18 July 2008

Oscar Wilde, Joseph Worcester, and the English Arts & Crafts Movement

Rev. Joseph Worcester’s Piedmont cottage (detail from a painting by William Keith)

What did the dandy aesthete Oscar Wilde and the Swedenborgian minister Joseph Worcester have in common? They both lectured in the Bay Area in 1882. While both discussed art and its role in life, their viewpoints were diametrically opposed.

Leslie M. Freudenheim, author of Building with Nature: Inspiration for the Arts and Crafts Home and a Worcester champion, brings these opposing world views head-to-head while reviewing original documents recently retrieved from storage by the Swedenborgian House of Studies Library.

Her article, “Oscar Wilde, Joseph Worcester, and the English Arts & Crafts Movement,” is published in BAHA’s Essays & Stories section.

As Ms. Freudenheim suggests, “For those interested in the growth of the English Arts & Crafts Movement in America, its manifestations in California, and the influence of Joseph Worcester in the Bay Area, this information is eye-opening.”

16 July 2008

Dona Spring, champion of preservation

Dona Spring at a Save the Oaks rally, 9 Nov. 2006 (photo: Daniella Thompson)

With the untimely death of Dona Spring, Berkeley preservationists lost their staunchest advocate on the City Council. As a Councilmember, Dona consistently appointed preservationists to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

In 2006, Dona was only one of two Councilmembers who endorsed Measure J, the citizens’ LPO update.

Dona’s 2006 Candidate Statement devoted a sizable paragraph to Measure J. She wrote:
Vote yes on Measure J to save our Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. Historic preservation advocates collected signatures to save the structure-of-merit designation which the mayor wanted to eliminate. This change would have wiped out almost all future protections for saving historic resources in Berkeley’s neighborhoods. It was only after the signatures had been submitted that the mayor tried to make a compromise which restored the structure-of-merit designation. But once signatures have been submitted for a ballot measure, they cannot be withdrawn. Contrary to ballot arguments against Measures J, it was not a long public process leading to the Bates proposal. In fact, over 50 people living in all of Berkeley’s neighborhoods testified against the mayor’s proposal to gut the current ordinance. In addition, there have not been legal problems with the current ordinance. The State Historic Office has found that Berkeley’s current Landmark Preservation Ordinance is compliant with all state laws. A vote for Measure J is a vote to preserve our affordable housing stock. Many rent control units are in older buildings and houses. If those buildings can be easily demolished instead of restored and expanded, then we lose rent-controlled housing and get expensive market rent housing in their place. Also, it is environmentally friendly to reuse the buildings instead of demolishing and land filling them. (One of the biggest portions of our landfill is going to construction and demolition debris.) Reusing buildings also helps conserve natural resources including trees.
To the San Francisco Chronicle, Dona made this statement:
“It’s extremely important that we pass this,” said Councilwoman Dona Spring. “Without Measure J, there’s no way to save anything unless it’s designed by a famous architect. Any owner who wants to demolish a house can do it.”
Until her very final days, Dona fought bravely to save the Memorial Stadium Oak Grove, putting her frail body on the line against U.C. police.

Dona, we love you and miss you. Where will we find another champion like you?