Tourism For Locals: Honoring the San Francisco Homes of Robin Williams

Robin Williams' death this week at the age of 63 by suicide left many saddened and shocked; the funny man was cherished by his fans, and his style of humor resonated with many. But for local fans it felt as though the pain hit closer to home; Williams didn't just feel like someone we watched on screen, he felt like a neighbor — a Bay Area resident, and someone who loved S.F. just as we do. Williams was a beloved figure in our neighborhoods — his autographed image hangs on the walls of several restaurants we visit, he performed at the comedy clubs we go to, and he participated in our civic events.

[jump] And even though he is no longer with us, his legacy will live on in his repertoire of cinematic classics. But for us locals, we have two unofficial memorials that are inextricably linked with Williams: the Mrs. Doubtfire house in Pacific Heights and his own private residence in Sea Cliff. 
The Victorian house located at 2640 Steiner St. was very much present in the 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire, which starred Williams posing as an elderly English nanny so that he could see his children. (Reading that, you wouldn't think it would be a film that could make you laugh, but Robin WIlliams was a comedic genius). The film was set in San Francisco with much of the cinematography done in the City. 

Upon release, the film received mixed reviews from critics; but nonetheless, it became a huge box office hit. According to The LA Times, It earned $219,195,243 in the United States, along with $222,090,952 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $441,286,195. It became the second highest grossing film of 1993, behind only that of Jurassic Park.

Today, 20 years later, the house is currently owned by a leading craniofacial surgeon for the transgender community: Dr. Douglas Ousterhout. According to NBC Bay Area, Ousterhout wanted to buy the home shortly after the 1993 movie since it was close to his practice in the Castro, but didn't because of lawsuits filed in response to damages caused by the production team. He succesfully purchased the home in 1997 and has lived there ever since. 

Since the announcement of Williams' death Monday evening, there has been a growing memorial of flowers, candles, and pictures outside this home. Ousterhout has stated that he doesn't mind the tribute and finds it fitting.

But Williams, a long term resident of San Francisco, never lived in the Steiner Street home. His long-term residence was his former Sea Cliff home at 540 El Camino Del Mar. It is distinguished by a gigantic topiary dinosaur peering over the massive stony walls. When he lived here, Williams would usually hand out light sticks instead of candy on Halloween to neighborhood children. 

The home was built in 1938 and consists of a total of 4,080 square feet and equipped with 5 bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms. In 2010, it went on the market for a “modest” asking price of $5.4 million. There is also a growing memorial outside of this home according to local media reports.

Although visiting these homes are fitting tributes for the late comedian, we also believe there are other ways to honor the comedic genius. One can simply watch one his films or better yet, live a meaningful life and remember to laugh. Here are some words to remember him by: His “Carpe Diem” speech in 1989's Dead Poet's Society:

“We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

Thank you Robin Williams for sharing your gifts with not only San Francisco but the entire human race. May you rest in peace.

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