Belvedere: The Town That Time Forgot

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President and owner Larry Hadley with Jeff Hadley, his nephew and general manager, in front of their Belvedere Office.

Belvedere is The Town That Time Forgot. Tucked on just 2.4 square miles and bounded on three sides by the bay, it was an idyllic refuge when my mother was a girl and when I was a girl and it remains so today — although Belvedere is just 16 miles from San Francisco, it still embodies its small town character and uniqueness, similar to Portofino, Italy, its twin city.

In 1950, 800 people lived here; it’s now home to just 2,048, who live in 950 homes. The town is stewarded by the people who have lived here for decades. Like the residents of the mythical Brigadoon in Lerner and Loewe’s much-loved musical, the residents believe Belvedere “has healing powers, and its townsfolk, according to legend, live long and peaceful lives.” I can affirm that: Belvedere is my Brigadoon.

A lithograph of Belvedere looking south towards San Francisco, 1892.
Beach Road with Mount Tamalpais in the distance. The buildings on Beach Road included a boat house, cod fishery and arks on pilings. Belvedere became a city in 1896, making it now one of the oldest and smallest cities in California.

One of the more consequential building blocks of Belvedere has been keeping the integrity of the architecture and character of this hamlet, thanks in part to Hadley Construction, a Belvedere-based building company. In 1950, Robert Hadley bid to build my grandfather’s house on the Belvedere Lagoon.

My maternal grandfather was a Harvard-educated engineer with a healthy respect for earthquakes. Harry B. Allen of the Belvedere Land Company found my grandfather a piece of property on Belvedere Lagoon. The lot was mostly on bedrock, a rarity since at the time the lagoon was still a sludge-filled mosquito-ridden swampy salt marsh. In 1950 my grandparents built an iconic mid-century home on the lot, built by Robert Hadley. This 1963 photo is of my 8-year-old self on a paddleboard my grandfather built for his five grandchildren.
Since 1950 Hadley has worked on more than half of the homes in Belvedere.

Three generations and 70 years later, our families continue to work together. Robert’s son Larry is now the owner of Hadley Construction. Jeff Hadley, General Manager and Larry’s nephew, is in the process of buying my father’s home and taking the company into its third generation. Small town relationships that continue through the generations — that’s a sure sign of a peaceful, stable community.

Dan Hadley, Jeff Hadley’s father, worked with the company for 30 years before retiring in 2018. Here Larry and Dan attend a parade in 1975.
Jeff Hadley, the 3rd generation of Hadleys, carries on here with one of the company’s 36 carpenters.

My 94-year-old mother, former Belvedere Mayor Connie Wiley, has been a respected international interior designer in the Bay Area since the late 1940s. Like the long-lived residents of Brigadoon, she still works. She insists on Hadley Construction as the contractor on her jobs. Hadley makes sure it is done right the first time, she says: on schedule and within budget.

Hadley office staff hosting a Belvedere /Tiburon Chamber mixer BBQ.
Larry Hadley branding barbequed tri-tip with a custom made branding iron.
Tools of the trade at a Hadley hoedown.

Some of the Hadley crew.
Larry with Hunter, his beloved King Charles.

My mother’s opinion is universally honored here. Hadley has worked on more than half the homes in Belvedere.  It has built many custom homes on large estate properties in Marin, Sonoma and Napa Counties many of which overlook the San Francisco Bay.  Despite its growth Hadley remains faithful to its roots and Belvedere residents — long after a project in Belvedere is finished, Hadley crews often watch over properties and continue to maintain them for years.

This house, built on the Belvedere Cove in the early 1900s, had recently fallen into disrepair and was abandoned. The new owners wanted to tear it down and start fresh, but the city wouldn’t allow any construction activity to take place from the road as the house was located on a one-lane street. Meaning — all work had to be performed from the water side! This required the use of 3 special Flexi Floats connected together to create a 30 by 40 foot floating platform as a work staging area. All materials were transported to this staging area by a landing craft and offloaded for use on the project. A multifaceted and complex job that really only Hadley Construction could pull off.
Here is the demolished house from the Belvedere Cove.
The west side of Corinthian Island showing the new house completed by Hadley. The project was a 22-month adventure.
Here is the completed garage and entrance from street.
Because this pool and spa were built below sea level, a coffer dam and a pump system were required to dewater the site to allow for excavation and concrete.
Upon completion, the coffer dam was replaced with a concrete seawall.

This midcentury duplex unit was completely renovated by Hadley Construction.
Here it is from the water side of the structure, taken from Raccoon Straights.

A view of the San Francisco Bay from Pacific Heights in San Francisco. This client wanted Hadley to open up the view from the 3rd story living room.
A custom curved wood archway in the San Francisco house.
Beautiful evening in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hadley completed a major renovation of this late 1800’s home overlooking Belvedere Cove and Corinthian Island.
The kitchen was part of the renovation.
Most houses on the West Side of Belvedere Island were built on driven piles that, over the years, need maintenance and repair. Here workmen are replacing several of the old rotten wood beams under the building with new steel retrofits. This platform continues under the entire structure, allowing the steel beams to be craned onto the platform and placed on wheeled dollies to allow them to be manually maneuvered into place. Once in the location on the platform the beams were then hydraulically lifted into place.
This crane lifted the new steel beams from the street onto the temporary work platform.
Here is the temporary work platform, with the new galvanized steel beams installed under the house.
Another “Hadley” home on West Shore Road in Belvedere.
A custom built four-story spiral staircase in another “Hadley” house on Belvedere Island.
Custom spiral stair and railing at the 4th floor looking down.
This rustic style kitchen with authentic hardwood hand-hewn beams/plaster walls oversees the California landscape in this 60-acre ranch in Sonoma.
Hadley did a complete demolition and construction of this new home overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge on the southwest side of Belvedere.
The view towards Sausalito.
The master bath with curved wood ceilings.
The home office in this 10,000-square-foot home is part of the extensive remodel of the entire estate. In this room the owner wanted to retain and restore the integrity of the old world craftsmanship.
This house was built in the 1950s. Part of the major renovation undertaken by Hadley was to update the kitchen.
The crown molding, stair rail with balustrades, wainscoting, columns, and wood flooring are all handcrafted on site and installed by Hadley craftsman.
“No job too big … or too small!”
The owner of this 4-acre Tiburon estate donated the old existing house to the local fire department to be used for training purposes. Small sections of the existing house were actually burned and extinguished during the fire department’s drills. Then large redwood beams were removed and stored for future use in the new home. The lot was then cleared, and construction commenced on three structures: the main house, pool house and studio. The two-year project included negotiations with 14 adjacent property owners in selections of property line fence detail and design in order to respect the neighbors’ requests. The project also included a swimming pool with an infinity edge spilling over on a water feature and then into the connected spa.
The owner’s concern for energy conservation led to photovoltaic solar panels installed on top of the garden arbor adjacent to the swimming pool. The structures are also heated with geothermal energy. At the time of construction there were no local companies that could drill the geo wells, so a special truck-mounted drill rig had to be transported from halfway across the country.
This Stinson Beach home had to be designed to meet the regulations of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Association. In this case, the two structures built on the one lot fell into two different zones.
The structure on the beach/coast side fell into FEMA’s floodplain management zone. This dictated the elevation of the finished floor. Also restricting the design of this home was the Stinson Beach Homeowners Association’s limit on the overall height. The outdoor living area, with a complete built-in kitchen, including barbeque, pizza oven and firepit.
Stinson Beach.
The client wanted to capture as much of the Pacific Ocean view as possible by using large windows and sliding glass doors that lead out to the outdoor living area.
Master bath looking up Mount Tamalpais.
Spa and bocce ball court at the beach installed by Hadley.
This is what it sometimes takes to reach the extreme — and no, the tractor is not sliding off the hill!

It takes a lot of different equipment to navigate this steep lot.
Here the owner of the neighboring property wanted to increase his outdoor living space and gardens. After purchasing the property, he had the main house, guest house and pool demolished and the lot landscaped.
It takes a lot of different equipment to navigate this steep lot.
A major Hadley renovation. The house was removed, leaving the existing concrete slab to accommodate the construction of the new home.  The outside was designed to complement the other homes in the neighborhood, but the interior has a more modern appeal.
On the water side the owner’s desire was to bring the outdoors in. This was accomplished by using large lift and slide glass doors. Then a C-LOC seawall — a synthetic sheet piling driven into the lagoon silt — was installed to allow for the rear patio.
The use of many different finish materials throughout the home created the unique atmosphere for this lagoon home.
This staircase was built in place using cantilevered steel treads that were then clad with anigre, a species of hardwood. The custom steel hand railing with a wood cap was first mocked up using painted wood sections for the owner’s approval. Then the final product was built by a local ironworker and completed with an oil rub.
Lifetime friends: Sandra Swanson, Paige Peterson, Larry Hadley, with past Belvedere Mayors Claire McAuliffe and Connie Wiley. Larry’s father bid to build Connie’s parents’ house in 1950.

Video by Jessica J. Miller

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