BAHA :: The Goddards and Julia Morgan


The Goddards and Julia Morgan: An occasional love story

Daniella Thompson

2615, 2617, and 2619 Parker Street, designed by Julia Morgan for Louise Goddard in 1905. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2010)

22 April 2010

Around the turn of the last century, it was common practice for middle-class or well-to-do families with adolescent children to move their residence to Berkeley in order to secure good education for their young. Among those was the household of Clark and Louise Goddard.

Clark La Motte Goddard, A.B., D.D.S., A.M., born 1849 in Beloit, Wisconsin, was Emeritus Professor of Orthodontia and former dean of the University of California’s College of Dentistry. His scholarship, analytical turn of mind, great mechanical ingenuity, and superior manipulative skill combined to make him one of the West Coast’s preeminent dentists.

In 1881, Dr. Goddard married Emily Louise Bunker, born 1857 in Barnard, Maine. Their union produced two children, Malcolm (b. 1883) and Florence (b. 1886). Great travelers, the Goddards took their children to Europe and kept a motorcar for trips around California. Dr. Goddard was an accomplished amateur photographer; his collection of over 1,100 prints and negatives is housed at the Bancroft Library on the U.C. campus.

About 1902, the Goddards moved from Oakland to Berkeley, where Malcolm enrolled at the University of California and Florence entered Miss Head’s School.

For a couple of years, the family lived in a rented house on Hillside Avenue near Dwight Way. In 1904, they built their own house at 2647 Dwight Way. The architect was Oakland-based D. Franklin Oliver, who was building the First Congregational Church of Alameda at the same time. Two years later, Oliver would design the six-story Breuner Furniture Company building at 13th and Franklin, now part of the Oakland Tribune Tower.

The Goddard house survived into the mid-1950s, converted into seven apartments before being razed to make way for the university’s Unit 2 student residence halls.

On 30 March 1905, Dr. Goddard dropped dead on the sidewalk in front of the San Francisco ferry building while waiting for the boat to Berkeley. He was 55 years old. Goddard left an estate valued at $122,000, of which about $80,000 were out on loan to many individuals.

The Goddard houses at 2531 and 2535 Etna Street are two of three originally built on this site. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2010)

Almost immediately after her husband’s death, Louise Goddard began investing in real estate. In May 1905, she acquired lots on Parker and Etna streets and proceeded to build three shingled two-story houses at each location. Julia Morgan designed at least five and possibly all six of these houses.

The architect was then at the beginning of her long and prolific career. The first woman to study architecture at the prestigious �cole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Julia Morgan returned to the Bay Area in 1902. From the outset, she opened her own practice out of her parents’ home, taking on private clients even as she assisted John Galen Howard with major U.C. projects such as the Hearst Greek Theatre and the Hearst Memorial Mining Building.

Morgan obtained her state architect’s license in March 1904 and opened an office in San Francisco. By then, she had already designed El Campanil on the Mills College campus, and within two years she would take charge of reconstructing the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill. During her 45-year career, Julia Morgan would design over 700 private and public buildings, most of them completed.

How Louise Goddard came to know Julia Morgan is not clear, but the connection was likely to have come about through the vast women’s network—including clubs and sororities—through which many of the architect’s commissions were funneled.

In December 1905, while the houses on Parker and Etna streets were under construction, Louise, Malcolm, and Florence Goddard purchased three lots on Elmwood Avenue (now Ashby Place). In 1907, Mrs. Goddard commissioned Julia Morgan to design a speculative house on the westernmost lot.

2733 Ashby Place c. 1949. Julia Morgan designed this speculative house for the Goddards after completion of the Parker and Etna Street houses. (BAHA archives)

The first five or six houses Morgan designed for the Goddards were relatively modest and clad in redwood. The new house was more substantial, costlier ($4,500 vs. $2,900), and the only one clad in stucco, a material just coming into popular use in Berkeley.

2733 Ashby Place today (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2010)

The first tenant at 2733 Ashby Place was George G. Towle, the son of lumber baron Allen Towle, who owned the town of Towle near Dutch Flat in Placer County and had diverse business interests, including lumber, logging, sawmills, crate manufacturing, mining, pulp mills, narrow-gauge railroads, and vast landholdings.

George managed the Towle Estate Company. His daughter, Katherine, who grew up to become the University of California’s Dean of Women, reminisced about those days:

I’m quite certain the family’s decision to move [from Oakland] was because of the schools, and Berkeley was then a very attractive place to live. We rented a house on what was then called Elmwood Avenue. It’s now Ashby Place. You know, it’s down there off College Avenue. Those were just nothing but fields, you know. There were a few houses, ours among them.

On narrow lots, Julia Morgan liked to position the entrance halfway down the side of the house, so the hall and stairwell were centrally located for easy access to all rooms. The Goddard house at 2733 Ashby Place is a good example of this design principle. The architect would recreate its floor plans on a slightly smaller scale in two shingled rental houses she and her partner, Ira Wilson Hoover, built at 2814 and 2816 Derby Street in 1909. All three houses will be open on Sunday, 2 May, during BAHA’s annual Spring House Tour, devoted this year to Julia Morgan’s early residential work in the Claremont and Elmwood districts.

2814 Derby Street, one of two mirror-image adjacent speculative houses designed by Julia Morgan and Ira Hoover in 1908. Initially jointly owned, this house became Hoover’s property. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2010)

2816 Derby Street, whose layout echoes that of 2733 Ashby Place. Julia Morgan owned it until it was acquired by Thaddeus R. Joy, an architect in her office. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2010)

The Goddards continued to live at 2647 Dwight Way until Florence married Justin Warren McKibben in late 1910 and set up housekeeping at 15 Alvarado Road. Louise and Malcolm, the latter now a dentist, let the Dwight Way house and took up temporary residence in the Hotel Carlton on Telegraph Avenue.

In 1914, when the McKibbens built a new house at 2522 Piedmont Avenue, they called Harris C. Allen, not Julia Morgan, to design it. Malcolm Goddard also looked elsewhere for his proposed residence in Walnut Creek. The first architectural presentation for that house was made in 1914 by Irving F. Morrow. For some reason, Morrow’s design was not executed, and Julia Morgan ended up working on the same project a year later.

Engaged to a young society woman since 1912, Malcolm mysteriously remained single, his much publicized and long-awaited 1913 nuptials having fallen through without so much as a murmur in the press. He maintained a private practice in San Francisco, taught Comparative Anatomy and Odontology at the U.C. College of Dentistry, and was active in the Association of Allied Dental Societies. While waiting for his Walnut Creek house to be completed, he resided at one of his mother’s Parker Street houses.

An enthusiastic mountain climber, Malcolm utilized his expeditions for scientific exploration. In 1903, he participated in a paleontological expedition to Southern Idaho and later published the paper “Fish Remains from the Marine Lower Triassic of Aspen Ridge, Idaho” in the University of California’s Bulletin of the Department of Geology. In July 1912, he was the first person to ascend and survey several mountains around Lake Chilko in British Columbia. He named one of those peaks Mount Merriam, after Professor John C. Merriam, the U.C. paleontologist. Another peak was later named Mount Goddard in his honor.

In 1917, after the United States entered World War I, Malcolm enlisted in the Army’s Dental Corps and was shipped to France, where he served as a dental surgeon in base and field hospitals in the Auvergne and in Paris. Promoted to the rank of Captain, he was mustered out in September 1919.

Malcolm Goddard in a 1920 passport photo, on the eve of his move to France.

Louise Goddard in a 1921 passport photo

Meanwhile, Louise Goddard had established residence in one of her Julia Morgan–designed houses on Etna Street. After returning from Europe, Malcolm lived with her for a few months, but in early 1920 he surprised his friends by announcing that he would be returning to Paris to make his home there. He was by no means the only U.C. Dental College graduate practicing abroad. In 1931, the Oakland Tribune named 45 men trained in this school who were practicing in other countries, including three in Paris.

Paris in the 1920s was the world’s most dazzling metropolis, enticing thousands of American musicians, artists, and writers. Malcolm Goddard had for society an illustrious circle of expatriates and visitors. In 1927, he was a guest at the Paris wedding of a Berkeley couple: Samuel J. Hume, notable theatrical director and scholar, and Portia Bell, then studying sculpture and later a well-known psychiatrist. Also present at the wedding were Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gordon Sproul, who were traveling through Europe.

In the spring of 1921, Louise Goddard sailed to France for a prolonged visit with her son. She died on 29 December 1921, two months after her return to Berkeley.

While Florence Goddard McKibben lived on Piedmont Avenue and raised four children, her brother Malcolm persisted in his peripatetic life. In 1925, he went on safari in the French Cameroons, followed by a 1929–30 safari in French Sudan. In 1931, he retired from dentistry and moved to Buea, British Cameroons, establishing a ranch where he crossed the native Nigerian cattle with European stock.

Malcolm continued his scientific expeditions, sailing to the Gulf of Guinea and exploring the mouth of the Niger River. When the Straus West African Expedition of the Chicago Natural History Museum spent a month in the summer of 1934 collecting birds on Mount Cameroon, Dr. Goddard, now married, donated three specimens.

In the summer of 1938, Malcolm Goddard placed his 24-foot motor sail boat on board a banana boat for Hamburg and sailed alone through the Kiel Canal and along the fjords to Oslo. He had planned to continue sailing to the North Cape, but a heart attack felled him on 24 August. Like his father, Malcolm was 55 at the time of his death. He was buried alongside the Goddards and the McKibbens in Plot 15 of Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland.

Of all the Goddards, Florence was the longest-lived. She passed away in 1958, a year after Julia Morgan’s death.


This article was published in the Berkeley Daily Planet on 23 April 2010.


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