Murder and intrigue at California’s last great Gilded Age mansion

Silence blanketed teenagers Jeanine Grinsell and Laurie McKenna when they stepped foot inside Carolands. The security guard they trailed often told the high school girls he took on these illegal tours to scream. He said it was to prove how soundproof the thick concrete walls were.

Jeanine and Laurie went deeper into California’s greatest Gilded Age mansion. Carolands had 98 rooms, and the man led them through a maze of hallways and ballrooms. Suddenly, the security guard said he could hear police dogs. He ordered the girls into the basement, telling them to hide in a safe until the cops were gone. Jeanine and Laurie begged him not to close the door.

When he did, the quiet of Carolands enveloped them completely.

Up on a ridge in Hillsborough, 20 miles south of San Francisco, surrounded by ranch-style suburban homes, sits one of America’s most incredible residences.

The story of Carolands begins with Harriet Pullman, the daughter of train car millionaire George Pullman. The Pullmans lived in Chicago, and on a trip to San Francisco in the early 1890s, the heiress met Frank Carolan. The Carolans were from a wealthy set, too; Frank’s father came west for the Gold Rush and made his fortune in selling dry goods to miners. At a soiree, Harriet and Frank found themselves partnered on the dance floor. Love blossomed. 

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