Berkeley Landmarks :: Captain Boudrow House

Captain Charles C. Boudrow House

1536 Oxford Street, Berkeley, CA

Daniella Thompson

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2021

One of the most imposing Victorian-era homes in Berkeley, the Boudrow House at Sea Captain Corner was constructed in 1889, when Berkeley, whose population then numbered about 12,000, was a favorite retirement spot for mariners.

The house was built for Charles C. Boudrow (c. 1830–1918), a Massachusetts-born master mariner who was for many years a shipping magnate in San Francisco. On 8 June 1918, the Oakland Tribune published his obituary, stating:

Captain Charles Boudrow died suddenly at his home in Berkeley last night. He passed his 88th birthday a few months ago and was then well and hearty. Boudrow was connected with the firm of Migeul [correct spelling: Mighell] & Boudrow, which owned many large square-riggers out of this port, later forming the California Shipping Company and purchasing many eastern craft, which are owned by the Alaska Salmon companies. He retired from active service a few years ago, but made regular visits to the Merchants’ Exchange to talk “ship” with his old-time friends. For over 60 years Boudrow had been established in the marine business in this port.

The May Flint (photo: George Schutze, State Library of Victoria collection)

The Abner Coburn (photo: George Schutze, State Library of Victoria collection)

Among the many ships owned by Captain Boudrow or by the California Shipping Company were the Star of Italy; the cannery tender Jabez Howes; the bark May Flint; the Abner Coburn; the A.J. Fuller; the Saint Frances; and the Joseph B. Thomas.

Captain Boudrow’s office was located near the port of San Francisco, at 38–40 Market Street. His residence was not far from there, at 1933 Stevenson Street. Living near him (but never with him) both in San Francisco and in Berkeley was his nephew Charles E. Boudrow, a ship chandler and dealer in ship material born in Massachusetts in 1858. The nephew’s major claim to fame was his purchase of the decommissioned sloop-of-war Marion from the U.S. Navy in July 1907. He moved to Berkeley at about the same time as his uncle and first appeared in the 1891 directory living on Spruce Street between Vine and Rose. Beginning with the 1893 directory, the younger Boudrow’s residence was 1432 Arch Street, where he remained for many years. In 1894 and 1895 he lived with Miss Louisa F. Boudrow.

Oakland Tribune, 26 July 1907

The U.S.S. Marion (bottom)

Captain Charles C. Boudrow outlived two wives. The second, Christina Herman (1852–1914), was Austrian and 22 years his junior. Curiously, Charles E. Boudrow also married a woman of German origin, Katharina Diehl (1857–1941), who in the 1920 census claimed to be eleven years younger than she actually was, but as a widow in 1930 owned up to her real age.

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2006

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2006

The Boudrow house on Oxford Street was designed in the Queen Anne-Eastlake style by the noted San Francisco architect Julius E. Krafft (1855–1937), who was responsible for many stately Pacific Heights residences. Born in Germany, Krafft immigrated to the U.S. in 1872 and came to San Francisco two years later. He worked as a draftsman for Palace Hotel architect John P. Gaynor and later for Thomas J. Welsh, designer of 16 Catholic churches in San Francisco, of which the three survivors are St. Agnes, Old St. Mary’s Cathedral, and Sacred Heart Church in the Western Addition.

The William F. Herrin house, 2530 Broadway at Scott St., was designed by Julius E. Krafft. (San Francisco History Center)

Krafft was in charge of Welsh’s drafting department for twelve years before opening his own office in 1888. One of his most celebrated buildings was the Gothic Revival St. Paulus Lutheran Church (1893), whose design was based on the Cathedral of Chartres. The church was destroyed by fire in 1995. Still intact are 31–33 Liberty Street (1892) in the West Mission district and an opulent 1902 Classical Revival residence at 2601 Broadway commissioned by bank president Isaias Warren Hellman as a wedding gift for his daughter.

Two of Krafft’s children, the twin sons Elmer Jerome (1880–1944) and Alfred Julius (1880–1950), joined their father’s business. Having begun as draftsmen, Elmer became an architect and Alfred a structural engineer. In 1933, the firm of Julius Krafft & Sons would design an Art Deco wholesale grocery warehouse for Wellman-Peck & Company in what is now the Warehouse Thematic Historic District of San Diego. This building was recently converted to an office condominium & retail complex.

T.M. Antisell’s Map of Villa Lots in Berkeley (courtesy of Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc.)

Captain Boudrow’s house was one of the early buildings in the Antisell Villa Lots, a tract comprising eight blocks bounded by Rose St. to the north, Shattuck Ave. to the west, Cedar St. to the south, and Arch St. to the east. Thomas M. Antisell was an attorney and real-estate agent with an office at 1069 Broadway in Oakland. In 1874, just after the U.C. campus moved from Oakland to Berkeley, Antisell began selling lots in the tract bearing his name. The map to the left advertised the upcoming auction sale “on liberal credit” of 260 lots, to take place on 6 November 1874.

Thomas M. Antisell himself lived across the street from the future Boudrow property. At the time, Oxford Street was called Pine. Between 1876 and 1883, Antisell was listed in the Berkeley directory as residing variously at “Vine nr Pine,” “Pine nr Vine,” “E s Oxford bet Cedar and Vine,” and “Cedar.” He was also a piano and organ manufacturer and dealer, and on 15 November 1887 received a patent for a wrest plank for his pianos, which were advertised as “the leading instrument of the world.” In numerous newspaper ads, Antisell offered his pianos on a $10 monthly installment plan and admonished readers to “buy only from the largest manufactory in the world.”

An Antisell organ

T.M. Antisell Piano Co. ad (Blue and Gold, 1884)

In 1883, Antisell sold his house to Captain Henry C. Pitman, who lived in it until 1889, when he in turn sold it to Captain Boudrow’s partner, William E. Mighell. The Berkeley Daily Advocate Holiday Number of 1892 included the house in an article on opulent residences in town:

Captain Mighell purchased some years ago the then very handsome home of T.M. Antisell on the east side of Oxford Street, north of Vine [sic]. Since then he has spared neither time nor expense in making it one of the finest homes in town. Situated on a knoll, the views from his windows are superb.

William E. Mighell (photo by Taber,
Overland Monthly, Nov. 1896)

The same holiday issue also described the Boudrow house:

Captain Budrow [sic] purchased a large lot on the corner of Oxford and Cedar streets, upon which he has erected one of the largest and finest dwelling houses in town. From every window the view is a panoramic scene of mountain, sea, and valley.

The Antisell-Pitman-Mighell house, 1533 Oxford St. (O.V. Lange, Beautiful Berkeley, 1889)

The entire Boudrow house is constructed of redwood. Multiple gables and bays, floral and geometric friezes, plaster reliefs, and scalloped shingles ornament its fašades. A balustraded flight of 15 steps leads up to a front porch whose gable roof is supported by turned columns linked by trelliswork arches. A round turret crowned with a witch’s hat rises four stories on the southeastern corner. The central gable features a balconette surmounted by a sunburst.

The living quarters were on the main floor and included twin parlors separated by pocket doors, three bedrooms, and a dining room in the rear, connected via a butler’s pantry to the large kitchen. Two of the bedrooms had marble sinks and washstands, while the third (presumably the master bedroom) opened into the only bathroom, which boasted a seven-foot-long copper tub. All the bedrooms—as well as the foyer, the rear parlor, and the dining room—featured fireplaces with ornate ceramic tile surrounds and elaborate mirrored wooden mantels (see photos). The entire main floor was famed for its 12-foot ceilings, and the corridor running from front to back was clad in full-height wood paneling.

The ground floor housed a ballroom, while the attic floor remained unfinished.

The Mighell and Boudrow houses were both situated on oversized lots—each the equivalent of five standard lots—and surrounded by large gardens. On 22 December 1901, the San Francisco Call described the Boudrow grounds as the “finest in the city.” As Berkeley grew, the lots shrank. The three maps below trace the progression of development on the 1500 block of Oxford Street between 1903 and 1950. By 1929, the block was fully built. Further development occurred in the 1960s, when large apartment buildings were erected on this block. Many of the original houses, including the Mighell residence, are long gone. Apartment buildings are currently the predominant element on the block.  
The Mighell house in a 1903 Sanborn map

The Boudrow property in 1903, 1911, and 1929–50 (Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps)

In 1922, Captain Boudrow’s heirs sold the house to mining engineer Roscoe Wheeler and his wife Erminie. According to the U.S. census, the Wheelers had previously resided in Oakland, but not always together. In 1920, Mrs. Wheeler and daughters Erminie (16) and Helen (14) were living in the home of the Misses Ellen and Cecilia Neylan on Wickson Avenue, while Mr. Wheeler was residing as a boarder on nearby Walker Avenue.

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2006

The Wheelers are said to have had in their yard four 100-pound boulders that had served as ballast aboard the clipper ship Rattler.

Helen Wheeler married the future colonel Robert Beard and owned the Boudrow house until 1970, when she had to let go of it. The house was in danger of being demolished until it was purchased by Paul F. Hocking, DDS, and his wife Ann, who divided it into twelve apartments, including two on the main floor. The Hockings removed the copper tub, marble sinks, and many other historic features. The kitchen was made smaller to make space for a bathroom adjoining the north bedroom. New electric wiring was laid on top of the upper paneling in the corridor and covered with dry wall.

The house was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark on 21 June 1976. It was acquired in 1994 by Frank Leba and Kelly Brown, who reunited the main floor, rebuilt the front staircase, and painted the exterior in more than ten colors. They received a BAHA Preservation Award in 2006. In 2008, it was acquired by the Minerva Foundation as a residence for visiting scholars.

Interior photos

This article was published in the Berkeley Daily Planet on 8 September 2006 under the title “Shipping Magnate’s Mansion Is Rare Survivor on Oxford Street.”



Copyright © 2006–2021 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.