Fans of Shel Silverstein’s beloved children’s books are in for a rare treat: the opportunity to own a piece of literary history. The author’s Sausalito houseboat, once a decommissioned World War II balloon barge, recently hit the market for $783,000.
Docked in picturesque Richardson Bay, the floating home sports a colorful past. Purchased by Silverstein in the late 1960s, it was part of a burgeoning community inhabited by artists and other creatives.
Intrigued, SecondShelters.com called listing agent Diane Andrews of Engel & Volkers to find out more. The fact that she was alone on a boat off the Marin County coastline only added to the property’s allure.
“It’s truly an iconic home; famous, fun, and historical all at once,” says the 47-year Bay Area native. “There’s absolutely nothing else like it.”
For starters, the houseboat’s offbeat exterior pairs unfinished wood panels with a bright red metal roof. Even more uniqueness awaits inside.
Original features of the 1,200-square-foot abode include open beam ceilings and multiple skylights. A large glass-topped table looks down to the lower level. The room also sports stained glass windows, engraved metal art, and decorative lighting fixtures.
Painted wood doors (also authentic) open up to a sleek, newly-renovated kitchen. Updates include stainless appliances, white cabinetry, and shiny tile floors. A refurbished metal stairway leads down to the houseboat’s main living area.
Just off the master bedroom, there’s a cozy alcove where Silverstein is said to have authored his highly-acclaimed books. (The Giving Tree, A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends, among others.) In the second bedroom, a lofted bed hangs from the ceiling.
Lastly, a modernized bath features an oval tub/shower, plus more stained glass accents.
Historical Antidotes Up the Cool Factor
For starters, there’s a rarity of information about balloon barges. By chance, Andrews came across a copy of Wayne Bonnett’s Build Ships! in a Sausalito bookstore.
“It contained a wealth of information, including wartime photography of the San Francisco Bay Area shipyards dating back to the early 1940s,” she says.
Fast forward to 1967. It was during the infamous Summer of Love that Silverstein entered the picture.
“Shel had been living in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district during the height of the hippie movement,” says Andrews. On a trip to Sausalito, he discovered the houseboat community and decided to buy a barge.
People still remember Shel’s gatherings.” she says. “It was quite the heyday in the ’70s. Everyone wanted to hang out.”
Today, residents run the gamut from artists, writers, and designers to retired doctors and lawyers.
“Everyone knows each other,” says Andrews. “It’s quiet, peaceful, and friendly; the perfect home or pied-à-terre for anyone wanting to live out their dream in the Bay Area.”
The 8 Liberty Dock houseboat is also available for long-term rentals.