Due to the gradual process of settlement of the Historic McGee-Spaulding District, all the major periods of domestic architecture to be found in Berkeley are abundantly represented here, from the earliest known structure, completed in 1884, to wartime tract-style houses from the 1940s. There are also a number of modern residences built since then. Because the District was sparsely settled well into the twentieth century, many to wartime tract-style houses from the 1940s. There are also a number of modern residences built since then. Because the District was sparsely settled well into the twentieth century, many fine old houses were moved onto the larger lots still available in the 1920s and 1930s, when the downtown area was being modernized and the University was expanding. fine old houses were moved onto the larger lots still available in the 1920s and 1930s, when the downtown area was being modernized and the University was expanding.
From the mid-1950s to the early 1970s, a large number of the District’s distinguished older residences were demolished and replaced by apartment buildings. “Sometimes called dingbats, the new apartments featured breezeways and ground-floor carports. Supported by narrow posts above the carport, the buildings were (and are) seismic disasters waiting to occur.”
Fortunately, a grassroots effort to downzone the District to forestall further such destruction was undertaken in 1973, the same year that the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance was passed. In 1975, this effort was successful and strict restrictions were placed on neighborhood demolitions, thus allowing the District to retain much of its character. In fact, the area has sometimes been called a living museum of vernacular buildings. (According to the late James Marston Fitch, noted architect and dean of American preservationists, vernacular buildings are structures that were not designed in high style yet speak eloquently about the cultures that created them.)
Between the summer of 2001 and spring 2002, our group conducted an informal survey of every building in the District -- the area bounded by University Avenue, Sacramento Street, Dwight Way, and MLK Jr Way -- in an attempt to classify each residence by architectural style and to determine the relative frequency with which each style is represented. We discovered that a very large number of the buildings could be dated to before World War I, making almost 25% of them more than 90 years old. This does not even include the many bungalows that were built before 1914. What follows is a brief description of the major architectural styles represented up to 1945, by which time the District had mostly been filled in. Of course, within each of these styles there are many variations and also many that have been so altered or updated that the original style cannot be determined. A page containing a line drawing of each style, from Rehab Right, is provided at the end of the descriptions.
VICTORIAN ERA - 1837 to 1901
The Victorian classification includes the Italianate, Stick (San Francisco and Eastlake versions) and Queen Anne styles. Victorian building, however, often combines elements of two or more distinct styles in one design, e.g., “Queen Anne/Eastlake” or “Stick/Italianate.”
Italianate (1860-1880s) The Italianate house can be identified by its tall, narrow, round-arched windows, columned portico, low-hipped roof, double curved brackets on the cornice, and an angled or slanted bay window. Although certain architectural elements are borrowed from Italian Renaissance motifs, such as wedge-shaped blocks on the corners of the building, wood is substituted for stone. Example: 2212 McKinley
Stick(late 1870s - 1890s) The Stick style treated wood as wood, not as a medium to imitate stone. Walls were crisscrossed with a rectilinear pattern of wooden bands (the “sticks”) that divide the shingled or clapboarded wall into a geometric pattern. Other features include bay windows with straight sides and a gabled roof above, a squared bay, and a square-pillared porch. (The Eastlake version typically used sculptured decorations -- flowers and foliage, columns and spindles.) Example: 2221 California
Queen Anne Cottage (1883-1900) The Queen Anne cottage is one storey with a raised basement. The facade is dominated by a single, front-facing oversized gable. The corner bays are recessed as is the porch, which is supported by classical columns. Many materials are used on the walls including shingles, clapboards, panels, and molding. Example: 2240 McKinley
COLONIAL REVIVAL ERA - 1890 to 1915
The Colonial Revival classification is a loose adaptation of various Early American styles and motifs and includes the Classic Box (both narrow and wide styles), Neoclassic Rowhouse, and Eastern Shingle Cottage styles. Certain elements from the Queen Anne Cottage, such as the raised basement, recessed porch, and bay window, are incorporated into these styles.
Classic Box (1890-1910) Classic Boxes can be identified by their boxy style and hipped roof with a dormer window projecting from the middle. There is a great variety of window shapes: a short, broad dormer window; square double-hung windows on some of which the upper portion is partitioned into eight smaller panes; Palladian (a high arched central section and a lower section underneath an entablature on each side); and side windows of assorted size (some as small as twelve by eighteen inches) scattered chaotically across both stories. Fluted pilasters adorn the corners of the house. The front door is topped by a portico that sometimes extends across the entire front of the house. Examples: 1739, 1740, 1745 Bancroft/2205 McKinley/2417-19 California
Neoclassic Rowhouse (1895-1915) The Neoclassic Rowhouse is a smaller version of the Classic Box. Such houses are one story on a raised foundation, with a hipped roof and dormer window. The front door is recessed to one side, with the porch overhung by a roof supported by two or three abbreviated classical columns (square or round) resting on the porch enclosure. The front steps are flanked by a terraced stoop. Example: 2234 Jefferson
Eastern Shingle Cottage (1895-1910) The ground floor of the Eastern Shingle Cottage is almost identical to the first floor of the Neoclassic Rowhouse. The A-frame shape and shingle surface of the second floor harks back to a larger East Coast style. A gigantic gable, twice as tall at its apex as the height of the first floor and as wide as the house itself is pierced by one or two windows. A large, sloping dormer projects from the roof at the side of the house. Example: 2315 Spaulding
FIRST BAY TRADITION - Late 1890s to 1925
“First Bay Tradition Houses are characterized by a communion with nature, sensitivity to basic materials and appreciation of structural form and craftsmanship.” (Rehab Right) The style derived from the work of professional architects, including Willis Polk and Bernard Maybeck.
Brown Shingle (late 1890s to 1915) This two-storey Craftsman house is also known as Western Stick Style. The trademarks of the style include dark brown weathered redwood shingles, tie beams that extend beyond the eaves, braces attached to the gable to support the rafters, and a porch covered by a verandah. The windows are grouped in twos or threes and the upper segments may be cut into several smaller panes. Examples: 2314-17 McGee/1745 Allston
Craftsman Bungalow(1905-1925) The Craftsman Bungalow is recognized by the deliberate use of natural materials, an emphasis on structural form and a casual relationship with the outdoors. It is generally one storey with one or more broadly pitched, overhanging gables. The entry porch, which is supported by two large, broad-based pillars slightly tapered at the top, is capped by a small gable. The roofline is sloping with overhanging eaves and exposed rafters. The house is covered in brown shingles, although sometimes wood siding is used. Examples: 2220 McKinley/2338 McGee/1728 Allston
California Bungalow (1910-1925) This style has a little bit of everything that came before in First Bay Tradition houses. However, the pair of broad-based elephantine columns that support the small porch gable are unique to the California Bungalow style. The roof of the house is low-pitched, the rafters exposed, and the walls covered in stucco instead of wood. The house is small and extremely plain (especially compared to bungalows designed by Greene and Greene in Pasadena) but could be constructed quickly, at a reasonable cost. Examples: 2408 California/1608 Channing/2211 McKinley
Mail-order Bungalow Early in the 20th century, over a hundred thousand families purchased pre-fabricated homes from Sears Roebuck catalogs. Sears prices for most bungalows ranged from $475 to $1500. The buyer received detailed building plans and precut and numbered materials shipped by railroad boxcar. All the builder had to do was match the pieces of precut lumber and millwork with the corresponding numbers on the blueprints. By 1915, the bungalow, which was the biggest-selling model, dominated the national mail order homes market. The one-story stucco bungalows from 2316 to 2330 Jefferson Street were all built between 1917 and 1923 with Sears Craftsman kits.
PERIOD REVIVAL - 1915 to 1935
Period Revival houses are a direct contrast to the natural, earthy style of First Bay Tradition houses.
Mediterranean (1915-1935) The architectural elements of this style are derived from the buildings of Spain, Italy, and North Africa. The red tile porch or parapet roof is its distinguishing characteristic. The roof itself is generally low-pitched tar and gravel. The house is sheathed in stark white stucco. Typically, there are arches (pointed, rounded, flattened, or a circle with a peak) on the house, porch, and front door, or on all three. The entrance to the back yard is another arch attached to the side of the house. Examples: 2300, 2426, 2428 California/1621 Bancroft/1741 Allston
ALL-AMERICAN RANCH STYLE - 1940s
“The Wartime Tract houses...are an early species of the All-American Ranch Style that would dominate the national housing market from the late 1940s on.” (Rehab Right)
Wartime Tract (1942-1945) The house is small, with one storey, and a pitched, shingled roof, finished with either stucco or rustic siding. Example: 1601-11 Bancroft
Post-war Apartment Buildings (1950s-1970s) - Often referred to as “dingbats,” the buildings are boxy with sheltered parking underneath at street level. They are generally stucco but sometimes various bonus materials are added such as vertical wooden clapboard, concrete blocks or river rock. The stilts that support the cantilevered portion of the building are usually made of metal or stucco-covered wood. Example: 2340 Grant
 The Clark House at 1545 Dwight Way, which was the first Berkeley building by contractor/artist Alphonso H. Broad (1851-1930).
 Charles Wollenberg, Berkeley, A City in History (University of California Press, 2008).
 Sometimes referred to as either a sidewalk or a windshield survey.
 We used Rehab right: how to rehabilitate your Oakland house without sacrificing architectural assets (Oakland, 1978: City of Oakland).