BAHA Preservation Awards 2010

Part Four



Wells House (photo: Carrie Olson, 2010)

Chauncey W. & Mary P. Wells House
1525 La Loma Avenue
(Roland I. Stringham, 1922)

Chauncey Wetmore Wells, who taught English Composition at the University of California since 1901, was made a full Professor of English in 1919. After 20 years of renting, Wells and his wife could finally afford to build a house of their own. Finding an architect was easy—their next-door neighbor was Roland Stringham, who also happened to be a fraternity brother of Professor Wells. The young architect, then in his late 20s, designed a house inspired by English manors. At the southern end, a semi-detached apartment above the garage provided bachelor housing for Professor Durham from the English department. His drawing room had a magnificent high vaulted ceiling with exposed rafters. Future owners of the house—the second owners were Helen and Alexander Meiklejohn—adopted this room as a study.

Photos: Daniella Thompson, 2010

The house remained unchanged until the 1980s, when a general remodel enlarged the kitchen, refaced the fireplace surrounds, added cabinets in the master dressing room, and provided direct access from the master bedroom to the second-floor bathroom. The then-owners were careful to model the new kitchen and dressing room cabinets on existing designs within the house. In 2002, the house was designated as one of 13 contributing structures in the new La Loma Park Historic District. By then, many of its original elements had begun to fail, including the roof, gutters, and flashing; windows and exterior doors; decks over living spaces; interior plaster and paint; plumbing and electrical systems.

The kitchen (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2010)

The historic designation had to be taken into account when the house underwent comprehensive waterproofing and repair renovation. Some of the original windows could not be salvaged and were replaced in kind, down to the wavy glass panes. Windows that were not beyond repair received a deep-tissue rehabilitation. The exterior was waterproofed with a limestone-infused paint from Austria. Inside, walls and ceilings in the major rooms received a hand-troweled treatment of waxed Venetian plaster. The attic space, previously unfinished, was turned into an airy sitting room inspired by the study on the main floor.

The study (photos: Daniella Thompson, 2010)

The remodeled attic

The house remains essentially unaltered. Throughout, both owners and contractor approached the project with respect for what was already there, resisting the call of passing fashion. Thanks to them, the Wells House retains its timeless elegance. We applaud this work of preservation, pure and simple.


Kofoid House (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2010)

Charles A. & Carrie P.W. Kofoid House
2616 Etna Street
(Julia Morgan, 1905)

Julia Morgan designed this Dutch Colonial in 1905 for Charles Atwood Kofoid, a professor of zoology, and his wife, Carrie Prudence Winter Kofoid, a writer and historian. Professor Kofoid’s father, who was a carpenter, made many of the woodwork elements in the house, including the unusual crown moldings. In 1947, the childless Kofoid passed his house to David Michener, son of the professor’s former lab assistant. The Michener family lived in the house until 2008, when it went on the market for the first time. Although in need of long-deferred maintenance, the house retained practically all its historic fabric. The old built-ins and fixtures were still there, including an intact kitchen and even the Hawaiian grass-mat ceiling in the study, brought from Hawaii by Mrs. Kofoid. Historic items not in use were stored in the basement, awaiting eventual resurrection.

The study (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2010)

The new owners, veterans of a Philadelphia restoration, wasted no time in breathing new life into the house. They repaired the entire north wall, which was rotted, and rebuilt the back porch stairs, which had been removed after the Loma Prieta earthquake, using an old photograph as a model. The sleeping porch under the rear gambrel roof had a chronic leak that was finally addressed with new windows correctly installed.

The porch and its rebuilt stairs (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2010)

Rooms that has been modified over the years were returned to their original configuration. Electric outlets and switches were replaced with antique push-button brass plates from 1905. The fireplaces were rebuilt with antique fire bricks and capped with tops and vents of the original type. All the woodwork was oiled and stained where necessary. The floors, which had been sealed with polyurethane prior to the sale, were stripped and finished with tung oil.

The 1905 bathroom (courtesy of Marlon Maus)

The new bathroom (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2010)

The old nursery was converted into a new bathroom built exclusively with vintage fixtures. This new bathroom is a perfect companion to the one built in 1905.

For the renovation, the owners made use of antique hardware they found in the basement, and energetically hunted for missing fixtures in flea markets and salvage yards. They also commissioned new elements: having discovered in Julia Morgan’s plans a never-executed design for the front doors’ sidelights, they had new leaded-glass sidelights made in this design. To their credit, they left the original kitchen and pantry alone.

The kitchen is largely original. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2010)

The Kofoid House is a case study of historically correct restoration. We salute the owners for this exceptional project.

Awards 2010

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