A Rare Opportunity: Case Study House #26 Enters Market for the First Time in San Rafael

This is not an error: Case Study House #26 really is located in the Northern California town of San Rafael. In fact, it's the only Case Study House in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"It's a slice of California modern history," listing agent Kathi Elliott says. "It's an amazing property." In the land of redwood and stucco, this steel-and-glass design stands out.

Designed by Beverley David Thorne, the one-level, four-bedroom home built on a sloping property with views of the Peacock Gap golf course is "as current as it was when it was built," Elliott says.

It's also hardly changed. Elliott says the original architecture as intact. Except for a kitchen remodel possibly in the late 1960s or early 1970s, the masterpiece of modern design has been kept in pristine condition since it was constructed in 1962.

Even the original light fixtures have stood the test of time, according to the agent. And at just 1,955 square feet, the home's footprint "feels so big," she says, thanks to the high ceilings, an open floor plan, and a deck that runs the length of the house.

The steel-framed Harrison House was named for a Bethlehem Steel executive who wanted to purchase the property. When he backed out, an airline pilot bought it "without his wife even seeing it," according to the agent. He apparently made the right choice: The family has been the sole owner of the property -- and five decades later the children have decided to put the place on the market for $1.85 million.

The price takes into account the value of the property, but not the cachet of owning a Case Study House. And history aside, the next owner will probably want to do some updating.

The architect himself is a legend: Thorne, at 91, is the last living Case Study architect, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Case Study Houses were commissioned starting in the mid-1940s to now-famous architects as experiments in low-cost building techniques after World War II.

Thorne gained renown for designing jazz great Dave Brubeck's Oakland house in the mid-1950s, an eye-popping design that cantilevered over a hillside.

The publicity-shy architect continued to quietly build homes in the Bay Area. "My structural theory was: You do the basic cage or bone in steel, then you fill it in with wood. Because I like wood. It's just a nicer material inside," he told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Thorne's Case Study House is a true rarity. Of the three dozen or so commissioned designs, the homes that were built are all located in Southern California. When one goes on the market, it tends to cause a frenzy among Mid-Century Modern design buffs.

Elliott is aware of the unique nature of her listing. "It was a big deal. It is a big deal," she says. She has kept up public showings of the house. "We really want people to see it and enjoy it," she adds.