain, the site
"I've really become attached to the property," Spain said. "My dream is that we find a developer who wants to retain this."
Spain worries that a developer could tear the house down to make room for newer homes.
The house was built in 1929 by the Anderson family, who owned a lumber yard and redwood forests. They built it in shingled California craftsman style combined with an eastern farmhouse style, according to documents supplied by Spain.
It has three stories with 20 rooms, eight bedrooms, six bathrooms and five fireplaces. Redwood paneling covers the walls and ceiling. In the servants' wing, there is even a hidden space above a closet that Spain called the "war room." Apparently, the hiding place was made in case a war broke out.
The Andersons lived in the house only four years before selling to Betty and Duke Englehart.
The Engleharts raised their four children there, added a pool, and did gardening and growing on the grounds. During World War II, they hosted war amputees who built a train table in the attic.
The Engleharts divorced in 1953 and donated the house to the Presbytery.
Spain said she hopes the old manor can continue to be used as a retreat center. She also hopes its history won't be lost.
"I especially want to reach out to people that have historical knowledge who might complete the history of the place," she said.
Spain is offering free tours of the Westminster Retreat. For more information, email her at email@example.com.
Contact Jason Sweeney at 925-847-2123. Follow him at Twitter.com/jason_sweeney.