Berkeley Landmarks :: 2020 Designations

Berkeley Landmarks designated in 2020

Dilley House when new (Roger Sturtevant, Pencil Points, May 1944)

Grace Stearns Dilley House
Francis Joseph McCarthy (1940)
1399 Queens Road
Designated: 6 February 2020

Dilley House today (photo: Maria Sakovich, 2019)

Grace Stearns Dilley and her college-age daughter, Marguerite, wanted their future Berkeley home, on a lot high in the hills amid Eucalyptus groves, to be a one-room rustic cabin with exposed rafters, a fireplace, and a lean-to kitchen and bath. However, upon submitting her floor plan to the FHA for a construction loan, Mrs. Dilley was told that a licensed architect must draw the plans. Enter Francis Joseph McCarthy, recommended by friends.

Under no circumstances did the Dilleys want a modern house, but that is what they got, and they soon came to appreciate McCarthy’s thoughtful Second Bay Tradition design, which includes a double shed roof; clerestory windows for light and tree views; and window walls oriented toward San Francisco Bay.

West façade (Roger Sturtevant, Pencil Points, May 1944)

As a concession to FHA requirements, a bedroom was added, but the redwood-sided house still comprises only 740 square feet. Almost all of the original architectural features, finishes, and even some of the furnishings and appliances remain.

McCarthy’s floor plan (Pencil Points, May 1944)

Francis Joseph McCarthy (1910–1965), whose design career extended from about 1930 to 1965, was trained in the office of William Wurster, among other architectural firms. According to his biography, “McCarthy opened his own practice in San Francisco in 1938. His work encompassed numerous residential, municipal, and commercial commissions throughout California, including a hospital and health center for the County of Inyo, alterations to the Palace Hotel (San Francisco), and the Electronic Engineering Associates Building (San Carlos). In addition, McCarthy specialized in library buildings, designing the Stanford University Library, Santa Rosa Public Library, and Inyo County Public Library, among others.”

Living room & bedroom (Roger Sturtevant, Pencil Points, May 1944)

The house is important for its association with the noted puppeteers Grace Stearns Dilley and her husband, Perry Dilley, who introduced marionettes and guignol to the people of California. Both were deeply involved in the Bay Area’s creative and bohemian community of the first half of the 20th century. The house was designated for that association and for the way in which it expresses and preserves Bay Region design traditions and represents a good example of McCarthy’s work and part of the history of residential and cultural development in Berkeley.

The landmark application and associated reports are accessible online.


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