Thursday, January 22, 2009

Buying a Slice of Architectural Distinction

What do Dave Brubeck, Jane Fonda, Alice Waters and Dr Seuss [aka, Theodor Geisel] have in common?

It turns out that they were all inducted into the California Hall of Fame last month, a body set up in 2005 by California's First Lady Maria Shriver to honor individuals who embody the state's innovative spirit.

Included in the 2008 list of 12 inductees is architect Julia Morgan, who crashed through the gender barrier at the turn of the 19th century and went on to design more than 700 buildings over a 47-year career, most of them in the Bay Area.

Julia Morgan

Morgan's most famous building is William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon home, Hearst Castle. But the more modest homes she designed come onto the market fairly regularly and they are always worth checking out -- whether you want to live in a home of architectural distinction, or if only to indulge in a little snooping on a Sunday open-house tour.

Some are more desirable than others. A 3/1.5 on Parker Street in Berkeley lingered on the market for almost a year before selling last June for $938,000. However another Morgan was snapped up in a flash in October: 2616 Etna St, a 3/1 brown-shingle, also in Berkeley, sold for $1,257,000, comfortably over its $1,115,000 asking price.

I can't say I was surprised. Built in 1905, the home had the swathes of paneling and built-ins one associates with the Craftsman style, as well as a sleeping porch, working pocket doors, window seats, casement windows and precisely 271 linear feet of custom-built bookshelves. A slice of history and an architectural gem for Morgan fans.

The Landmark Heritage Foundation is celebrating Morgan's induction into the Hall of Fame on January 18 at the Berkeley City Club, designed -- of course -- by Julia Morgan. For information, visit their website.

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