BAHA Preservation Awards 2013

Part Three


The Hearst Greek Theatre’s renovated stage (photo: Carrie Olson, 2013)

Hearst Greek Theatre
University of California Campus
(John Galen Howard, 1903; Ernest Born, 1956 alterations)

At its best, architectural preservation saves the jewels inherited from the past and gives them a new lease on life. Where can we find a better illustration of this ideal than the recent seismic retrofit of the Greek Theatre and the renovation of its backstage area? According to Chris Wasney, the project architect, “this is one of those projects where we strive to leave no fingerprints. If no one notices any changes to the historic structure, then we’ve done our job well.” And they have.

The physical challenges were enormous. The Hayward Fault lurks behind the trees on the east side of the amphitheater. The soil beneath the unreinforced concrete of 1903 had settled, leaving the walls at risk of falling in an earthquake. The six-month time limit set for the project, between November and early May, was daunting. A potentially wet Northern California winter lay ahead.

Photo: Carrie Olson, 2013

Fortunately, these challenges were balanced by several significant advantages. Internal voids in the stage walls and piers gave the engineers room for the structural steel beams which, together with fiberwrap, modern concrete, and rebar, would knit the building back together securely. The winter was unusually dry. And the team that had been assembled to save the theatre was remarkably ingenious. Invisible to all, the “backstage,” which is actually underground, was also totally renovated, bringing all the mechanical systems and facilities up to modern standards and renewing the dressing rooms.

We rejoice that the Greek Theatre will continue to be not only a symbol of the university’s intellectual aspirations but also a beloved part of countless lives.


The Cheney Cottage on the U.C. campus (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

The Cheney Cottage reassembled after the move (courtesy of the owners)

The Cheney Cottage now (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2013)

Cheney Cottage
1632 62nd Street
(Carl Ericsson, 1902)

This Stick/Swiss Chalet-style cottage was built at 2243 College Avenue as rental property for Warren and May Cheney, who lived next door at 2241 College. It appears to have been inspired by Maybeck’s Boke House at 23 Panoramic Way.

In 1939, the University of California purchased both Cheney houses for its expanding campus. Used as offices, the houses suffered much abuse. In 1990, they were designated City of Berkeley Landmarks. Their site, which lay between Boalt Hall School of Law and the Haas School of Business, was targeted for development, and in October 2009, U.C. issued a request for proposals for the purchase and relocation of one or both houses.

The main Cheney house, built in 1885, found no takers and was demolished in March 2010. The cottage was acquired for $17 and moved in two pieces—first to University Village in Albany, where it sat for a year while the new owners navigated Berkeley’s inscrutable permit process, then to the 62nd Street lot, where a pre-existing Italianate Victorian had to be moved to the rear so the Cheney Cottage could take its place at the front.

The entrance in 1962 (courtesy of the owners)

The entrance wood refinished (photo: Carrie Olson, 2013)

On site, the cottage’s two floors were reattached, and the long restoration work began. Original redwood paneling, beams, and casework in the living room, dining room, stairway, and second floor hallway were scraped clear of many paint layers, sanded, and shellacked. Missing features, such as the built-in benches and the corbels at the entrance, were recreated. Plaster walls and ceilings were hand-troweled with new plaster. Electric and plumbing systems were updated, kitchen and bathrooms fitted for use. After more than 70 years of shabbiness, the Cheney Cottage is habitable again. The efforts of all involved have been no less than heroic.

Photo: Carrie Olson, 2013

Anthony Hall (Pelican Building)
University of California Campus
(Joseph Esherick, 1956)

A charming pavilion sheltering under oaks and redwoods on the south bank of Strawberry Creek, Anthony Hall is a modern interpretation of a Maybeck-designed building, and not by accident. It was a gift to U.C. from broadcasting and automobile magnate Earle C. Anthony, who had founded the campus humor magazine California Pelican in 1903 and wanted to give it a permanent home.

Anthony admired Maybeck’s work and engaged him in the 1920s to design his Packard showrooms in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles, as well as his Los Angeles mansion. But by 1954, when Anthony decided in 1954 to donate $90,000 for a building to house the Pelican, Maybeck was already in his nineties and refered the commission to Joseph Esherick.

The Pelican Building is Esherick’s tribute to Maybeck, exemplified by wide, sheltering roof eaves; unfinished redwood posts and beams; dragon-head beam ends; industrial steel-sash windows; rough stucco tinted a blotchy red; a colonnaded trellis; and cast-concrete post capitals bearing pelican reliefs.

The building was recently seismically strengthened and renovated. As part of the work, the pelican reliefs were cleaned and reset. The four Sonotube-formed concrete columns on the front porch, which had deteriorated, were replaced with reinforced replicas. Graffiti removal was also included in the project.

Inside, staples were removed from walls and woodwork. The wood was removed, smoothed, and replaced.

The iconic pelican statue in front of the building had been deprived of its upper beak more than once. To prevent further mishap, the beak was reinforced with a steel bar and concrete. The surrounding lawn was removed and replaced with vegetation requiring less maintenance and less water.

Awards 2013

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