30 April 2004

The Tapes of Russell Street

The Tape house (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

One of the houses on our upcoming Spring House Tour conceals a most absorbing history.

The original owners were Joseph and Mary Tape, a Chinese-American couple who made school desegregation history in 1885. Mary Tape was also an accomplished amateur photographer, painter, and telegrapher—highly unsual for a married Victorian lady.

Their story is told in the essay The Tapes of Russell Street.

27 April 2004

Two lectures on Victorian architecture

A.W. Pattiani
(photo courtesy of the Pattiani family)

BAHA is offering two lectures in conjunction with the Berkeley 1890 “at home” house tour.

Author Paul Duchscherer will speak on Victorian Glory in San Francisco and the Bay Area on Wednesday, 28 April. No doubt, many of you are familiar with his magnficent book of the same title. The book will be available for sale at the lecture.

Paul Roberts will lecture on A.W. Pattiani, Victorian Designer-Builder on Wednesday, 5 May. Pattiani designed and built several houses on the BAHA tour, and this lecture by the foremost expert on Pattiani will broaden our knowledge about his work.

Both lectures will be held at the beautiful arts-and-crafts Church by the Side of the Road, 2108 Russell Street, Berkeley, at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $7 and may be ordered by phone at (510) 841-2242. They will also be available on both evenings at the lecture site.

19 April 2004

The mystery of the disappearing mural

Photo: Daniella Thompson

A couple of months ago I photographed Orchard Lane for a virtual tour published in the Berkeley Landmarks website.

At that time, the niche above the first flight of steps depicted the mural you see here. Although not one of the lane’s original features, the mural was a pleasant surprise along the way.

Apparently not everyone thought so, for shortly after the photograph was taken, someone came by with a can of gray spray paint and covered the mural.

Neighbors don’t know who did it or why, and nobody has taken the trouble to invstigate or to complain.

12 April 2004

The end for Hunrick Grocery

In better days (photo: BAHA archives)

The days of the historic Hunrick Grocery building appear to be numbered. This evening, the Landmarks Preservation Commission will conduct a preliminary public hearing on an application for a demolition permit.

The building at 2211 Rose Street, constructed by George Hunrick in 1908, was later renamed Rose Grocery and served as a small convenience store until 1966. Abandoned for the past 24 years, it now sadly dilapidated. In 1988, the building was designated a Structure of Merit for its special historic interest.

The applicant is proposing to replace the building with a residential duplex. A few of the existing architectural features are to be preserved.

05 April 2004

Focus on Olmsted

Piedmont Avenue circa 1915 (photo: BAHA archives)

Today’s print edition of the San Francisco Chronicle features the initial article in the six-part series Newspapers in Education, written by Susan Cerny and covering people who have made a difference on the Bay Area’s built environment. The first article focuses on Frederick Law Olmsted and his contributions to the Berkeley Property Tract.

Online, the Olmsted-designed Piedmont Way and current efforts to restore it to its previous glory are the subject of Chronicle Staff Writer Patrick Hoge, in the article Berkeley: Reseeding the vision of famed landscaper, dated 12 March.

Since this notice was posted, I published a page on Piedmont Way in the Berkeley Landmarks website.

01 April 2004

This is journalism?

The Blood house between the Albra and the Brasfield
(photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

The bottom-feeding Will Harper is foaming at the mouth again in the East Bay Express. His target this time is the Blood house, and as usual, Harper’s ill-researched diatribe sounds more like PR hackery than journalism.

Had Bottom Feeder (what an apt name) bothered to read Section 3.24.110 of the Berkeley Municipal Code, which sets forth criteria for consideration when designating landmarks, historic districts, and structures of merit, he would have found out that “If upon assessment of a structure, the commission finds that the structure does not currently meet the criteria as set out for a landmark, but it is worthy of preservation as part of a neighborhood, a block or a street frontage, or as part of a group of buildings which includes landmarks, that structure may be designated a structure of merit.”

The Blood house is not an isolated building but sits between two other landmarks on a block where several other historic structures are to be found. As such, even in its altered state, it merits its designation.

Moreover, had Bottom Feeder taken the trouble to read Jerry Sulliger’s exhaustive article in Preservation Discourse, he would not have been so quick to declare that “contrary to the LPC’s assertion that it was one of the last of its kind from the College Homestead tract, Corbett identified dozens of residential buildings remaining from the old tract.”

Then again, any homework he might have done would probably have made no difference whatever, since Bottom Feeder insists on telling only one side of the story. Where, for example, did he get the idea that “the mayoral permit-streamlining task force has recommended either doing away with the [structure of merit] designation or clarifying it”?

According to Bottom Feeder, ZAB member Laurie Capitelli “reasoned that he couldn’t make the necessary finding that building more housing, including seven affordable units, was more important than preserving a historic structure—even one he personally found unremarkable.” The only reason Bottom Feeder can suggest for this finding is Capitelli’s imminent run for the city council. Apparently this muckraker never sets foot in Berkeley and thus is completely unaware of the For Rent signs that abound on every street.

Quite a few Berkeleyans are wondering whether the demolition-happy Bottom Feeder receives more than one salary.