William C. Ralston House

College of Notre Dame campus, Belmont, California


Ralston Hall

Photo from the Historic American Buildings Survey

View photos at Library of Congress



One of the grandiose creations of a grandiose personality - William Chapman Ralston. Utilizing a modest villa, property of Count Cipriani in the 1850s and early 1860s, Ralston created a veritable Victorian palace here after buying the property in 1865. Largely built in the late 1860s, the house and grounds were constantly embellished until Ralston's mysterious death in 1875. Passing to his former partner, Senator William Sharon, the house was later sold to a Mrs. Bull who made it into a girls' school. Then, it became a private sanitarium run by Dr. Gardner. In 1922, the Sisters of Notre Dame purchased the property for the College of Notre Dame and begun conversion of the house to their uses. Carefully, they have gradually rehabilitated the mansion. Ralston Hall was stylistically a modified Italian Villa; but its rambling growth and present stripped exterior make exact categorization difficult. Like its creator, Ralston, the house reflected a mercurial variety and additive opulence. Its interiors are remarkable on a national scale of values, and incorporate many unusual features of both construction and decoration. -- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS CA-1674)

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on November 15, 1966
Reference number
NR name
Ralston, William C., House
Areas of significance
Commerce; Economics; Social History
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
B - Person
Property type
Historic function
Single dwelling
Current function
Periods of significance
1875-1899; 1850-1874
Significant years
1864; 1875
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 2

Update Log 

  • August 5, 2022: New photo from Bill Eichelberger