Berkeley Landmarks :: 2021 Designations

Berkeley Landmarks designated in 2021

Schneider House in the 1910s (from Werner Hegemann’s Plan for Berkeley & Oakland, 1915)

Schneider-Kroeber House,
“Semper Virens”

Bernard Maybeck (1907)
1325 Arch Street
Designated: 5 August 2021

Schneider-Kroeber House today (photo: Steven Finacom, 2021)

Constructed almost entirely of unpainted redwood and featuring wide eaves, brackets, and numerous balconies with decorative railings, the Schneider-Kroeber House was designed during a period when Maybeck was experimenting with Swiss chalet–style forms. Standing at the crest of Arch Street, on a steep, upslope lot facing sweeping bay views, the house anchors a nearly intact block of First Bay Tradition homes that survived the 1923 Berkeley Fire and reflect the aspirations and ideals of the nearby Hillside Club to create residences and neighborhoods that conformed to the natural landscape.

Mary and Albert Schneider, members of the Hillside Club, commissioned the house and lived in it until the mid-1910s. Dr. Albert Schneider (1863–1928) was Professor of Pharmacology and Bacteriology at the University of California. He collaborated with Berkeley Police Chief August Vollmer in planning a three-year police school and became known as the inventor of the lie detector.

About 1927, Professor Alfred Louis Kroeber (1876–1960) purchased the house. A nationally prominent anthropologist, Kroeber was an expert in the cultures and languages of the indigenous peoples of western North America and founded the U.C. Museum of Anthropology. He and his wife, Theodora, would raise four children in the house, and it remained their home for the rest of their lives. Theodora Kroeber (1897–1979) became a well-known author and scholar in her own right with her best-selling book, Ishi in Two Worlds, and other writings about native culture.

The Kroebers’ daughter, Ursula K. Le Guin (1929–2018), grew up in the house “from birth to maturity” (in her own words) and would later write eloquently about the seminal role the building had in shaping her world view and the way she approached writing. Le Guin was a towering and influential figure in science fiction and fantasy literature.

Le Guin once observed, “I don’t know what novel our Maybeck house could be compared to, but it would contain darkness and radiant light; its beauty would arise from honest, bold, inventive construction, from geniality and generosity of spirit and mind, and would also have elements of fantasy and strangeness...I wonder if much of my understanding of what a novel ought to be was taught to me, ultimately, by living in that house. If so, perhaps all my life I have been trying to rebuild it around me out of words.

The landmark application is accessible online.


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