By Soona Mata – Photos by Kasey Bruce & Carol Camacho – Jan. 2023 – Visible from the Pacifica Pier is the medieval façade of a castle wrought with gargoyles and griffins resting around the castle turrets and crenellations. Unsurprisingly, it has garnered interest from coast-side locals and passersby for generations.
Sam’s Castle has gone through several naming iterations in its long history but has remained a constant center of intrigue and activity in Pacifica since its construction in 1908. It has had many colorful owners throughout the years and run the gamut from brothel to speakeasy to U.S. Coast Guard lookout during World War II.
Public access to this magnificent ocean-side estate became available only after Sam Mazza left his castle in the hands of the Sam Mazza Foundation, who in addition to scheduling docent-led tours also opens the castle to other events such as holiday parties and music salon events. With docents from the Pacifica Historical society as guides, it promises to be an educational and one-of-a-kind experience.
Upon entering, you’ll be led to the terrace
with sweeping views of Pacifica’s coastline, the Pacifica Pier, and the coastal hillsides prior to being divided into tour groups. Docents often get into character as one of the castle’s previous residents, taking you in a trip through time from the castle’s bout as a prohibition Era speakeasy to World War times and beyond.
You’ll see rooms filled with objet d’art Sam Mazza accrued during his life and time as a set designer for 20th Century Fox. He was a free-spirited character with a unique history in his own right, who purchased the castle on a whim while in town for drinks with his girlfriend. Over time, his willingness to show people around and throw parties, as well as his extensive art and furnishings collection, made the castle what it is now.
If you suddenly feel a chill on the premises you’re not alone! Ghost stories related to the castle abound, and there are videos of ghost-hunting camera crews encountering odd noises and images. Be sure to ask the docents about the news stories about bones being found and a message from beyond received at a Halloween séance!
The tour is followed by a spread of appetizers, sweets, charcuterie, and beverages on yet another floor of the castle with amazing views and more treasures from the Golden Age of Hollywood and beyond.
While it’s no longer completely shrouded in mystery as a private estate, there’s still so much to learn and uncover on your tour. With its many Instagram-able spots, intriguing décor, and grandiose, historical aura, there’s something for everyone to love and enjoy at this oceanside hot spot—eclectic décor, historic guns, a harmonium, medieval architecture, ghost story intrigue, and intrinsic historical value. As you sit and enjoy the delicious finger foods, scan the horizon and take in the beautiful coastal views that has drawn many to this very destination for over a century.
If you’d like to know more about this Castle on the Hill’s fascinating history and ties to locals and former congressmen, copies of ‘Sam’s Castle’, by former docent and author Bridget Oates, are available at the castle, (via purchasing a tour ticket), or at Pacifica’s favorite little book store, Florey’s Books. For more information visit the Sam Mazza Foundation website.
Make Sam’s Castle part of a weekend getaway by the sea. Stay at America’s Best Value Inn, located a minute drive from the castle and two blocks from the Pacifica Coastside Museum where one can purchase a brick of Pacifica Jack Cheese and take a tour of their latest historic exhibit. Also near the hotel are more coastal landmarks such as the Pacifica Pier, the 18-hole Sharp Park Golf Course, designed by the reknown golf course architect, Alister MacKenzie, and the historic Milagra Ridge trail.
For more nearby coastside accommodations, explore Visit Pacifica’s Places To Stay page.