The intriguing H.J. Goetzman built four of Berkeley’s earliest shingled houses.

Daniella Thompson

9 December 2020

George Schmidt residence, 1125 Bancroft Way (Alameda County Illustrated, 1898)

How best to describe Henry J. Goetzman? Talented self-taught architect? Pioneering Yukon photographer? Brazen crook?

He was all the above, and perhaps more. In 1891 and 1892, this enigmatic man designed and built four of Berkeley’s earliest shingled houses, and then disappeared from our midst to take on new challenges.

Berkeley is famed as the home of brown-shingle houses, but Shingle Style did not originate here—it was an East Coast phenomenon beginning in the early 1880s. So when did shingles come to Berkeley?

Our first recorded Shingle Style house was a Peralta Park East Coast folly, designed by the young Ithaca-born and Cornell-educated architect Fred Elmer Wilcox (1862–1918), then briefly based in San Francisco, for the actress Anita Fallon. Constructed in 1889 by Lord & Boynton, the Fallon House originally stood at 1304 Albina Avenue. In 1934, the house was clad in stucco. In the late 1950s, when its large parcel was subdivided for denser developmet, the house was turned around and moved to face Acton Street.

The Fallon-Sanderson House in the 1890s, when it stood at 1304 Albina Avenue. (Courtesy of Dee Shannon-Lemons)

Berkeley’s second recorded Shingle Style house, designed by architect Maxwell G. Bugbee for the San Francisco real estate man Herman Murphy, was built in late 1891. It stood at 2537 Hilgard Avenue and was destroyed in the 1923 Berkeley Fire.

Murphy House (Maxwell G. Bugbee, architect, 1891), 2537 Hilgard Avenue (BAHA archives)

Still standing are three designated City of Berkeley Landmarks recognized as our earliest extant shingled buildings: Channing Hall of the Anna Head School ((Soul´┐Ż Edgar Fisher, architect, 1892), 2538 Channing Way; Maybeck House No. 1 (Bernard Maybeck, architect, 1892), 1300 Martin Luther King Jr. Way; and the Bennington Apartments, 2508 Ridge Road, combining two houses built on Euclid Avenue circa 1892.

H.J. Goetzman speculative house, 1125 Bancroft Way (photo: Daniella Thompson, June 2020)

But these are not the only shingled structures erected here in 1892. Two houses standing at 1125 and 1129 Bancroft Way date from that year, but this fact wasn’t known in 1974, when BAHA researcher John Beach wrote an article soliciting information from the public about the 1100 block of Bancroft Way in general and the “Alice in Wonderland” houses in particular.

The first evidence materialized in early 1979, when Dortha Welch Ipsen (1901–1992) brought to BAHA an old photograph from her family’s collection. Mrs. Ipsen, Berkeley’s retired Deputy City Auditor, was the daughter of John Bernard Welch (1861–1943), a carpenter, and his wife, Cornelia Schatz Welch (1862–1960). The Welches and their four children were tenants at 1125 Bancroft Way for half a dozen years during the 1910s, and the photo dates from that period.

John Beach’s BAHA article in the Berkeley Gazette, 4 December 1974

The Welch family at 1125 Bancroft Way, c. 1913 (Welch family collection)

The Welch photo revealed a medallion in the center of the pediment above the porch. Carved in raised characters within the medallion was the number 1892.

Pediment medallion displaying the number 1892

On 6 February 1979, BAHA published the Welch photo in a Berkeley Gazette article written by Lesley Emmington, who concluded her story with the following observation:

However, the origin of the house still remains a mystery—as the Welch family was not the first to live there. In fact, looking at the photograph, one can see from the circular carving set in the gable above the porch that the house was built in 1892. This makes the design of the house even more intriguing and unusual, because most every other structure built in the early 1890s was sure to be in the then-popular Victorian Queen Anne style.

Lesley Emmington’s BAHA article in the Berkeley Gazette, 6 February 1979

A week after the article’s publication, Lesley Emmington filled out a State Historic Resources Inventory (SHRI) form for the two Bancroft Way houses. This paved their way for falling under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The photo of 1125 Bancroft Way shows the pediment medallion as a blank circle.

Photo of 1125 Bancroft Way in the SHRI form, 1979

1129 Bancroft Way in 1968 (Humphrey slide collection, BAHA archives)

The Welch family photo graced the January page in BAHA’s 1980 calendar. This publication elicited an inquiry in 1982 from a new absentee owner, who sought BAHA’s assistance in proving the historic significance of the house in the hope of obtaining special tax treatment that would make the cost of restoring the house less onerous. Surprisingly, that owner never submitted a landmark application to the City of Berkeley or a nomination to National Register of Historic Places. Five years later, the house changed hands again, and the new owners approached BAHA with a similar request. Once again, nothing was done to designate the house at a local or national level.

In the meantime, the provenance of the houses remained a mystery. In her 1979 Gazette article, Lesley Emmington raised the possibility that the builder was Charles A. Bailey.

There is some speculation that the house could have been built as a showplace by Charles A. Bailey, a San Franciscan who promoted property sales in many parts of Berkeley during the early 1890s.

There was good reason to assume that Charles A. Bailey, a major landowner in Berkeley, built 1125 Bancroft Way and its twin at 1129 Bancroft. The houses are located in block H of the Bryant Tract, which was subdivided by Bailey in November 1890. Bailey built a row of four identical houses around the corner on the same block—2213, 2219, 2223, and 2231 Byron Street—which were assessed for the first time in 1892, the same year in which the two Bancroft Way houses made their maiden appearance on the tax rolls. Bailey’s Byron Street houses were assessed at $910 each. The Bancroft Way houses, assessed as improvements on a single parcel, totaled $3,000, and their owner was listed as one H.J. Goetzman. Who was this Goetzman?

The talented Mr. Goetzman

A quick perusal of Husted’s 1892–93 Berkeley city directory soon brings us to this listing:

Listing in Husted’s 1892–93 Berkeley city directory

If he was an architect, then Goetzman must have designed the “Alice in Wonderland” houses on Bancroft Way. His work showed talent and imagination. Why haven’t we heard of him?

Henry Jacob Goetzman was born in 1864 in Rochester, New York, and grew up in the town of Niagara. His father, Phillip Goetzman (1840–1927) was an Alsace-born blacksmith. His mother, Augusta Mehwaldt Goetzman (1844–1915), immigrated from Germany as a small child. Henry was the eldest of many siblings, not all of whom survived childhood.

At the age of 16, Henry was enumerated as a laborer in the 1880 U.S. Census. Still in his teens, he went out west.

Henry J. Goetzman in a 1916 passport photo

Ad in the Caldwell Tribune, 16 Feb 1884

In 1883 and early 1884, Goetzman was in Caldwell, Idaho Territory, a partner in Rummel & Goetzman, contractors and builders. In June 1884, the Caldwell Tribune announced, “H. J. Goetzman writes from Union, Oregon, to send the paper. He says Rummel is in Portland. After leaving here Goetzman worked on the O. R. & N. grade with a shovel for a month. He says he will be back this fall.”

Nothing further was heard of Goetzman’s sojourn in Idaho. By 1887, aged 23, he was living in Los Angeles, listed as an architect in the city directories. Along the way, Goetzman married Mary Washington Laughery, born in or near Mt. Pulaski, Illinois in 1862. The two were separately listed in February 1888 as delinquent in paying state and county tax and special school tax on one lot each in the Howes Tract. A daughter, named Edith, was born to them about that time.

In January 1890, Goetzman left Los Angeles for San Francisco. On the 14th of that month, the Los Angeles Herald reported that the steamer Mexico departed from San Pedro for northern ports two days earlier. H.J. Goetzman was among the passengers bound for San Francisco. The Goetzmans found lodgings near the Old City Hall, and Henry was engaged in carpentry work.

As he had done in Los Angeles, Henry Goetzman listed himself as an architect in his voter registration and invested in land. In September 1891, he acquired a large parcel on Haskell Street in South Berkeley, on which he built two identical partially shingled houses (a third house around the corner on Mabel Street hasn’t survived). Design elements seen on the Haskell Street houses would soon be echoed in larger scale on Bancroft Way.

H.J. Goetzman speculative house, 1235 Haskell Street (photo: Daniella Thompson, June 2020)

H.J. Goetzman speculative House, 1239 Haskell Street (photo: Daniella Thompson, June 2020)

As mentioned earlier, the Goeztmans lived on Haskell Street in 1892, but we can’t say which house they occupied. In January 1892, Henry Goetzman acquired from Charles A. Bailey three lots on the 1100 block of Bancroft Way and immediately constructed two houses, on which he was assessed $3,000 in the same year. Goetzman sold the two houses to D.O. Hunt—very likely Daniel Otis Hunt (1831–1915), a pioneer dairy farmer and real estate investor in St. Helena, Napa County.

San Francisco Call, 24 January 1892

One of Hunt’s first tenants at 1125 Bancroft Way was realtor George Schmidt, the son of Berkeley pioneer farmers John C. and Catherine Schmidt, who came to California in the early 1850s and settled in Berkeley in 1861. George, one of eight siblings, would serve as Berkeley’s postmaster from 1901 to 1907. Along with his brother William, realtor Francis Ferrier, and other prominent businessmen, George was a director of the Cragmont Land Company, incorporated in March 1907 for the purpose of marketing the new Cragmont Tract. In the 1896, ’97, and ’98 Berkeley directories, George Schmidt’s residence address was listed as Bancroft Way, corner of Byron Street.

Listing in Husted’s 1897 Berkeley city directory

The earliest map showing Goetzman’s two Bancroft Way houses dates from 1903, when the water tower erected by Charles Bailey to supply water to his tract was still standing behind the corner house. The water tank was gone by 1911, but the two Goetzman houses were still the only ones on their block.

Sanborn map, 1903

Sanborn map, 1911

H.J. Goetzman speculative house, 1129 Bancroft Way (photo: Daniella Thompson, June 2020)

The architect becomes a photographer

After selling the Haskell Street and Bancroft Way houses, Henry Goetzman moved to 25 Klinkner Street (now San Pablo Avenue) in Oakland, where he was listed as an architect in the 1894 directory. But this phase was short-lived, for by the following year, Goetzman had transformed himself into a professional photographer and promoter in Portland, Oregon. On 29 October 1895, the Dalles Daily Chronicle published the following announcement:

Mr. H. J. Goetzman of Portland is in the city and will remain over tomorrow. Mr. Goetzman is on his way East, under the auspices of the Oregon State Board of Immigration, to deliver illustrated lectures descriptive of Oregon’s resources. He has over three hundred views of Oregon’s scenery, which he will show to the people of the East. The photographs are taken from nature, and present Oregon as it is seen at the present time. The views include mountains, gold mines, salmon fishing and canning on the Columbia river, birds-eye photographs of the principal cities, of fruit culture, and large and small tracts of improved and unimproved lands in Oregon. Mr. Goetzman has been prevailed upon to show his views tomorrow evening at a time and place to be stated later. Mr. Goetzman is willing to take views of The Dalles and surrounding country with him, and it would be a splendid advertisement if such photographs could be furnished him. What this country wants is immigration, and Mr. Goetzman’s plan of securing it is a good one.

Four days later, the following announcement was published in the Dalles Times-Mountaineer:

Messrs. H. J. Goetzman and J. Tamerlane gave an illustrated lecture at the court room this evening on Picturesque Oregon. They have over 300 views of Oregon scenery and are on their way East to show and explain them, where they will do the most good. Their lectures in this state are given, principally because they are stopping at each town on their way east to add to their collection of views, in order that Eastern Oregon may be shown as well as the Willamette valley. The admission this evening will be only 10 cents, children free and this slight charge is made to meet the expenses incurred by stopping here. They should be greeted by a full house and encouraged in the good work. We have long believed the plan adopted by these gentlemen to be the correct one for advertising our resources, and that the present venture will prove beneficial to the state in inducing immigration, is a dead moral certainty.

Nothing further is known about Goetzman’s trip to the East. His residence in Oregon was short-lived. In 1897, the Klondike Gold Rush drew him to the Yukon Territory. The Archives West website provides a summary of Goetzman’s activities in the Yukon:

H. J. Goetzman worked as a photographer in the Yukon from 1897 until 1904. He traveled to the Yukon via the Chilkoot Trail with his wife and Miss Edith Goetzman, a relative. Trained as a commercial photographer, Goetzman recorded the scenery, life and activity of the route to the gold fields through Alaska and Canada, Dyea, the Chilkoot Trail, White Pass Canyon, Bennett, Dawson, and the Klondike gold fields. He ran Goetzman’s Photographic Studio in Dawson from 1898 to 1904. At the height of the gold rush he employed seven photographers.

In the winter of 1900-1901, Goetzman traveled to Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. He made the Dawson-Whitehorse leg of the trip, a distance of 329 miles each way, with his own dog team. In January 1901, he released a photo album with views of Wrangell, Alaska, the White Pass, down the Yukon River to Dawson, up the gold creeks to Eagle City, Alaska, and on to St. Michael and Nome. He also published a souvenir booklet in 1901 with 200 views reproduced as half-tones. In October of 1902, he photographed the upper Yukon River for the White Pass Company to use as advertising material.

Over the seven years he resided in Dawson, Goetzman moved his studio to several different locations, beginning in a tent and including the following: a studio on the second floor of the partially completed Monte Carlo building on First Avenue in 1900; later in 1900, the Victoria Building on the southeast corner of First Avenue and Second Street; and in 1903, he moved to 128 Second Avenue South. In 1904, Goetzman sold his studio, negatives, and photographic supply house to J. Morte and H. Craig and moved to San Francisco. Many negatives were lost as the result of water damage from a fire in April 1907.

Five Fingers, Yukon River by Goetzman (Beinecke Library, Yale University)

Numerous photographs from the Goetzman studio in Dawson have been digitized by the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library of Yale University. More Goetzman photographs can be seen in Archives West and in the McCord Museum website.

The Goetzmans hadn’t altogether cut ties with Berkeley during their Dawson years, for they sent their daughter, Edith, to study at the Snell Seminary, a private boarding- and day school for girls that had recently moved from Oakland to 2721 Channing Way. Mrs. Goetzman sent her daughter in Berkeley a letter on two sheets of birch bark in January 1904.

The future Snell Seminary, 2721 Channing Way, c. 1900 (Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley)

Scamming is artistry of a different kind

Having returned to San Francisco, the Goetzmans established themselves at 1958 Howard Street. Next door, Henry Goetzman began operating the Blackstone Manufacturing Company, which produced inks, mucilage, library paste, etc., according to the 1905 city directory. The same year, Edith Goetzman married John L. Horton, a streetcar motorman and retired Marines sargeant twice her age.

Goetzman’s ink business soon ran into trouble. In May 1908, it transpired that he had been selling shares in the business, claiming to would-be investors that Blackstone was the only ink manufacturer on the West Coast but hadn’t produced any ink. The San Francisco Call reported on the 23rd:


Former Employe of Railroad Complains of Misrepresentation of Business

A. P. Hansen, an ex-motorman living at 4 West avenue, obtained a warrant from Police Judge Cabaniss yesterday for the arrest of H. J. Goetzman, president of the Blackstone manufacturing company, 3604 Mission street, on a charge of obtaining money by false pretenses. Hansen alleges that on January 16 he gave Goetzman $600 for an interest in the business, on the representation that the company was the only one in California to manufacture ink.

Hansen was to be employed at a salary of $150 a month, he said, but he thought it was too much and it was reduced to $100, to be gradually raised. He said he did not get a cent and all the time he was there did not see any ink or anything else manufactured in the two large tanks on the premises.

Hansen was accompanied by Frank Deutch, 2206 Fillmore street, who invested $500 in the business on the same representations. F. A. Dusel, undertaker, 2305 Market street, also invested $500, and it was said that since the company was incorporated in 1904 there had been between 30 and 40 purchasers of shares, who were to await the result of the prosecution by Hansen before taking action.

The outcome of the lawsuit isn’t known. Goetzman was still at large in December 1908, when another lawsuit was brought against him for fraud, as reported in the San Francisco Call.


Ernest T. Everett Seeks Restoration of Title to Berkeley Lots and $4,000 Damages

OAKLAND, Dec. 3.—Fraud was alleged by Ernest T. Everett in a suit filed today in the superior court against Henry J. Goetzman, his wife, Mary J. Goetzman and Attorney Frank J. Golden to recover the title to two lots in Hopkins street, Berkeley, and $4,000 damages for alleged false representations made by the defendants in inducing him to buy a half interest in the Blackstone manufacturing company of San Francisco.

The plaintiff stated that the business was represented to him as profitable, with $6,000 to the concern’s credit above all liabilities. Goetzman, it was charged, agreed to surrender his position of president manager with a salary of $150 a month to Everett and have Golden acquire the other half interest in consideration of Everett’s Berkeley realty, which was worth about $2,000.

Everett complained that he was not permitted to inspect the books of the firm until after he had relinquished the title to his property. He then learned, he said, that the Blackstone manufacturing company was insolvent and that Goetzman, his wife, and Golden had transferred the business to him to relieve themselves of the indebtedness.

Goetzman apparently wriggled out somehow. In 1909, he returned to building houses, this time in Alameda, and to real estate, establishing the Goetzman Realty Company, with an office in the newly rebuilt Phelan Building on Market Street. But the new enterprise was no more solid than the previous one. In October 1910, Goetzman began advertising a grand scheme to subdivide the 125-acre Shriners’ Canyon tract in Mill Valley for fashionable homes. He promised to build roads and 17 artistic bungalows by the following May. To finance the enterprise, the Goetzman Realty Company issued first-mortgage two- to five-year bonds paying 6% interest.

Not surprisingly, the only further news about this proposed development came in October 1911, when Henry Goetzman was arrested at his 1716 Nason Street home in Alameda and taken to San Francisco to answer to a charge of fraud. “The complaining witness is G. H. Cordy, formerly manager of Byron Springs. Cordy alleges he was induced by Goetzman to purchase stock in a realty company of which Goetzman was the head and which Cordy was told had 90 acres of valuable land in Mill Valley. Cordy said he learned the company was fictitious and that Goetsman owned no land in Mill Valley.”

Back to ink

Within a few years, Goetzman took up ink manufacturing again. In 1913, he incorporated the Blackstone Ink Company. In the San Francisco directory of that year, Blackstone’s product was described as “sold to consumers only by parcel post at less than 1/2 price.” In 1915, the Goetzmans moved to Brooklyn, New York, and Henry incorporated his ink company in that state.

Now began a series of frquent trips abroad—principally on business to Scandinavia and Russia, but also to Holland (“to visit relatives”), France, and Switzerland (“travel”). In a late 1915 passport application, Goetzman provided a letter from the treasurer of Blackstone Ink Co. Inc., explaining that owing to the World War, the company couldn’t obtain the chemicals it needed to stay in business.

In 1916, Mary Goetzman began calling herself Maud and returned to Alameda. It appears that the couple never lived together again. In the 1920 U.S. Census, Mrs. Goetzman and the now-divorced Edith were enumerated at 1210 Grand Street, Alameda. Henry Goetzman’s passport application of January 1921 indicated that he had been living in Munich, Germany since January 1918.

The Goetzmans died apart, she in 1927 in Solano County, he in 1934 in Berlin. All that’s left to remind us of the intriguing H.J. Goetzman’s brief sojourn in Berkeley are a handful of surviving houses, including four of our earliest shingled structures.


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