Announcing our 40th Spring House Tour
and Garden Reception

Sunday, 3 May 2015, One to Five o’clock

Tour-day ticket booth opens at noon in front of John Muir School, 2955 Claremont Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705.

Featuring 11 open houses designed by Bernard Maybeck; Julia Morgan; Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr.; John Hudson Thomas; Maury I. Diggs; William Porter; Charles M. MacGregor, and more.

Tour map, illustrated guidebook & refreshments provided
General $45; BAHA members $35

(see member discount limits)

Order tickets online and collect them at Will Call (in front of John Muir School) on tour day.

WHEN the Oakland real-estate firm of Breed & Bancroft printed the first Elmwood Park sales brochure in late 1905, they called their new tract Elm Terrace. By the time the brochure was released, some weeks later, the tract’s name had been changed to Elmwood Park. We haven’t discovered what prompted the name change; it wasn’t done for clarity’s sake, since a Fruitvale subdivision called Elmwood Park was being marketed at the same time.

Before being named for the elms that grew here in profusion (who planted them? did they come from the Kelsey Ranch nursery?), the area was known as the McDonough Tract, and earlier yet, going back to the 1870s, it was the Ball Tract. Since Vicente and Domingo Peralta sold this land to investment consortiums in 1853, the tract changed hands numerous times, but it was largely unbuilt until Breed & Bancroft marketed it.

Elms in the Breed & Bancroft sales brochure, late 1905

Photos in the sales brochure depicted bucolic wooded lanes, and the promise of a soon-to-be-established Key Route line to the future Claremont Hotel was a decided selling point. “In fact, the convenience to Key Route station at just sufficient distance to escape annoyance from trains adds in marked degree to the desirability of this property,” emphasized the brochure copy, adding, “We know of no safer investment with assurance of substantial returns upon the original prices, […]. We believe the opportunity to be one of the very best that has occurred during any period of Berkeley’s history. […] Proper building restrictions will be imposed in order to insure and maintain a high character of improvements. No saloons will be permitted on the property.”

On 20 December 1905, E.L. Coryell Co., Berkeley agent, advertised “Elmwood Park, better known as the McDonough Tract, situated in the fashionable Claremont district” under the headline “LONG DESIRED PROPERTY NOW ON THE MARKET.” The map included in the ad displayed streets known to us as Ashby and Piedmont avenues but which were called Elmwood and Cambridge avenues at that time.

Map in E.L. Coryell ad, Oakland Tribune, 20 Dec. 1905

BERKELEY’S CHOICEST RESIDENCE LOTS,” trumpeted the Breed & Bancroft ads in February 1906:

Situated on College ave., Berkeley, between Webster and Russell sts., within 10 minutes’ walk of the university; close to the Key Route branch line to run on Claremont ave., bringing San Francisco within 30 minutes’ distance.

Reached now by College ave. car line from South Berkeley Key Route station and by Broadway car line from Oakland.

Elmwood Park is situated upon high ground, facing San Francisco Bay and backed by the ever beautiful Berkeley hills; upon it stand many stately poplar and elm trees.

This is the cream of Berkeley residence property. We know of no safer investment and of no more beautiful location for a home.

Identifying themselves as the tract’s owners, Breed & Bancroft urged potential buyers to “secure a lot now and get choice of location.” In June, 1906, a smaller ad promising “the cream of Berkeley residence property” offered 50-foot lots for $1,750 and upwards.

The oldest house in Elmwood Park (BAHA archives)

Breed & Bancroft’s predictions soon came to pass. The aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire would bring a rush of new settlers into Berkeley. Some of the better-heeled newcomers purchased land and built opulent homes in Elmwood Park. Nevertheless, the neighborhood was not developed all at once.

THE HOUSES that will be open on BAHA’s Spring House Tour represent a spectrum of styles and ages, from the first house built in the neighborhood (an Italianate Victorian dating from 1878), through an assortment of Arts & Crafts houses built shortly after the tract opened, to a stucco English Cottage built in the mid-1920s.

As befits a fashionable district, many of the houses were custom-built and designed by leading architects of the day, including Julia Morgan, Walter Ratcliff, John Hudson Thomas, Maury I. Diggs, and even Bernard Maybeck (the house designed by the latter was built elsewhere and moved here).

Join us on Sunday, 3 May 2015, for a stroll along Elmwood Park’s level streets; visit an interesting sampling of Berkeley’s gracious residences, and learn some of the fascinating stories connected with them.

Order tour tickets online
(See instructions for using PayPal)

Or use the ticket order form to order by mail.

Tour docents receive complimentary admission to the tour.
To volunteer, contact BAHA.

Copyright © 2015 BAHA. All rights reserved.
Text & photographs © Daniella Thompson.