Within San Francisco city limits there’s a Norman-style castle with a 4-story turret that few residents have heard of. Built in 1870 by a 21-year-old English immigrant who wanted to start a brewery so he hand-carved two 200-foot caverns under the castle to tap into one of the city’s only sources of natural spring water. Inside the caverns he dug three stone cisterns to hold the 8,000-10,000 gallons of natural spring water that flows through every day.
source.image: Kirsten Dirksen
Burnelll operated the Albion Porter Brewery until he had to shut down for prohibition. In 1919 it was remade into the Albion Water company that specialized in bottled drinking water from the cisterns. The castle was under threat of demolition in 1961 since it was adjacent to a road construction plan, but its nature of producing underground spring waters saved it.
In case of a nuclear attack on the city, the castle could provide emergency water to the city. It is one of the only natural water sources that cannot be contaminatedThe castle was nearly demolished in 1961 to make way for a highway, but it was saved based on the argument that the fresh water source under the building “could be the only non-contaminated source of fresh water in the event of a nuclear attack.” (San Francisco Chronicle).
In 2012, Bill Gilbert, who grew up in the neighborhood and remembers seeing the castle as a kid, bought it and installed a complex water filtration system hoping that someday he could begin bottling water here again.