May 11, 2003
Berkeley's Upland Residential Park

This year's tour will take us to Tamalpais and Shasta-not the mountains themselves, but the hilly North Berkeley streets that are their namesake. Here you will discover one of Berkeley's most scenic wooded enclaves, set on a hillside above Codornices Park and replete with artistic homes, each a personal expression of the "building with nature" philosophy. This is the best preserved and perhaps the quintessential of the neighborhoods where the homebuilding ideals espoused by the Hillside Club flourished. The Hillside Club was founded in 1898 to "protect the hills of Berkeley from unsightly grading and the building of unsuitable and disfiguring houses." In the 1890s Berkeley's hillsides began to be built upon, and the first houses were the typical white-painted Victorian cottages. Framed by their picket fences, these houses had an appealing charm on Berkeley's "village" streets, but set against the tawny hills for all to see, their inappropriateness to that locale was immediately apparent. Club president Charles Keeler, architect Bernard Maybeck, and members of the Hillside Club sought to remedy the situation by encouraging prospective homebuilders to follow certain tenets for hillside construction and design, later written down by Keeler and published as Hillside Club Suggestions for Berkeley Homes.

"Simplicity and genuineness," the use of "simple, natural materials" such as unpainted wood shingles, and "low houses" with overhanging eaves and porches "large enough to be used as an out-door sitting room" were all encouraged. As well, they asked that roadways follow the natural contours of the land.

Tamalpais and Shasta roads were opened in the spring of 1905 as the "Hopkins Terrace No. 4" subdivision by the Berkeley Development Company and their agents, the Mason-McDuffie Co. One can surmise that Duncan McDuffie, the visionary partner in the two firms, had a large hand in the design and promotion. The rather prosaically-named tract was billed as "Berkeley's Most Beautiful UPLAND Residence Park," and, here, the Hillside Club Suggestion for contoured streets was utilized to great effect. The roadways of Tamalpais and Shasta respect the topography with a zeal that perhaps also reflects Duncan McDuffie's own conservationist thinking, formed during his summers, hiking in the Sierra. The concept of a "residence park" was refined and enhanced in the firms' subsequent subdivisions, such as Claremont (later in 1905) and Northbrae (1907)


While Claremont was marketed to San Francisco businessmen and their families, Hopkins Terrace No. 4 seemed to appeal to the more Bohemian Berkeleyan. The names of the streets may have been chosen not only to reflect the hilly topography, but to capture the imagination of Hillside Club followers. Three streets appear on the subdivision map, filed May 15, 1905: Tamalpais, Shasta, and Tallac (later subsumed as a continuation of Tamalpais). Mt. Tamalpais was then a "destination" for outdoors-loving Berkeleyans who enjoyed a weekend "tramp" over its slopes to the ocean beyond. The mountain dominates the view from the tract: "No spot on Berkeley's hillsides commands so wonderful a sweep of bay and city." Tallac, a prominent peak in the northern Sierra, loomed over the Echo Lake encampments of old Berkeley families. Many were involved in the Sierra Club, promoting an awareness of the untamed Sierra landscape, both for enjoyment and for the need for protection and conservation. Mt. Shasta, the snow-capped volcano rising from California's northernmost plain, was a favorite subject for California painters. Berkeleyans displayed in their homes the dramatic vistas by the artists of the day, perhaps painted by themselves or their friends.
The "Upland" tract, Hopkins Terrace No. 4, was a "dream tract" where artistic, intellectual, and conservation-minded Berkeleyans could build their own vision of a "Simple Home" on a homesite of unsurpassed beauty. And here, "embrac[ing] the grassy slopes and wooded canyons," are some of the most individual and unusual interpretations of the Arts and Crafts movement that can be found in California. But the lure of "Tamalpais and Shasta" today is not only its evocative architecture and romantic setting. The people who settled here and created a close-knit community of hill-dwellers seemed to capture the very essence of the creative and intellectual spirit expressed in the phrase "Athens of the West." Attracted to the site were painters, musicians, architects, city planners, poets, writers, "independent women," and University professors -as well as businessmen and others from the "everyday world," who, nonetheless, followed a Bohemian bent. Many who arrived on the hill never left; it is not uncommon to find today homes still occupied by third or fourth generation descendants of the original owners.
You will learn the stories of these early homebuilders on the tour. Included among the places you will visit are a compound of rough-hewn cottages set in a steep hillside garden-one for the man, one for the woman, one for the first wife-where all lived in communal harmony; and a group of idiosyncratic Craftsman homes designed by a woman with much the same type of living scheme in mind. But within the cultural milieu of "Tamalpais and Shasta" can be found contrasts of style. A gracious Spanish Colonial residence by architect Walter Ratcliff shelters a tranquil garden in its wings. The spacious living room was intended as a music salon with a staircase allowing musicians a grand entrance before an assembled audience. In yet another grand room for entertaining, designed by Greene & Greene, Pablo Casals was often guest as well as performer. Nearby, an owner-built, redwood cottage-designed with the neighborly advice of Bernard Maybeck-housed a large family. One daughter became an architect, later designing a house for her in-laws across the road.
We are certain that, as you wander the narrow roads and visit the residences that will be open on May 11, you will feel the resonance of culture and traditions that have been carried forward by each succeeding generation who has called "Tamalpais and Shasta" home.

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