117 Laurel Grove Avenue, Ross
List Price: $6,995,000
When Alexander Morrison, founder of San Francisco law firm Morrison and Foerster, built this estate in 1903, he had his choice of virtually any site in Marin. In the best microclimate in the area, he selected his 40 acres in the “flats” of the Laurel Grove section of Ross, well above the flood zone and out of the shadow of Mt. Tam. In this private paradise, Mr. Morrison built his home on a south-facing green knoll for its spectacular panoramic views, including unobstructed views of Mt. Tam and Mt. Baldy from almost every room. Sunlight pours through plantation-shuttered windows. When the sun has set on most of Ross, its last rays still linger on this home’s expansive front porch. The master bedroom’s east window glows with the morning sunrise; in the evening, French doors open onto its large private terrace in view of sunsets beyond Mt. Tam. A historic treasure, the house is built in the Arts and Crafts style with many features reminiscent of famed architect and one-time Bay Area resident Bernard Maybeck. It has been updated to the highest standards of architectural and design excellence while still preserving its optimal floor plan. Gracious proportions, coffered ceilings, wide paneled wainscoting, deep crown moldings, and four wood-burning fireplaces are among many traditional elements that articulate this home’s unique character and elevate it above even the grandest of new homes being built today. Time has confirmed Mr. Morrison’s foresight and vision, bestowing additional advantages such as the proximity of charming downtown Ross, the award-winning Ross School, numerous hiking and biking trails, and easy access to San Francisco.
The Morrison Estate was famous for its terraced gardens, which are remarkable still on 1.41+/- exquisitely groomed acres with old specimen plantings, as well as English-style gardens designed by Michael Yandle. Featured on the prestigious Ross Garden Tour, the landscape includes lush green lawns; boxwood hedges, parterres and topiary; an orchard path framed by graceful, hand-wrought iron arches; and mature live oak, madrone, cedar, citrus, and deciduous and evergreen magnolias. The fruit orchard yields blood oranges, lemons, persimmons, apples and pears. A well and large cistern ensure that the yard will stay verdant even in drought years. The recently rebuilt lap pool area is paved in bluestone and flanked by pergolas twined with grapevines and heirloom roses. Footpaths wend their way to a separate guest cottage with kitchen and bath, a hot tub, a tree house, and a play area with a rope swing. Antique urns, finials, a fountain, along with a delicate wrought iron gate and a studded oak door from France add unique interest to the garden.
On the main level, the living room—with a bay window so perfectly centered on Mr. Tam that it looks like a painting— and dining room at the front of the house give way to the butler’s pantry, kitchen and family room in the back. A central staircase rises to a large landing onto which opens the master and three, spacious en suite bedrooms, as well as a library alcove. Elegant yet comfortable, the layout of these areas fosters together time but also allows private space for work and study. A third story houses a fifth bedroom and bath, a playroom (or possible sixth bedroom, in-law suite or office), four walk-in, cedar lined closets, and additional storage. On the ground floor is the original Morrison library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves encased in glass-fronted cabinets as well as a nearby large room currently used as a home theater and playroom. Each has its own entrance. Nearby, an informal bathroom and unfinished basement storage areas adjoin a mechanical equipment area. Across the driveway at this level stand a separate two-car garage, two-car carport, and small gym. There is additional plentiful parking in the driveway.
The features that make this home spectacular cannot be recreated today—the most ideal private site, old-world craftsmanship and rare materials, gracefully proportioned rooms, traditional beauty and history.
*square footage and acreage not verified