In previous columns I've written about the model home constructed in Berkeley in 1939 with the advice of hundreds of members of the Berkeley City Club. The house was to be part of the Golden Gate International Exposition model homes tour, a multicounty, multicity project to show off modern, newly built, residences around the Bay to both local residents and fair visitors.
There were no less than four new Berkeley houses being prepared for the ongoing tour. Seventy-five years ago, June 17, 1939, one of them "opened for inspection" on Grizzly Peak Boulevard. The one-story, wood frame, clapboarded, house featured a double-car garage, an ample lot and expansive views over the Bay toward Treasure Island.
Cleverly named "Fair Vista," it was trumpeted with ads and puff pieces in the Gazette. "Fair Vista is offered to the public today as an embodiment of Berkeley's slogan, 'A Finer Place to Live,'" the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce said. "It is located on a typical Berkeley hill homesite, and its California Colonial architecture represents a delightful blend of the eighteenth century and the twentieth."
A follow-up article included this odd description of the interior. "This was no setting for modernity but rather a refuge from the busy world beyond, a haven secure in the better racial traditions."
"You will admire the up-to-the minute innovations, and the handsome, correctly styled furniture," the Chamber added in an advertisement. Jackson's, an Oakland home furnishing company that had decorated the house, added that "When you've seen this exquisitely furnished home you'll probably wish that you, too, could achieve such effects. You can! Simply phone ... and ask Jackson's to send a trained Decorative Advisor to your address. It's gratis, of course!"
The Gazette featured photographs of the kitchen and bedroom with a canopied bed that looked straight from a movie version of Mount Vernon. The house was designed by architect Paul J. Hammarberg, and built by J.M. Walker.
The house still exists, but when I looked it up online, it looks like it has had a partial second floor added.
The Gazette layout editor couldn't resist placing on the same page as the Model Home article this little squib. "Kenneth Ryder, bank clerk residing at 2311 Oregon Street, and his next door neighbor, William Mitchell, 2313 Oregon Street, had several thousand unannounced and unwelcome 'guests' visit them this morning."
The guests were "royalty" -- a swarm of bees with a queen at the center, that hung around in a cypress tree between the two houses, "to the discomfort of Ryder, Mitchell and a number of youngsters playing on the sidewalk."
Remember how in 1938 the Gazette and the city establishment hailed the demolition of the classic, handsome, block long, downtown Berkeley train station on Shattuck Square, for its replacement with a block of stores and a tiny new Southern Pacific office?
On June 20, 1939, the City Council "authorized City Manager Hollis R. Thompson to request that the Southern Pacific provide better waiting room facilities for commuters at the new depot at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street. Mayor Ament stated complaints have been received over the lack of adequate restroom facilities and that commuters are obliged to wait on benches in the sun until their trains arrive."
The retiring mayor heard compliments, not complaints on June 21, 1939, when he and his wife attended a tea and reception in their honor, sponsored by the Berkeley Unit of the Women Defenders of America. "Highlight of the patriotic reception in honor of Berkeley's first citizens was the presentation of a diploma of graduation from the School of Americanism."