San Francisco home where sci-fi classic “Dune” was written hits the market

“We have not yet discovered any sand worms in the backyard,” say longtime owners

San Francisco /
Sep.September 22, 2021 08:48 AM
412 Mississippi Street in San Francisco (Coldwell Banker Realty)
412 Mississippi Street in San Francisco (Coldwell Banker Realty)

The former San Francisco home of sci-fi legend Frank Herbert has come to market for the first time in 35 years, just in time for the highly anticipated release of the new star-studded movie based on his best-selling “Dune” series.

In a fantastical twist, the two-bedroom, one-bath house is almost affordable, at least by San Francisco standards, with a list price just shy of $1.6 million.

Herbert didn’t just live in the 1,200-square-foot home. He wrote the first “Dune” novel in the Potrero Hill property, though by the time it was published in 1965, he and his family had moved to a bigger abode in Marin.

Herbert did his writing in the mornings at a roll-top desk in the sunny dining room, according to a biography written by his son, Brian Herbert. Then he went off to his 4 pm-to-midnight shift as the picture editor at the San Francisco Examiner.

“By writing in the mornings, I gave my best energies to myself,” Herbert told his son. “The Ex got what was left.”

Herbert published the biography in the early 2000s, which is when travel and food writer Gayle Keck started noticing “Dune” aficionados turning up to take pictures outside the home she had owned since 1986.

She bought the 1938 home because of its sunny location on Potrero’s north slope, original art deco features, large kitchen and private garden. She had no idea about its connection to one of sci-fi’s seminal works until two tourists from Washington D.C. turned up in front of the property one day and showed her Herbert’s biography of his famous father.

“I’ve always loved the house, but knowing its history and that sci-fi luminaries gathered here makes it even more special,” she said.

Keck and her husband R. Paul Herman, who is also a writer, have kept many original elements of the home the same as in Herbert’s time, including the facade and the pink-and-black tile motif in the bathroom. But the kitchen has been updated and the couple has also done a lot of work in the yard. And no, they haven’t seen anything out there that might have inspired one of Herbert’s most famous creations.

“We have not yet discovered any sand worms in the backyard,” Herman joked.

They also turned the lower level of the home into a registered Airbnb suite with its own wet bar and small dining area. Not surprisingly, they get a lot of rental interest from “Dune” lovers, the legions of whom may only increase after the new Timothy Chalamet- and Zendaya-starring reboot comes out next month.

Given the Bay Area’s heated market and the buyer-friendly price point, it’s likely the home will sell well before the movie’s release to someone who may not even be interested in its prominent former owner.

Keck doesn’t mind if the home’s new owners don’t know a schlag from a slig, she just hopes they “appreciate its history.”

“They will be keepers of a very special place,” she said.





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