Rachel and Michael Beckett

The Becketts have owned the Eastern Shingle Cottage at 1633 Dwight Way since October, 1986.  Rachel, who grew up in Berkeley, recounted that when she and her husband were looking for a house to buy Rachel said she didn’t want to live on a busy street.  Michael did some house hunting independently and one day told her ”there is a house you really must look at, even though it is on a busy street.”  Once she saw it she decided they should buy it -- the house had a very peaceful feeling. 

A Sproul family owned the house before the Becketts.  They were selling the house because they were in the process of getting a divorce.  The wife, Cecile, was only 13 years old when she married a much older man.  Rachel remembers seeing the mother and children through the window beside the front door when she came to visit the house and thought, “What a nice family.”  Mrs. Sproul continued to live in Berkeley after the divorce and became very involved in the Society for Creative Anachronisms.

Feodor Postnikov (see under Biographies), who bought the house in 1911, emigrated with his first-born son, Leo, from Russia to California just before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.  He managed dairy ranches in Gridley and Martinez, and lived at 1828 Delaware in Berkeley before moving into the house on Dwight Way in 1911, which was built about 1907.

The Postnikov family was large, with six sons and one daughter.  The children were Leo, Oleg, Gleb, Alexis, Valeria, Seraphim, and Elias.  The house was not really large enough for all of the children so Leo built himself a little apartment in the barn next door.  The land to the north of the house was open grazing land when the first residents lived there.

When the Becketts were buying the house, the owners mentioned that there was a friendly ghost in the house.  There were small holes in the wall of a very small room behind the dining room that were made for a traditional cloth hanging when the body of Elias Postnikov, the youngest son of Feodor and Maria Postnikov, was laid out for viewing.  Elias died from brain damage caused by injuries he suffered playing football at Stanford.  Rachel thinks that events that might seem ghostly are more likely noises in the old post and tube wiring, still in use in the house. 

When the Becketts moved into the house, there were cartwheel tracks and horse-hoof marks in the soil of the driveway from the time Feodor Postnikov had a business distributing newspapers.  He would bring them to the house by horse-cart and then give them to children to deliver locally.  The Becketts later paved the driveway.

The house at 1633 Dwight Way was famous among people interested in Esperanto because Feodor Postnikov wrote a memoir in Esperanto of his trip to Finland.  One day Michael Beckett saw an Asian man taking a photograph of the house and asked him why.  The man explained that he was a visiting professor from Japan and a lover of Esperanto and he knew that a person had written an account of his travels in Esperanto while living in that house.

The neighborhood had a strong Jewish presence as the house two doors west was used as a gathering place and worship center for a group of local Jewish people.  The house across the street was the first Zen Center in the East Bay.  The local Japanese maple trees were planted by a person who lived in a cottage behind 1633 Dwight Way and was a participant at the Zen Center.

The house has been altered very little since it was built.  Photos of the interior taken when the Postnikovs lived in the house show it to be little changed, except for the kitchen which was expanded before the Becketts bought it.  They created a large closet-pantry.  A back porch was added and enclosed with a room built above it on the second floor.  The Becketts stated that a “sense of place” was very important to them.

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