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In 1870, John Hamlin Burnell purchased some property on the edge of San Francisco Bay in order to obtain rights to the natural springs which run beneath it. He built the Albion Ale and Porter Brewing Company using stones recycled from ships' ballasts and quarried locally. He would later build the Albion Water Co. next door to sell bottled spring water. In 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was made to the Constitution, prohibiting the sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors and destroying the brewery that had succesfully operated for over 50 years. The structure fell to ruin until it was purchased by sculptor Adrien Alexander Voisin who spend over twenty years restoring it as a studio and home and it remains as such to this day.

  • Inside the water caves of the Albion Brewery.
  • Albion castle when it first stood, before other buildings were constructed around it.
  • The building as it looks today.

The original structure was built in 1870 by a young English immigrant called John Hamlin Burnell. He had plans to start a brewery and supply alcohol to San Francisco's ever-growing 800 saloons. At the time there were already several breweries competing for business and beer was an increasingly popular choice among locals. But Burnell was a very clever man - he had an underground aquifer that provided pure cold water directly to his property, ideal for brewing. 

He built himself a small castle home next to his brewery built from stones salvaged from cargo ships' ballasts in the Norman style of his homeland. He dug two stone cisterns into the ground which could each capture up to 10,000 gallons of fresh spring water per day. They could be accessed via natural caves and still provide clean water to this day. 

When Prohibition forced the brewery to close down in 1919, the property was reborn as the Albion Water Company and providing bottled drinking water from the underground cisterns from 1928 to 1947. In 1938, the castle was bought by the sculptor Adrian Voisin who added much of the woodwork and medieval-inspired interior that is there today. 

In 1998 the property was sold to another sculptor, Eric Higgs, known as one of the founders of CitySearch. In 2005 it was sold at auction for $2.1 million dollars. The purchasers, local brewers and castle fanciers from Napa county, intended to revitalize the space and re-launch the historic Albion Brewery. Although some renovations to the property and interior have been made, the brewery never materialized. it was put on the market for $2.9 million in 2010 but sold for just $1 million a year later. 

San Francisco Landmark #60 Hunters Point Springs-Albion Brewery. Noe Hill. Accessed May 14, 2017.

Bevk, Alex. Local Landmark #60: Albion Castle in Hunters Point. SF Curbed. Accessed May 14, 2017.

Albion Castle. Atlas Obscura. Accessed May 14, 2017.