Berkeley Landmarks :: The Temple of Wings


The Temple of Wings

2800 Buena Vista Way, Berkeley, CA

Susan Cerny

West fa�ade (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

28 January 2002

High on a Berkeley hillside stands an unusual structure. Called the Temple of Wings, it served as the home and dance studio of Florence Treadwell Boynton and, until the mid-1980s, for her daughter Sulgwynn and son-in-law Charles Quitzow.

Isadora Duncan

Florence Treadwell Boynton grew up in Oakland and was a childhood friend and admirer of Isadora Duncan. Isadora (1878–1927) was born in San Francisco but grew up in Oakland, where she began giving dance classes as early as the age of ten. Initially inspired by the movement of the ocean, Isadora developed a theory of expressive dance that broke from the restrictive movements of classical ballet.

Inspired also by ancient Greek sculpture and painting, Isadora found images that served as models for her flowing costumes. In her 1927 autobiography My Life, Isadora told her pupils to “...listen to the music with your soul [...] feel an inner self awakening deep within you...” Describing herself and her work, Isadora wrote: “My art is an effort to express truth in gesture and movement...”

According to some sources, Isadora was the main force in bringing interpretive dance to the mainstream of the creative arts and was one of the most innovative, and internationally famous, turn-of-the 20th-century modern dancers.

The original Temple of Wings (photo: Dimitri Shipounoff collection, BAHA archives)

Although Isadora lived her adult life in Europe, Florence Treadwell Boynton created a home and a dance school that reflected Isadora’s theories and inspirations. The Temple of Wings was originally designed and constructed as a Greco-Roman colonnaded open-air residence. The first drawings for the temple were done by Bernard Maybeck in 1911, and the project was completed by A. Randolph Monro in 1914.

Maypole dance at the Temple of Wings, 1916
(photo: Dimitri Shipounoff collection, BAHA archives)

After the 1923 fire destroyed all but the reinforced concrete Corinthian-style columns, Mrs. Boynton built the present two-story house constructed within the framework of the original columns. It contains two living units on either side of an open U-shaped courtyard. On the ground floor of each unit there is a single large room designed as a dance studio. As a building, the Temple of Wings enhanced the interrelationship of art and daily life, symbolizing Berkeley’s reputation at the turn of the 20th century as the “Athens of the West.”

The reconstructed building (photo: Dimitri Shipounoff collection, BAHA archives)

At the Temple of Wings, generations of Berkeley children learned the theories of expressive, interpretive dance under the guidance of Mrs. Boynton or her daughter or son-in-law. Berkeley photographer Margaretta K. Mitchell captured the dance recitals performed at the Temple of Wings during the 1970s in a portfolio entitled Dance for Life.

North fa�ade (photo: Jay Cross, 2003)

Margaret Norton of the San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum referred to the Temple of Wings as “one of the crucibles in which modern dance [...] was forged.”

This article was originally published in the Berkeley Daily Planet.


Editor’s note: In 1924, Edna Deakin & Clarence Dakin, cousin architects, enclosed much of the house. The Temple of Wings (Charles C. Boynton house) was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark on 6 January 1992. It is listed in the California State Historic Resources Inventory.

Read this interesting architectural history of the house, including texts by Florence Treadwell Boynton and Kenneth Cardwell.

Historian Charles Wollenberg offers his take on the Boyntons in chapter 5 of the book Berkeley, A City in History.

Back gate (photo: Larry Hosken, 2002)



Copyright © 2004–2019 Daniella Thompson. Text © 2002–2016 Susan Cerny.
All rights reserved.