BAHA Preservation Awards 2007

Part Two


Rankin House in 2002 (courtesy of Romney McConnell)

John L. and Isabel Rankin House
2909–11 Wheeler Street
(C. R. Bates, builder, 1904)

Rankin House in 2007 (photo: Daniella Thompson)

This South Berkeley Brown Shingle was built in 1904 for a real estate and insurance agent whose office was located on the corner of College and Claremont Avenues. When the present owners found it, the house was 98 years old and showing its age. Restoring the house was a heroic rescue effort, and no one can describe it better than the owner, who wrote:

“My husband and I bought the house in 2002. Frankly, a fixer was all we could afford. We lived with our three small children in our one-bedroom apartment while working on the house.

“The foundation needed replacing, the shingles were shot, there was ivy growing on the inside of the house. The kitchen and bath had been very badly and cheaply remodeled. The dining room board-and-batten had been covered in paneling, and the wall above the plate rail was styrofoam over lathe. Both sets of exterior stairs were dangerously rotten. The built-ins were more or less destroyed. The yard was wild and flooded badly, inundating the basement.

“We lifted the house to replace the foundation and were granted a permit to leave it raised three feet. We then took the interior down to the studs, preserving built-in amenities like window seats, closets, and dressers. We replaced all plumbing, heating and electrical systems. We repaired and replaced all moldings.

“I spent many hours researching solutions for the staircases, which were now hanging three feet off the ground. I was loathe to rebuild them as an awkwardly long run of stairs. I settled on replacing the original run, adding a large graceful landing and turning the path ninety degrees for the final three stairs to the ground. I then set about designing a railing that would comply with building codes while retaining and enhancing the solid beauty of the rest of the house.

New bay window (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2007)

“Since there was no access to the large back yard, I designed a 12 x 35 foot redwood deck for the back of the house, continuing the same balustrade around it. I replaced a bedroom window with French doors for access.

Rear fašade (photo: Daniella Thompson)

“We then designed a separate three-bedroom, two-bath home for the ground level in order to, some day, pay for all this! From the outside, most people can’t tell there was an addition at all.”

1720 Delaware Street (photo: Carrie Olson, 2007)

1720 Delaware Street
(architect unknown, 1890)

For more than a century, this tall Queen Anne house has graced the streets of Berkeley. It is thought to have been built on Shattuck Avenue about 1890. Exactly when it was moved is not known; the building does not appear in the 1911 Sanborn fire insurance maps. It makes its first appearance in the 1929 maps, but could have been moved in the 1910s.

The present owners bought this lovely Victorian lady in 1980 in a poor and neglected state, moved in, and began what became a multi-year restoration project. Previous owners had painted it an unfortunate shade of military green and tacked on it an inappropriate, non-Victorian front porch.

The exterior painting turned into a multi-year job when they found layer after layer of old, bad paint, applied with no preparation work. The paint had to be stripped down nearly to the bare wood. The porch was rebuilt after a great deal of research for just the right design and involved considerable effort and special milling of the elegant newel posts.

Over the years, the owners worked on the interior as well, removing “strange small walls and rooms” and adding dry wall, doors, and more.

But the ownership team of architect and his wife was up to the challenge. They did the work themselves, most recently replacing the old galvanized gutters with new copper gutters.

Good taste and edicated effort have turned this Victorian into a gift to its neighborhood.

The previous kitchen

The new kitchen (photos: Muffy Kibbey)

Newman House

Henry C. & Myrtle M. Newman House
1185 Keith Avenue
(John Hudson Thomas, 1913)

Henry C. Newman was proprietor of the City Package Store, Staple and Fancy Groceries, at 2040 University Avenue. Prior to their arrival in Berkeley, the Newmans, a childless couple, had lived in Petaluma.

Like all well-to-do couples of their time, the Newmans no doubt employed a maid. It’s highly unlikely that Mrs. Newman would have cared to spend much time in the warren of small rooms that made up the service end of the house, including the kitchen.

In today’s world, a remodeled kitchen is more often than not a trophy, appreciated as a conspicuous outpouring of resources rather than as an integral part of a house. The new kitchen and adjoining spaces at 1185 Keith Avenue are a happy exception to this trend. Dare we say that, if John Hudson Thomas were designing this house in 2007, this is the kitchen he would have built.

Photo: Muffy Kibbey

In 1913, Thomas found fresh inspiration from multiple sources: the Bay Area’s craftsman vocabulary, Vienna’s Secessionist movement, as well as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style. But he accepted the period’s traditional assumptions about kitchens. They were an aggregation of utilitarian boxes, spare, designed more for servants than for enjoyment by a family.

Thomas’ sensitive choice of materials, the linear leitmotivs in his woodwork and windows, the light-filled, open spaces that welcome in the garden and the Bay: these stopped at the kitchen door of 1185 Keith Avenue. Now they are part of the kitchen’s design.

It is difficult to imagine that, until as recently as a decade ago, this sylvan, hillside home was broken up into three apartments. We are delighted that it has been restored as a single family home and salute the kitchen that quietly exemplifies the best of John Hudson Thomas. After almost a century, it has been aesthetically united with the rest of the house.

Part Three
Awards 2007

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