Who Are Marin and Wine Country’s Famous Residents?

1 Fawn Ridge, Fairfax interior of the house
1 Fawn Ridge, Fairfax (photo by Olga Soboleva)

Throughout the past century, Marin County has harbored an impressive number of extraordinary residents. Cooking legend Julia Child, talented musicians like Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin and Tony Bennett. Even film legends Marilyn Monroe, George Lucas and, of course, the unforgettable Robin Williams have called the region home. 

Most of the towns in the county date back to the late 19th century, once serving as luxurious vacation getaways for wealthy San Franciscans who wanted a piece of Marin’s sunny scenic vistas and an escape from the city’s chilly summer fog. Whether it’s the gorgeous weather, proximity to both the city and Wine Country, or simply the beauty of the land itself, people have always flocked to Marin, and these historic homes have hosted some seriously fabulous figures. And the best part? These fabled homes are available now.

An Estate Worth Fawning Over 


1 Fawn Ridge, Fairfax

$3,780,000 

This iconic-five bedroom, four-bath abode dates seven-plus decades back to 1947, having originally been built as a family home for generations of wealthy San Francisco seed company operators. Rumor has it that at one point, a mysterious organized crime figure owned the property and hosted glamorous Gatsby-esque gala affairs there, which Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe would frequently attend. The house was completely rebuilt from the foundation up in 1991 after a 1989 fire. 

There’s a clear sense of magic enveloping these grounds, which no doubt enticed and kept the attention of the visiting fabled Hollywood couple and other glitterati. However, post-Marilyn days, this property has been revamped to feel sleeker with more modern touches. A few awe-inspiring details include the large skylight that runs along the length of the upstairs, an attached au pair unit with a separate entrance, a giant outdoor stone fireplace, a historic cobbled driveway and walkways, and all the modern high-tech must-haves.

Downstairs, this mansion is equipped with an excavated “fallout shelter” (only one of three in Marin) outfitted with a water tank, escape hatch, ventilated air and intercom system, storage cabinets and bunk beds — a flawless setup perfect for escaping a raid by an enemy crime organization. Listing agent: Jennifer Bowman, 415.755.1040, jennifer@bowmanrealestategroup.com

1976 Warm Springs Road, Glen Ellen
1976 Warm Springs Road, Glen Ellen (Open Houses Photography)

Winning the Curb Appeal Competition


1976 Warm Springs Road, Glen Ellen

$8,500,000

Surrounded by natural beauty and breathtaking vistas, the Smothers House is an extraordinary 125-acre compound proudly perched in the heart of scenic Jack London wine country, just minutes away from Jack London State Historic Park. This custom-crafted residence has multiple covered verandas ideal for entertaining, a solar-heated pool, putting green, barn with live and workspaces as well as a four-car garage — so it comes as no surprise this ranch once served as the beloved homestead of talented musician, actor and comedy icon, Tom Smothers.

Smothers is best known as half of the musical comedy duo the Smothers Brothers, alongside his brother Dick. The two performed on TV shows in the late 1950s and early 1960s and later had their own program, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, before it was barred from television due to its controversially liberal viewpoints.

As a civil rights activist and someone who fought against TV censorship in the ’60s, Smothers made friends with fellow activists such as John Lennon. He even played guitar on Lennon’s single “Give Peace a Chance” and was name-checked in the lyrics.

But there’s no funny business at this house. The one-of-a-kind three-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath residence is set on nearly 125 acres with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and large windows to capture the sweeping views of the hills. There are also two barns and two ponds on the property, as well as plenty of room for horses and other farm animals.

Smothers most likely felt safe and secluded here as the property is naturally sheltered by a grove of mature oaks, olive trees and authentic rock walls, while also offering access to nearby nature (including a 23-acre cabernet sauvignon vineyard) and historic Wine Country towns. 

Listing agents: Tina Shone, 707.799.7556, tina@shonegroup.com; Evan Shone, 707.328.9288, evan@shonegroup.com

20 Westgate Drive, San Rafael backyard
20 Westgate Drive, San Rafael (photo by Aerial Canvas)

West Really Is Best 


20 Westgate Drive, San Rafael

$5,500,000

This rare modern masterpiece of a residence is situated on a picturesque one-acre lot, having been designed by internationally renowned architect-turned-professional-painter James Shay. A legend in the art and architecture worlds, Shay has designed numerous notable commercial and residential modernist projects in the western United States and Asia for three decades.

In the mid-’90s Shay took a step back from architecture to focus on his artwork. Today, he regularly has one-person shows and is represented by numerous well-known galleries across the U.S. Elements of Shay’s artistic talent and architectural expertise can be felt throughout this gorgeous San Rafael home. 

The open, spacious floor plan offers 5,056 square feet and plenty of indoor-outdoor spaces to enjoy the manicured landscaping and open space that the property enjoys. Architectural highlights include towering arched steel roofs, soaring ceilings, sleek glass walls and a glass-enclosed 500-square-foot state-of-the-art kitchen with 23-foot-high ceilings. There are four bedrooms, four baths, a chef’s kitchen, a generously sized pool, and, of course, that outdoor area made for basking in the sunshine. Listing agent: Susan Ferrington, 415.519.3240, sferrington11@gmail.com