The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association

Announces a Special Fall House Tour and Reception

Sunday, October 21st, 2001

1 to 5 pm

"AROUND THE CLAREMONT HOTEL"


The tour celebrates two milestones: the 10th anniversary of the rescue of the Claremont Hotel
and its surrounding neighborhoods from the 1991 Firestorm
and the anticipated designation of the Claremont Hotel and Grounds
as an official City of Oakland Landmark.

Tickets may be purchased the day of the tour beginning at 12 noon, at 2837
Claremont Blvd., corner of Russell St. (St. Clements Episcopal Church, on the lawn).

 

Please make reservations for the "Around the Claremont Hotel" tour call 841-2242

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AROUND THE CLAREMONT HOTEL


There is a beautiful spot lying east of Telegraph Avenue beyond Temescal
called Claremont . . . [the] elegant homes in this pleasant retreat are
standing in the center of flower beds surrounded by shade trees. -The
Oakland Times, 1888.

This is the season to celebrate the magnificent command of the Claremont
Hotel and its surrounding historic neighborhood of gracious residences and
gardens. It is the 10th anniversary of the rescue of the Hotel and nearby
homes from the devastating 1991 Firestorm, and there is an air of
anticipation that the Hotel (being over the line in Oakland) will soon
become an official City of Oakland Landmark. Thus, the Berkeley
Architectural Heritage Association invites you to join a special Fall House
Tour and reception "Around the Claremont Hotel."

Nearly a hundred years ago, along the gentle rise of the East Bay Hills
where the Claremont Hotel and the famed Claremont District are now located,
the land was open country dotted by farms, ranches, and Victorian country
estates. As early as 1864 when the renowned "father of American landscape
architecture" Frederick Law Olmsted (Central Park 1857-1861), was asked to
lay out Oakland's Mountain View Cemetery and the early College of
California property in Berkeley, he wrote of riding his horse across the
ridges of the same terrain envisioning a "pleasure drive" into Berkeley
from Oakland that ". . . would lay open a most desirable region for
residences all along the foot of the mountains."

It wasn't until 1903, after huge fortunes had been made in mining interests
and land investments, that the idea was born to unite the East Bay with San
Francisco by an inter-urban electric train and ferry system - the Key Route
(destroyed in 1958) - that would be linked to picturesque subdivisions
developed with fine homes lining contoured garden parkways. The advancement
of the idea was later successfully brokered by including plans for a
splendid tourist hotel perched high on a fourteen-acre landscaped garden,
". . . long spoken of as one of the most beautiful private holdings in
Alameda County," to be called the "Claremont Hotel." Following an
architectural competition, ground was broken in 1906 for the Claremont
Hotel, designed by Charles W. Dickey. It was not only to be a glorious
destination site, seen from all vistas around the Bay, but it was also to
be a large garden park enhancing the environment for the building of
beautiful homes.

Thus, this was the time that the speck of vision in Frederick Law Olmsted's
eye took fruition, but not by his hand. Olmsted did not have the
opportunity to apply his suburban planning ideals in "The Claremont" in
1864, although he did formulate them initially in Berkeley when laying out
the Berkeley Property tract (1865), and then when he went on to design some
twenty subdivisions throughout America, most notably Chicago's Riverside
(1869), Boston's...(...), Baltimore's...(...), and Atlanta's Druid Hills
(1905). Consistently all were formulated on the same basic principles. In
essence they were planned around a park or public space that integrated a
naturalistic setting with spacious lots for residences of refinement and
elegance so as to have ample space for "garden set backs." Within this
park-like setting, the particular characteristics of the local terrain were
reflected along planted roadways aligned with the contours of the landscape
and upon central transit boulevards planted with overbowering trees,
perhaps even supporting an electric line, called "parkways" or "pleasure
drives," that were connected to town centers.

It was Duncan McDuffie, the young, capable real estate developer, who, in
partnership with Joseph J. Mason (Mason-McDuffie Co., 1905-1998), had the
background and personal qualities needed to assemble the many pieces of the
whole that finally established the residential subdivisions of the
Claremont District. McDuffie had, too, a sensitivity to the natural world,
gained from his hiking and camping in the Sierras with "Little Joe"
LeConte, Jr., Professor of mechanical engineering at the University and the
son of the revered Joseph LeConte, Professor of geology and natural history
- all early participants in the growth of the Sierra Club. Executing the
ideals and practice of Frederick Law Olmsted, McDuffie was the one who
could muster the resources to complete the grand idea of laying out a
surburban neighborhood that enhanced the spectacular Claremont Hotel and
its gardens, and returned the value of the Key Route built out beyond the
centers of Berkeley and Oakland. It was Duncan McDuffie who was able to
convince the various owners of the large land holdings to sell, to persuade
prospective investors to join into real estate ventures, to hire away the
essential talent of the City of Berkeley Engineer, Charles Huggins, for
exclusive work laying out subdivision plans, and to point prospective
homebuilders to the best of the local architects.


The first subdivision to open around the Claremont Hotel was "Claremont"
(1905), built upon the Edson Adams land, that included The Uplands,
Domingo, and The Plaza Drive. Next came the "Hotel Claremont" and "Oak
Ridge" tracts (1906), including Alvarado Road, The Tunnel Road, and Oak
Ridge Road. In 1907 the Garber and Palache property was developed as
"Claremont Court," including Avalon Avenue and Claremont Blvd. The first
house was built in the fall of 1905 and by the late 1920s the area reached
its present form.
Join us on Sunday, October 21 to view ten houses surrounding the landscaped
park that is the Claremont Hotel and grounds. The work of Walter Ratcliff,
Willis Polk, John Hudson Thomas, John Ballantine, and others will be
seen.-Lesley Emmington