When Sausalito was merely a summer playground for wealthy San Franciscans, Major Orson C. Miller moved there and set about developing the “Old Town” area.  In 1888, he and his wife built an astonishingly large house perched on a hill overlooking the town and Richardson’s Bay. At a time when there were not street addresses, the house came to be known as “The Pines

 Major Miller died in 1903 and subsequent owners made major changes to the property.  In 1910, as glass conservatory from England was brought around Cape Horn by ship and added to the South Side of the house. Another owner divided the original 23 rooms into four apartments which rented out to boarders. 

One owner built a tacky carport down by the road for auto storage. During the 60’s and 70’s, hippies painted curlicues and flowers on the exterior woodwork. The next owner spent several years meticulously restoring the mansion to its original splendor only to have it gutted by a Greek developer who bought the property in the 1990’s.  The sweeping oak stairway and redwood banister were demolished, interior molding and woodwork dismantled, brass hinges, rewired gaslight fixtures and original radiators removed.


For over 8 years, Gil Purcell and Roxanne Sheridan, and Gil’s dad, Gil Sr, hunted down materials and craftsman to bring the house back to its original condition. Seismic and electrical upgrades were the first order of business, which meant rebuilding the brick foundation.  Thousands of bricks were sourced from the 19th century to use for the foundation work as well as chimneys and walkways, and craftsmen skilled in the style of 1888 were secured to mortar the bricks.

Ancient heart redwood was located along with the woodworkers with the ability to recreate banisters, moldings and other missing Victorian-era woodwork.

A gorgeous stained glass skylight from South America was installed over the stairway, necessitating a feat of engineering and the rooftop widow’s walk was refurbished.  Living there with 9 rescue cats, the family has created a comfortable living space, and even made friend with the ghosts patrolling the grand halls.


Squinty at front steps

Haunted Mansion

From early on in its history, inhabitants have claimed that The Pines is haunted. Reports of whiff’s of perfume, loud footsteps in the night and visions of a woman in a hat were stated in previous articles about the house.  Roxanne has seen a woman, perhaps the same one previously reported, with a big hat and also sensed movement out of her peripheral vision. Pops has had many encounters with a people in colorful outfits.

They feel the cats have a six sense about the ghosts which allows them to feel the spirit’s presence.

All three think that maybe it is the residents from the past coming to make sure their home is being taken care of and watching over the progress of the restoration.