Since I first saw the house in 2013, I have carried a note about 7 Virginia Gardens on my Quirky Berkeley TO DO list.
The front of house on a one-block cul-de-sac was very high-level quirky, very very sixties hippie Berkeley.
Colleen Neff and I tried to interview the owners in 2016. It was an epic fail, the only fail in our many investigative efforts. I say epic because the owner Did Not Want To Talk With Us. The owner was not clear on what the internet is and what a blog is. The owner wanted to be LEFT ALONE.
I have a number of great photos, but no story.
And now – it’s gone.
This is all that was left a month ago when a friend and I walked by. Even it might be gone now.
As Edgar Allan Poe said in the 1845 version of “To Helen,”
To the glory that was Greece,
And the grandeur that was Rome.
The house, bought for $65,000 in 1978, was sold for $730,000 in July. Almost all the quirk was dismantled and taken away.
The front gate was the focus.
For me, there was a definite Fort Courage vibe to the front gate..
Ropes and rope ladders led up from the gate into the redwoods.
A pickup parked in front carried over the Fort Courage stockade look and with the skeleton the quirkiness.
Close-ups Mr. DeMille?
I’m guessing Easter Island but am not at all sure.
An elephant under all the crap. Except I think it might be a bear.
A major mounted fish on the outside wall.
More tarp, more crap, and a Just Plain Perfect teardrop trailer.
And a jeep. A jeep that inspires a post about Berkeley Jeeps.
In late January, 2017, estatesales.org conducted a “moving sale” at 7 Virginia Gardens. They promised an “Amazing collection of all things man cave and kitsch! Have to see to believe! Outside living sculpture yard art and tools, entire backyard filled with items incl. railroad crossing signs and windmill. Inside is packed with art, chairs, pinups, art supplies, furniture and entire basement devoted to tools and workshop. Definitely unique and something to see!” I truly truly truly regret not having known about this at the time.
They published 18 photos before the sale, shown here. To digress for just one sentence, the estatesales.org website advertises local and online estate sales, fertile ground for quirk acquisition. A few of the photos for the Virginia Gardens sale:
Oh Lordy, Lordy.
That was the glory and quirky grandeur of 7 Virginia Gardens. Almost 40 years in the making, now cleaned up and gone.
There are unanswered questions from my childhood.
Who was that masked man?
Who was the one-armed man?
Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?
What did Billie Joe and “a girl that looked a lot like you” throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge
Which leaves 7 Virginia Gardens as the pending Great Unanswered Question of the day.
Paralipsis is the rhetorical device of giving emphasis by professing to say little or nothing about a subject. Other names for the device include apophasis, occupation, praeteritio, preterition, or parasiopesis.
I try not to the use the word “hoarding” in this pages. It suggests a compulsion or disorder, and this is not the place and I am not the person to diagnose. That said, there was a lot going on at 7 Virginia Gardens.
The Sixties and hippies are easily parodied and ridiculed. I myself was never full-bore hippie, and even then I saw some of the downside. But – there was an upside. The values were perhaps naive, but they were genuine and benevolent. There were surely excesses, but even the excesses were a foil to a stagnant orthodoxy that could use a foil. We were better for the Big Love of the era and the movement.
I wish I had known the people and story of 7 Virginia Streets. Maybe I’ll learn it. May they be in peace.
I showed the draft of this blog to my friend. He still looks like Central Casting’s version of hippie, although as you know his quarters are furnished in a lean, sleek, Danish modern motif. He looked up from the post and quoted Donovan “And who’s going to be the one/ To say it was no good what we done?”
Good point. He asked if we could watch “Hair” tonight. Sure. But what about the post?
I’m sorry to see that this singular edifice is now gone, as it surely must have qualified as the quirkiest of Quirkeley.
I remember the first time I encountered it when I was working on a street light on the same block and it immediately piqued my curiosity.
Since I was operating a large and noisy truck on that narrow street and I seemed to be intently examining the property, the eccentric owner came out and guardingly questioned what I was doing there.
I told him that I was a City electrician at work but that I admired his unusual decor, and that my wife was a kindred spirit in that regard.
He seemed a bit of a paranoid curmudgeon but grudgingly accepted my explanation.
I suspect that those who indulge in the apophasis of personal artistic expression quite often are gregarious introverts, as I admit that I too have some of that predilection.
I have found out from personal experience that there is a common thread which is a fine line (sorry for the mixed metaphor) between the desire to acquire materials for the realization of that creative expression and pathological hoarding.
It is sad that quirky vernacular art is typically temporal, belying the old adage, “Ars longa, vita brevis.”
Thank you for preserving a photographic record of this remarkable place.
I met the owner of 7 Virginia Gardens two years ago while looking at a neighbors house that was for sale. He was nice and told me good things about the house and the block.
I live on this street and was Gary’s neighbor. He was a nice guy, and even though it was a little bit hoarder-like, I miss the quirk and personality he brought to the neighborhood.