Berkeley Landmarks :: Charles W. Heywood House


Charles W. Heywood House

1808 Fifth Street, Berkeley, CA

Daniella Thompson

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2008

16 September 2008

An exceptionally fine and rare local example of a spacious Italianate Victorian, this house was built in 1878 for Charles Warren Heywood (1831–1913) third son of pioneer lumberman Zimri Brewer Heywood (1803–1879), who established Berkeley—s first lumber yard and built Berkeley’s first wharf in partneship with Captain James H. Jacobs.

The house was constructed on land that was part of Heywood & Jacobs’ ten acres in Ocean View. For many years it was surrounded by open space, much of it owned by the Heywood estate. Charles, who worked in his father’s business, built a house far too large for his small family’s needs. He and his wife Mary were childless, and in the early 1880s they adopted Bertha Ball (1881–1948), but the child apparently could not cement the marriage. Charles was last listed at this address in 1887, and Mary remained there only another year, although she continued to own the property until 1902.

Between 1899 and 1903, the house was let to tenants. The first renters were the widow Beulah MacCargar and her daughter Adaline, who held a short-lived position as Southern Pacific’s West Berkeley agent. In 1900, while Charles Heywood was living with his brother Franklin in San Francisco and Mary was living with Bertha (aged 19 and listed as a dentist) in Oakland, their Berkeley house was rented by Clara McDonald, a Scottish widow and music teacher, who lived here with her four children and two boarders. Mrs. McDonald's daughters, Agnes and Stella, taught dancing at Sisterna Hall.

The Charles W. Heywood House was owned and occupied by the Young family when the neighbor’s children posed for this photo about 1902. (BAHA archives)

Around 1902, the house was purchased by John Young, an Irish-born miner, previously of San Francisco, who soon became a street-paving cement worker. He and his wife Jane had a brood of five children and made ample use of the large house and its double lot. Although Young was a hired laborer, thrift (or shrewdness) enabled him to increase his holdings. In 1907 or ’08, he doubled the size of his homestead by acquiring an adjacent lot on Fifth Street, as well as the lot behind his house, which faced Fourth Street.

A decade after the Youngs moved to Berkeley, their marriage ended in divorce. Jane moved out with the children, leaving John alone in the big house on Fifth Street. Around 1914, he started a dairy business and was still engaged in it in 1920. Three of the Young daughters became public school teachers.

By the 1930s, the house had passed into the hands of the fisherman Frank Spenger, who lived at 1914 Fourth Street. In 1930, it was rented to poultryman Louis Leiser, a middle-aged bachelor of German extraction who paid $18 a month and shared the house with another middle-aged bachelor, the laborer William Mooklar. Spenger eventually sold the house to the Alf family, who in turn sold it to the Estrada family. The Estradas still owned it in 1979, when it was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark.

The Heywood House before rehabilitation (BAHA archives)

In a Berkeley Daily Planet article published on 15 June 2002, Susan Cerny wrote:

The house is located in a Redevelopment Area established in the early 1970s. Large parcels of land were assembled from small properties, many of them residential, to create an industrial park. Delaware Street and the surrounding six blocks were to be razed. The plan did not materialize, owing in part to changing industrial needs and also to protests from citizens who saw many families lose their homes. It has taken decades for the surviving historic properties to be rehabilitated and reused.

Until 1992, the impressive but vacant and seriously deteriorating Heywood House stood on a large parcel of land that once provided space for growing vegetables and chickens. Even after the garden area had been subdivided and new buildings constructed, the Heywood House, a Berkeley Landmark, remained abandoned.

The Heywood House has taken on a new life as the home of the Pusod Center for Culture, Ecology and Bayan and as the gallery for Babilonia 1808. Its restoration, by the Babilonia Wilner Foundation, incorporates many environmentally friendly building practices from the reuse of an existing building through the use of recycled building materials, to a system of recycling gray water for the organic garden. David Wilner and Malou Babilonia, owners, Daniel Smith and Associates, architects, and William F. Lowe of McCutcheon Construction, Inc., completed the restoration just this year [2002] and received a Preservation Award from the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005

No sign remains of the Pusod Center, but the Heywood House still stands as a graceful reminder of West Berkeley’s early days.

Read more:

Zimri Brewer Heywood: Separating Fact From Myth

On the Trail of Zimri Brewer Heywood’s Residence

Young-Ghego House



Copyright © 2008–2019 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.