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 58 years.
The mansion in the heart of Kensington was built in 1925 by Edwin Blake, whose father was a rock quarry operator in the East Bay hills.
The property at 68 Rincon Road was donated in 1948 to the Discalced Carmelite Nuns, who adapted it for use as their monastery.
The rooms in which the nuns resided are small. Larger rooms in the house include a former ballroom, a dining room, and a kitchen with butler's pantry. Windows on the western side of the house have panoramic views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Monastery of Christ the Exiled King, as the Kensington monastery was known, was founded from a monastic order in Santa Clara, which originally had planned to establish a monastery in China. Jesuit missionaries there had invited them to come, securing a house and arranging all the details.
However, the Communist revolution and resulting suppression of religion in China pre-empted their plans. As an alternative, the Santa Clara order founded the Kensington monastery, giving it a title that references the "exile" of Christ from China.
Nine founding nuns arrived in late 1950. Over the years, the number of Kensington nuns rose to a high of about 12 before dropping to four nuns in recent years.
The house has a number of problems, including water leakage from the roof and a settling foundation, and there is no parking on the property, only an auto turnaround area that the monastery used for deliveries.
The new owners will need to apply for a permit from Contra Costa County for whatever purpose they plan to use it, 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, both UC Berkeley alumni, donated Blake House to the University of California in 1957. It served as the home of the president of the university from 1968 to 2009 and the grounds of the house are now the Blake Garden that is maintained by UC Berkeley and open to the public.
University regents in September approved $620,000 for restoration planning and basic roof repair at the 13,000-square-foot Blake House.