Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Haehl House, Palo Alto

Lowell Avenue facade. Photo: A. B. Clark, 1920

The house at 1680 Bryant Street, corner of Lowell Avenue, in Palo Alto was built for H. A. Haehl in 1914. It has elements of Art Nouveau, Viennese Secessionism, and Prairie School. A photo of this house appeared in "Art Principles" by A. B. Clark with a diagram illustrating the interplay of rectangles in the facades and window muntins. What stands today of this house is only the north half of a larger house at 275 Lowell Avenue. The original house was over 6,000 square feet and had an H-shaped floor plan with the entrance between the two legs of the H, on the Lowell Avenue side of the structure. There was apparently a porte cochere where the present entrance is.
I received confirmation from two sources that the house was split prior to 1950. Looking at the aerial views on Google Earth, the split appears to have been made prior to 1948.

Green: 275 Lowell, Orange: 1680 Bryant. Aerial Photo: USGS, 1948

Sandra Sigurdson sent a photo and wrote that her family lived this house since 1983. She said that what had been the south portion of the house was made a separate property sometime in the late Forties and that the owners of the south portion tore it down in 1997 for construction of a new house on that property.

This story dovetails with information I received from Rick Simpson, whose family owned 1680 Bryant from 1950 to 1968. He had been told that the passage connecting the two sides of the house had been severed immediately after WWII. Rick clarified that the south portion of the house had the address 275 Lowell Avenue and was owned by the family of concert pianist Adolf Baller from 1950 to sometime in the 1990's. After the Ballers sold it, the new owner tore it down to build a larger house.

Bryant Street facade. Photo: S. Sigurdson, 2003

Some remodeling was done to the present house but Ms. Sigurdson said the changes they made were true to the style of JHT's original design. This house is listed on the City of Palo Alto Historic Inventory.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Rise and Fall of Twelve Acres

Photo: Los Altos History Museum
I received a bounty of information from Jane Metz, describing a house in Los Altos that JHT designed as a country retreat for E. J. McCutchen, a prominent San Francisco lawyer. It was located on Pine Lane, near Adobe Creek. The house was featured in the January 1920 issue of Architect and Engineer.

Constructed for $20,000 in 1918, the 14-room mansion was sited on a sixteen-acre site that was beautifully landscaped by McCutchen's friend, John McLaren, who served as superintendent of Golden Gate Park. McCutchen died in 1933 and the rambling 2-story house was sold to Adolph Meyer of the Pet Milk Company. For a time, the house became known as the Meyer and Manning residence. In 1943, the house and 12 acres of land were sold to the Christian Science Church and served as a home for children until 1959. During this time the estate was known as "Twelve Acres". Once they had further subdivided the property and sold all but two acres, the church built their new children's home about 75 feet from the original house.

Photo: Los Altos History Museum
The old mansion was sold to a member of the planning commission, a contractor who planned to either remodel it or tear it down. Unfortunately, after standing empty for a year, the structure was destroyed in a suspicious fire on August 16th, 1960.

Photo: Los Altos History Museum
Stylistically, this house was transitional for JHT, fitting in after his Viennese Secessionist period and largely of the English Plaster Cottage style he would settle into throughout the 20's. With its clipped gables and thatch-like rolled shingle eaves, it bore some resemblance to the Blasingame House in Piedmont of the same year, or the Cherry House in Oakland of 1915. Ironically, prior to building this house in Los Altos, Edward McCutchen's home in San Francisco had been destroyed by fire--but that was in the days when fire wagons were still pulled by horses and house fires were relatively common.

Thanks to Jane Metz for digging up most of this information. She even found out that during the time the house was serving as a children's home and summer camp, Peter Ueberroth worked there as a recreation leader or PE teacher. Though the building no longer stands, due to its history as a children's home there must be scores of people who have memories off this place.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Three JHT Doors for Sale

Three redwood interior doors from a 1923 John Hudson Thomas house in North Berkeley hills. Dimensions are:
29 1/2" x 79 1/2"
31 1/2" x 79 1/2"
31 3/4" x 79 1/2" (2-way swinging dr.)
In the photo, the two doors on left are upside-down. They have partial hardware. Asking $40 apiece, or best offer. Respond to this ad on Craig's List if you are interested in acquiring these doors.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Anthony House Tour

I was unable to attend the Anthony House tour organized by Foster Goldstrom but Jim Stetson did go and took these marvelous photos. Enjoy this very special house by JHT!

Here's a link to the Flickr set. Or enjoy these photos as a larger sized slideshow by doubleclicking on them below.

Many thanks to Foster for arranging this outing, to the owner for allowing appreciative visitors and to Jim for taking and sharing these photos. What a wonderful house.

Monday, April 6, 2009

San Francisco Earthquake

I happened to be channel flipping last night and by chance came upon the American Experience documentary on PBS about the SF Earthquake of 1906. It really made me understand at a much deeper level how this fueled the East Bay's growth from 1906-1918 (when World War I began). You can't see the show online, but you can view some of the photos of SF in 1906 here.
You can rent the program from Netflix
or buy it used on Amazon for $8.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Detailed Descriptions of 7 Berkeley Houses by JHT (from 1979 Tour Notes)

In 1979, the Ecole Bilingue offered a self-guided house tour of 7 houses by John Hudson Thomas. There are detailed descriptions for the featured houses:

1. Kruse House, 564 Santa Clara Ave., 1914
2. Spring Mansion, 1960 San Antonio Road, 1912
3. Pratt-Verper House, 959 Indian Rock Ave., 1911
4. Pratt-Thomas House, 800 Shattuck Ave., 1911
5. Blum House, 1505 Hawthorne Terrace, 1926
6. Park House, 3115 Claremont Ave., 1914
7. Wintermute, 227 Tunnel Road, 1913
8. Ecole Bilingue, 1001/9 Heinz St., 1915

I've added a brief overview map and list of the houses in the document. I originally photocopied the 1979 tour from the BAHA archives.

To see the whole tour, check out the document on

John Hudson Thomas Self Guided Tour (1979) of 7 Berkeley House

Many thanks to all the original contributors who wrote these descriptions.

I also created the tour in Google Maps. For those who are interested, you can find it here.

There's nothing particularly special about this house tour today (since the houses are not open as they were in 1979). But the descriptions are interesting and have occasional historical bits in them.

Coming soon - some self-guiding tours that focus on a particular theme or aspect of JHT's work - or works that are located in a specific neighborhood.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Kluegel House Offered in a Trustee’s Sale

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005

The Laura Belle Marsh Kluegel House (John Hudson Thomas, 1911) at 2669 Le Conte Avenue, Berkeley, is a designated City of Berkeley Landmark (see the full landmark application).

Currently in default, the building will go on the auction block this Friday, March 27, at 12:30 pm. The sale will take place at the Fallon Street entrance to the Alameda County Court House, 1225 Fallon Street, Oakland, CA.