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News 8 Throwback: San Diego's Million Dollar Mansions from the 1970s | Part 1

KFMB San Diego logo KFMB San Diego 1/13/2021 Barbara Nielsen, Archives Editor
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In May 1979 News 8 anchorwoman Allison Ross and photojournalist Ron Johnson got the plum assignment -- to profile five of San Diego County’s most magnificent mansions. It’s a glimpse into incredibly elaborate homes featuring the best money (lots of money) can buy.

Casa de Bella Vista La Mesa

John S. Alessio’s Mediterranean villa in the hills of La Mesa. It was on the market for 1,750,000 dollars. Included were most of the antique furnishings. It had 66,000 square feet of living space, a 400 square foot dollhouse, spectacular pool, a marble-lined winding staircase, a sunken bath with antique gold filigree railing, and spectacular views from all rooms. It was named Casa de Bella Vista—house of the beautiful view. Alessio was the head of his family’s Alessio Corp. Among the most famous places they owned were the Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana, the Hotel del Coronado, the Kona Kai Club, and Mr. A’s restaurant. He helped create the Coronado Bridge.

This was one of three homes the Alessio’s owned on Mt. Helix.

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The photo's below are of Alessio's mansion in La Mesa now.

Del Dios Ranch Rancho Santa Fe

The long and winding road that leads to Del Dios Ranch, the Roland and Ramona Sahm Rancho Santa Fe estate. The 8,500 square foot house was designed by architect Fred Briggs and completed in 1973. Also--a 3,000 square-foot pavilion with an indoor swimming pool, hot tub, and bar. Sahm was the founder of the manufacturing conglomerate Elixir Industries. He passed away in 2003 and his wife passed away in 2013. The 200-acre property was on the market in 2016 selling for a record $92 million dollars. In 2017 it was listed for $30 million on 61 acres of land. It sold for $20,000,000 in August 2020.

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Gagosian Mansion La Jolla

In 1968 hotel magnate Earl Gagosian purchased 6 acres atop Black’s Beach on La Jolla Farms Road for 180,000 and began building his dream home in 1970. The modern contemporary mansion with the colorful greenish-blue ribbed copper roof was completed in 1972. It cost about two million dollars. An impressive bridge provided access from the pool to the living room. The 17,500 square foot gargantuan manse featured a signature 70s sunken conversation room, gold tiled chandeliers, twelve bathrooms, and a marble sunken tub. 

Casa de la Tierra in Rancho Santa Fe

The Mexican colonial dream home of John and Lucia Lindsey was created from adobe earth from the land the property sits on. The 12,000 square foot home has gorgeous Mexican tile throughout. Almost everything was imported from Mexico. The Lindsey’s did a lot of entertaining and opened their home for charity events so three ovens came in handy. They built it themselves and it was surely a labor of love…as they called it their Camelot. In 2021 the home is still there.

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Del Mar Castle

This is the oldest and most unique of all. It was built in 1925 by Marston and Ruth Harding. It was designed by renowned local architect Richard Requa. News 8 visited it shortly after Sandy and Judi Shapery purchased it and began renovations. The design was Spanish, Moorish and gothic. A huge winding stairway leads to the turret which was used as a library. Allison’s favorite part was the balcony on top with panoramic views of Del Mar and the Pacific Ocean. What’s remarkable is the view to the east where once there was vacant land…the view now is very different. And what castle would be complete without a huge bell? 

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Sandy Shapery shares his memories of Del Mar Castle 1979

I contacted well know real estate developer Sandy Shapery and surprised him with the vintage video. He spoke to Marcella Lee from his home in Hawaii.

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Click here to see photos of the Del Mar Castle in 1983.

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