Announcing our 33rd Spring House Tour
and Garden Reception

Architectural Discoveries Along the Stately Avenues of
Berkeley’s Famous Brown-Shingle Neighborhood

Sunday, 4 May 2008, One to Five o’clock

Featuring houses by Julia Morgan, Bernard Maybeck, John Hudson Thomas, George T. Plowman, Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr., Albert Dodge Coplin, Clarence Casebolt Dakin, McDougall Bros., Cunningham Bros., Albert Joseph Mazurette, and more.

Tour map, illustrated guidebook & refreshments provided
General $35; BAHA members & guests $25

(discount limit: 2 guests per individual member; 4 per household)

Use the ticket order form or order tickets online (scroll down).

Tour-day ticket booth opens at noon
Stuart St. between College & Benvenue Aves. (see map).

Our 2008 House Tour promises to be an afternoon of architectural discovery, with visits to fourteen turn-of-the-century houses along the quiet residential streets of Benvenue and Hillegass in Willard Park. This is Berkeley’s famed brown-shingle neighborhood, an area rich with artistic examples of the shingled house that to so many people represents the essence of residential Berkeley.

Stately houses in a seemingly endless variety were built along these long, straight streets, with a rhythm created by the unfolding series of gable and hip roofs, bay windows, and porches. Set high enough on Berkeley’s sloping plain to afford a bay view—a fact noted by the real estate promoters of the day—homesites here were coveted by Berkeleyans and newcomers alike. Even after the creation of Berkeley’s residence parks (such as Claremont and Northbrae, which have been the focus of several previous BAHA house tours), this neighborhood retained its desirability, and there exists to this day a certain cachet to an address on one of these streets.

Bounded by Dwight Way on the north, College Avenue on the east, Ashby Avenue at the south, and Regent Street to the west, the neighborhood, now known as Willard Park, developed slowly from north to south, the first houses being erected on Dwight Way in the late 1880s. With the prospect of a streetcar line along College Avenue, the blocks south of Derby Street were finally opened in 1902.

Most houses were built between 1896 and 1914 and reflect the values and architectural styles of an upper-middle-class neighborhood of the time. Although contemporary with the Hillside Club–inspired “simple homes”—vine-clambered and almost invisible in overgrown gardens— the Willard Park houses, in contrast, stood proudly facing the street, set back at a discreet distance across broad manicured lawns, and were approached by neat walkways and steps, artfully executed in concrete. Concrete sidewalks also gave an air of civility, and parking strips planted with stiff-leaved drac´┐Żnas added a touch of exoticism. Both Colonial Revival houses and classic Berkeley Brown Shingles were popular during the peak of development, with a vaguely-Prairie stucco house type in favor after 1910.

Many property owners commissioned Bay Area architects to design their new homes, and the streets abound with the work of well-known and less well-known designers. Tourgoers will visit an early Julia Morgan house designed for a publisher of postcards; a Maybeck house from 1900 that does, in fact, exemplify the Simple Home philosophy; an “ultimate” Arts and Crafts house designed by John Hudson Thomas; as well as exceptional homes designed by such architects as Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr., Albert Joseph Mazurette, McDougall Bros., Cunningham Bros., Clarence Casebolt Dakin, and Albert Dodge Coplin.

Today, after 100 years, mature foliage has added a softening touch, and a walk or drive along Benvenue or Hillegass—lying quietly away from the busy arterials of College and Telegraph Avenues—captures the atmosphere of more tranquil, bygone days, and is an opportunity to savor Berkeley’s rich architectural heritage.

Set aside Sunday, 4 May 2008 to visit some of your favorite houses,
hitherto seen only from the street.

Order tour tickets online
(please specify House Tour & number of tickets)

Or use the ticket order form to order by mail.

House docents receive complimentary admission to the tour.
To volunteer, contact BAHA.

Ticket booth (opens at noon): Stuart St. between College and Benvenue Avenues (see map).
Public transit: Take AC Transit bus line 51 northbound from Rockridge BART to College & Stuart or southbound from Downtown Berkeley BART to College & Russell. You can also walk from either station.
Parking: Underhill Parking Facility and Anna Head West lot open at 1 pm. They charge $1 per hour.

Copyright © 2008 BAHA. All rights reserved.
Photographs © Daniella Thompson.