The Neighborhood, Part 2–Claremont Court and Beaux Arts Architecture

One more post before I head to the airport!

Last week on a particularly beautiful day I decided to continue exploring the neighborhood architecture by walking up the hill a bit, closer to the Claremont Hotel.  This neighborhood is called Claremont Court and was built in the early 1900s after the big earthquake to attract wealthy professionals who were starting to find success in the Bay Area.  Commissioned by a local developer and led by architect John Galen Howard who also designed nearby UC Berkeley, this neighborhood typifies Beaux Arts architecture.  The gates which mark all the major entrances into the development and were built in 1906, set the tone:

 

Some quick research on Wikipedia showed me that Beaux Arts was an architectural school from Europe, mostly French and Italian, that utilized the formal and grand gestures from the Rococo and Baroque periods but in a modern way.  Some elements of Beaux Arts architecture include:

  • Rusticated and raised first story
  • Hierarchy of spaces, from “noble spaces”—grand entrances and staircases— to utilitarian ones
  • Arched windows
  • Arched and pedimented doors
  • Classical details
  • Symmetry
  • Statuary, sculpture, murals, mosaics, and other artwork, all coordinated in theme

Basically, the houses of this style were grand!  My walk began by heading up this street where the houses change from the brown shingle craftsmen of my last post on the neighborhood to much grander homes with Spanish, French and Italian influences.  Always peeking around the corner is the Claremont Hotel:

 

Also throughout this neighborhood are secret stairways and steep foot paths that lead farther and farther up the hill in between the houses…

 

 

This house on a corner farther down the hill is a preview of what’s to come…

 

About a half a block more and I reach the abandoned Magnes Museum.  This former mansion used to house a collection of Jewish Art (in the middle of a residential neighborhood) but the museum found a new location a few years ago and the building went on the market as a single family residence again.  It’s huge.  I don’t remember the square footage of the main house but I know the guest house in back is 2500 sq/ft.  It went up for sale at a bad time but was also priced in the several millions.  Plus it would have needed so much work to function as a residence again, I don’t think anyone was willing to take it on.  It is a very unique and cool property though and there has been a real estate and remodelling boom in our area recently so maybe it’s going back on the market.  In any case some guys were there working on it for the first time in a couple of years.

Another shot of it:

 

 

This grand dame is at the main entrance gates to the development.  So beautiful.

 

Steep gables and look at the scale of that chimney!  I wonder what the fireplace looks like…

 

 

The Claremont Hotel (and some guy in a van) sneaking into the frame…

 

Another picture of this brick lovely.  This almost looks Dutch to me…

 

The little neighborhood Episcopal church is just inside the gates across the street.

Spanish influences are prominent the farther up the hill you go.  The decorative tile around the entryway seems very Beaux Arts to me.

 

Perhaps even more interesting to me than the beautiful well-maintained homes are the grand old ladies that have fallen into disrepair like the one above.  My mind reels with the potential!

As I said earlier, there is a real estate and remodelling boom in the neighborhood and this home which had been neglected for some time is getting a major overhaul.  It sold last year and they have completely gutted it.  I can’t wait to see what they do to it.  notice the tiled roof and arched windows and entryway.

This is the view down the hill most of these homes have.  The bay, San Francisco and even the new Bay Bridge being built–gorgeous!

If you turn around and look up the hill, there’s the Claremont Hotel again!

 

 

 

 

 

Now starting to come back down the hill I find my favorite street of all.  The homes are much more modest but I love the canopy of mature elms and my sons’ school is just at the end of the block…

 

Love the dripping Wisteria…

 

And love these double low boxwood hedges!

 

And as I keep walking eventually I can see the side of our house at the end of the street.  Back down the hill is our brown shingle:

 

 

And our little old wall that was built when the house was to mark the property line, still covered in moss (and weeds!) from the rainy season:

 

Thanks for joining me!

 

 

 

4 comments

  1. Loved taking that walk with you and recognizing so many of the houses — I’ve also clucked my tongue at the one in disrepair and wondered about who lives there. It does look occupied, doesn’t it?

    There are a few houses here I’ve never seen. I think it’s time to explore the neighborhood again.

    One of my very favorites in the house with the stream in front — the one with holes cut in the fence so you can see through?

    Camill

    • Hi Camille,

      That house in disrepair I think is owned but someone elderly–I think a lot of the homes in the area that are falling apart are that way. I also think that’s why so many are getting purchased and renovated–their elderly owners have either died or can no longer live alone. I think the area up the hill is getting younger as more young families move in.

      The house you are talking about with the hole in the fence is a different neighborhood called the Uplands. I think that was done by another architect (or maybe JGH) and I love it too–it is so pretty in there. I think the houses were all designed around the stream. Maybe that’s another walk I’ll have to take!

  2. Lane, thank you so much for sharing this walk. I loved it so much! What a beautiful area that you live in. Those tree-lined streets are so picturesque. My parents immigrated from Ireland and these beautiful streets and homes are what they envisioned America to look like, from films they had seen growing up. The American dream – sunshine, gardens and magnificent homes. I would love to see this area in person someday.

    • Thanks so much Lisa! What a beautiful story about your parents immigrating here. That is where your family gets all the gorgeous red hair! We do like our neighborhood (even though we definitely live “down the hill”) and feel lucky we were able to get our family settled in here. We definitely followed the principle of buying the worst house in the best neighborhood because I knew I wasn’t afraid of renovation. Not sure John felt exactly the same but now he does.

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