30 November 2004

BAHA’s position on the Foothill bridge

Honorable Mayor and City Council:

The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) strongly recommends that you vote against granting the University of California an Encroachment Permit for the Foothill pedestrian bridge over Hearst Avenue.

This bridge would cause a substantial detriment to the historic Northside neighborhood. The adverse impact of this major institutional encroachment upon the streetscape cannot be mitigated.

Residents of the area east of La Loma Avenue are complaining that the construction of the Foothill student housing complex in 1988–90 isolated their streets from the rest of the Northside neighborhood, leaving them only two narrow view corridors down Ridge Rd. and Hearst Ave. A bridge across Hearst Ave. would further isolate this area and eliminate one of the remaining view corridors.

Furthermore, the institutional look of the proposed bridge is an unfortunate misfit in a historic residential neighborhood. Daley’s Scenic Park was the first residential tract north of the campus and is home to many City of Berkeley Landmarks, as well as to several structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

At 2717 Hearst Ave., located directly behind the proposed Foothill bridge, is the Phi Delta Theta Chapter House (John Reid, Jr., 1914), #83001172 in the National Register of Historic Places (listed in 1983) and City of Berkeley Landmark #59 (designated in May 1982). This historic structure has been surrounded, trivialized, and overshadowed by the Foothill complex. A bridge will render it invisible from any point to the west.

The Highland Place and Ridge Rd. blocks facing the Foothill complex are where Bernard Maybeck built five of his early brown-shingle houses in the 1890s. All five structures survived the 1923 fire, but only two (the Charles Keeler House and Studio, both City of Berkeley Landmarks) managed to survive insensitive development. Let’s not compound the errors of the past with a fresh one.

While disabled access is very important, even U.C. planners concede that the Foothill bridge will not solve the mobility problems of the disabled, who would still face serious challenges crossing Gayley Road on their way to the campus and to city streets below.

As the Daily Californian pointed out in its editorial against the bridge, U.C. has sufficient handicapped-accessible units in existing dormitories on the Southside. Moreover, in the new Southside dormitories currently being completed, all the units are either handicapped-accessible or convertible within 24 hours. The twelve accessible units in the La Loma block of the Foothill complex can be easily made up for in other dormitories.

Both the Design Review Committee and the Landmarks Preservation Commission found the proposed bridge inappropriate and its design unacceptable. Their findings were summarized in the report of the Public Works Commission, which recommends that you vote against granting an Encroachment Permit for the Foothill bridge. Please take the time to read the Commission’s findings and vote accordingly.

27 November 2004

Cloyne Court at 100

Interior courtyard, looking east. Newman Hall is visible behind.
(photo: Picturing Berkeley)

The Cloyne Court Hotel, designed by John Galen Howard for the University Land and Improvement Company, opened its doors in December 1904 at 2600 Ridge Road, on the corner of Le Roy Avenue.

The investors included Phoebe Apperson Hearst, Jane K. Sather, James K. Moffitt, John Galen Howard, James M. Pierce, et al. The hotel was named after the philosopher George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, and was built at the substantial cost of $80,000.

A 1904 sales leaflet for the University Land and Improvement Co. described Cloyne Court as “a high class modern apartment house in Berkeley, California.”

Tim Banuelos and Linda Robinson, architectural researchers of the Cloyne Court Hotel, record that Howard designed Cloyne Court with 32 suites made up of one to five rooms. An unusual design feature for that time were the separate stairways leading to each two suites, with no long hallways on the second and third floors. The building also boasted a unique fireproof system, whereby different sections of the house were separated by brick firewalls and automatic sliding fire-proof doors.

Many notable guests stayed at Cloyne Court or lived there full-time. And no wonder. Entries in the guest book explain the hotel’s attractions:

  • “Cloyne Court...where beauty and hospitality are mated”
    Francis G. Allison, 1917

  • “Giving people a happy home is a divine service.”
    Benjamin Ide Wheeler, 1923

  • “Cloyne Court fills one of the more important needs of modern man—peace.”
    Alessus Camel, 1936

  • “Cloyne Court—Silence and peace in an insane world.”
    Ernest Block, 1944

As one of the University Students Cooperative Association’s larger and noisier residential co-ops, Cloyne Court has long since ceased to be a haven of silence and peace. Far more accurate would be the moniker “insane world.”

Cloyne Court was designated a City of Berkeley in November 1982. It is #92001718 in the National Register of Historic Places (added in 1992).

See a list of John Galen Howard projects, downloadable as an Excel spreadsheet.

25 November 2004

Messiah sing at First Church

Photo: Joseph Stubbs

The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Berkeley invites you to participate in a sing-along of Handel’s Messiah under the baton of conductor William Ludtke.

The event will be held on Sunday, 5 December, at 2:30 pm.

The church is located at 2619 Dwight Way, on the corner of Bowditch Street. Parking will be available for $7 at the U.C. Underhill parking lot on Channing Way, between Bowditch St. and College Ave.

There are no tickets to purchase, but donations are welcome. They will benefit the restoration of this Maybeck-designed National Landmark (the only one in Berkeley).

If you have a score, please bring it.

18 November 2004

An evening at the Art Deco
Mary Bowles Building

The Art Deco Society of California, in partnership with the Oakland Heritage Alliance, invites you to attend an Evening with the Architect at the Mary Bowles Building, 1718 Telegraph Ave., on Tuesday, 30 November.

The restoration of the fabulous Mary Bowles Building in Uptown Oakland is almost finished. Come meet ADSC member T.J. Towey of KTA Architects, who will reveal the intimate process of reviving a Deco masterpiece.

Designed by architect Douglas Dacre Stone and called a “fine modern building” by the Oakland Tribune in 1936, the Mary Bowles Building features a beautiful exterior multi-hued blue-green terra-cotta frieze and exquisite black and silver columns.

Mr. Towey will present the fascinating details of this renovation and rescue process that has spanned over three years. A slide show, building tour, and light refreshments will round out the evening. Social Hour at 6:30 pm, Program at 7:30. This event has been generously underwritten by Mr. Parviz Poustincian.

RSVP to 415.982.DECO (3326) by Tuesday, 23 November, with name and number in your group. Admission will be collected at the door. Deco attire admired but not required. $10 for members of the Art Deco Society and Oakland Heritage Alliance; $15 for non-members.

16 November 2004

American Decorative Arts Forum
2005 lectures

The American Decorative Arts Forum has just released its lecture schedule for the coming year. Admission is free for ADAF members and $15 for non-members. The price of admission can be counted toward a $50 individual membership for 12 lectures a year. Further information is available at www.adafca.org.
11 JanuaryArt Pottery, Bungalows and Atascadero: E.G. Lewis and the American Women’s League
Anne Woodhouse, Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, MO
Mini-exhibit: Arts & Crafts pottery and tiles
8 FebruaryDuncan Phyfe: Legendary Cabinetmaker
Peter Kenny, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Mini-exhibit: Classical designs: anthemia to urns
1 MarchAmerican Sampler: Silver and Other Treasures from the Ruth Nutt Collection
Julie Emerson, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
Mini-exhibit: Silver vessels, trays and trophies
5 AprilVictorian Glory: Victorian Interiors and All the Stuff They Contained
Paul Duchscherer, San Francisco
Mini-exhibit: Victorian textiles: antimacassars to shawls
10 MayAmerican Fancy: Exuberance in the Arts 1790–1840
Sumpter T. Priddy III, Alexandria, VA
Mini-exhibit: Fancy ceramics, chairs, coverlets, quilts, tole
14 JuneCollecting Country Arts: Nina Fletcher Little and the Connoisseurship of Anonymity
Philip Zea, Historic Deerfield, Deerfield, MA
Mini-exhibit: Folk, outsider and tramp art
12 JulyThe American Potter: Redware, Stoneware and Porcelain 1700–1900
Amanda Lange, Historic Deerfirld, Deerfield, MA
Mini-exhibit: American, Asian and European ceramics
16 AugustThe East India Marine Society and Early Maritime Collecting in Salem
Daniel Finamore, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA
Mini-exhibit: Maritime art and artifacts
13 September Golden Gate Park: Gallery of Victorian Style, Culture and Custom
Christopher Pollock, San Francisco, CA
Mini-exhibit: San Francisco scenes and memorabilia
11 OctoberBenjamin Franklin at Home
Page Talbott, Bala-Cynwyd, PA
Mini-exhibit: Founding fathers and mothers
8 November California Paintings of the Hudson River School and the Barbizon Period
Alfred C. Harrison, Jr., Northpoint Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Mini-exhibit: Landscapes
13 DecemberTo the Table: Food Preparation, Presentation and Pleasurable Partaking
Elizabeth Garrett, Strawbery Banke, Portsmouth, NH
Mini-exhibit: Place settings

15 November 2004

Daily Cal opposes Foothill Bridge

Proposed Foothill Bridge, looking east

The university’s application for a major encroachment permit to build the Foothill Bridge is coming before the City Council again on 7 December.

While the Residence Hall Assembly has been loudly cheering the bridge as a necessity, The Daily Californian came out with an editorial opposing construction of the bridge.

Here is the complete text.
Don’t Build Bridge

Friday, November 12, 2004

While the proposal to construct a bridge joining the La Loma residence hall to main Foothill buildings is an admirable attempt to extend accessibility for people with disabilities, it is a waste of resources that could end up causing more problems than it solves.

The Foothill Bridge would run above Hearst Avenue and connect northern La Loma to Hillside, the central Foothill complex. The bridge could reduce jaywalking and make it more convenient for residents to reach the dining commons. La Loma would be more accessible to those with disabilities, who cannot currently live there—they have to traverse a half-mile uphill path to reach the dining commons. The bridge, in the original blueprints for the housing project, is slated to cost $1 to $1.5 million.

Despite the potential benefits of the bridge, proponents ignore the fact that most students with disabilities can be accommodated by Units 1, 2 and 3. Bowles Hall has no handicapped-accessible facilities either, but this hasn’t been an issue—the university has not had trouble accommodating students who need such considerations.

On top of the extraneous nature of the project, the bridge would not solve the problem it professes to address. City council member Dona Spring, who uses a wheelchair, is against the plan because students would have to use a key to access an elevator to reach the bridge—this could prove very difficult for some with disabilities.

Building such a bridge has neighbors living uphill from Foothill concerned, because the construction would ruin many of their views and reduce property values.

If the university is bent upon bettering housing complexes for the benefit of Berkeley students, this construction project is not the way to do so. While we appreciate the university’s good intentions, we believe the bridge is unnecessary and its negative effects far outweigh the potential convenience for La Loma residents.

10 November 2004

Hewn and Hammered

A custom tile frame by David Eklund

Hewn and Hammered is a gorgeously designed collaborative weblog sponsored by Style 1900 and dedicated to any and all aspects of the Arts & Crafts movement, with an emphasis on the Mission, Prairie, and Craftsman styles of architecture and design.

Here you can find information about artisans and suppliers, read book reviews, and enjoy stunning photography.

The weblog is open to anyone who wishes to contribute.

05 November 2004

Wurster’s Jensen Cottage
expansion on appeal

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004

Stockton-born architect William Wilson Wurster (1895–1973), namesake of Wurster Hall on the U.C. campus, was one of the most influential American residential designers of the mid-20th century. From 1944 to 1950, he was dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT and from 1950 to 1959, dean of the Architecture School at U.C. Berkeley.

His major works include the Golden Gateway Redevelopment Project and Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, Cowell College at U.C. Santa Cruz, and a number of office buildings. But it is his residential work for which Wurster is best known—especially the Gregory farmhouse (1926–27) in Santa Cruz and the Butler house in Pasatiempo (1931–36).

Both the Gregory and the Butler houses are documented in the book An Everyday Modernism: The Houses of William Wurster, edited by Marc Treib (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996) following a major exhibition of Wurster’s work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Another house documented in the exhibition and in the book is the Edgar Jensen house, commonly known as the Jensen Cottage (1937) at 1650 La Vereda Road. The Jensen Cottage comes before the City Council on Tuesday, 9 November. Neighbors are appealing the ZAB decision to approve a large addition to this significant example of Second Bay Region architecture.

Today’s Berkeley Daily Planet is running a detailed commentary by historian Ruth Rosen and architect Chris Adams.

A public hearing on a landmark designation proposal for the Jensen Cottage was continued by the Landmarks Preservation Commission pending the Council’s vote on the appeal.

03 November 2004

Revising landmark law

Berkeley Art Museum: our most significant
modern building might face the wrecker’s ball.

At the vital heart of preservation in Berkeley is the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. The LPO has been under revision for the past four years. In July, the Landmarks Preservation Commission completed a final draft.

This LPO draft is now before the Planning Commission, which expects to hold a workshop on it in December.

What’s at stake? A great deal. Veteran planner John English explains it all in his article Revising landmark law.

This article is required reading and a call to action for anyone who cares about preservation.