Do you remember Alice Kahn’s columns of the 1980s, first in the East Bay Express and then in the Chronicle?
They were must-reading for me. I remember one column in which she described a fantasy of living in a walk-up apartment over a corner Chinese restaurant, with diesel fumes from buses stopping at the corner blending with the smells of Chinese cooking. Her fantasy apartment would be furnished and decorated exclusively with things bought at Bill’s Drugs (long gone, bought by Long’s in 1993 – which was bought by CVS in 2008). That’s funny!
In October, 2016, I ran into Alice at Andronico’s. She remembered me. I remembered her. We talked about the apartment furnished from Bill’s and Quirky Berkeley. Yay Alice!
But the point being? The point being that I too have an occasional fantasy, of a much simpler life than the life I lead now. I think of life in a Berkeley bungalow court, coming home on a foggy, misty evening. That is about as far as that fantasy goes – coming home. I have alternative Simple Life Fantasies – a 1960s Air Stream trailer, an apartment in Normandy Village on Spruce Street, or a small house in South Bristol, Maine, overlooking the fishing harbor. In none of these fantasies is my living space furnished and/or decorated by CVS.
I find bungalow courts intrinsically quirky. They are nothing more than multiple-family housing centered on a landscaped courtyard. Nothing quirky about that per se, but there is also the subjective, the images of the 1930s, of young and struggling actors arriving in Hollywood, Raymond Chandler and Nathaniel West – Day of the Locust – of Southern California back then, of dreams not yet shattered, of Dalton Trumbo and F. Scott Fitzgerald writing in movie studio bungalows, of noir / James Elroy / Black Dahlia / etc.
I smile when I see a Berkeley bungalow courts. We may not be Pasadena with its 112 bungalow courts, but we have nothing to be ashamed of.
I have two most favorite.
One is just around the corner from where I live, at Spruce and Eunice. They were, Daniella Thompson reports, developed and built by Lawrence L. Lucas in 1928.
Quirky to a Q, no? My Number One Daughter Julia had a fantasy about living in one of these a few years ago.
The other most favorite is Fox Court, on University, just below Sacramento. Susan Cerny has written about Fox Court and Fox Common for BAHA here.
Bruce Dodd owns Fox Court, and he is a Very Good Friend of Quirky Berkeley. I will at some point in the next year do a post just on Fox Court and its citizens.
I have added this lovely court at 1155-1173 Hearst since the original post for two reasons.
First reason – it is a lovely little court on a lovely little block just above San Pablo.
Oh dear – a bungalow court in the way of somebody wanting to make a lot of money. Tear them down! Build more! Window dressing for the “community.” What is happening to our dear Berkeley?
Back to Spruce Street, here between Rose and Vine:
And, farther south on Spruce, between Virginia and Hearst, very near Normandy Village:
On Derby just above San Pablo:
Another one near me, very near – on Oxford between Rose and Eunice:
The movement to paint the bungalows different colors got started but then died. All white but one pale yellow.
On Dwight below Sacramento – not bungalows, not even detached units, but – still – they work for my Quirky Berkeley sense of a bungalow court.
On Walnut, on my way down to Peet’s and what is left of the Gourmet Ghetto:
This court is on a little stub of Bonita. It has (1) great gladiolas; (2) a hitching post (!); (3) its own community bulletin board; and (4) the quartered circle sidewalk painting found around Berkeley.
On 10th Street, near Jones:
On Sacramento, just south of Hearst:
Around the corner on Hearst, a few blocks east:
Thomas Craig Bryars made this Really Good photo of the curtains:
He nailed it, didn’t he? I know someone who has gone behind the red curtain. It is what she does and so no surprise here.
Looking at these photos does not diminish my pathetic little fantasy about life in a bungalow court. It still doesn’t get beyond coming home on a misty evening – but it is powerful.
I showed the photos to my friend. When he looked at the Spruce & Eunice photos I swear that I saw a little tear. “There was a woman. She sent me away. But my time there, with her, absolutely awesome.”
Sorry to dredge up another female who sent him away, but – what about the collection of Berkeley bungalow courts?
Love these courts. I live near the “pumpkin houses court” we always called it, and always had a fantasy of living there, too.
Thanks for this.
I lived in a attached court on Carleton just east of Sacremento. It had only four(3?) units but we each had a garage and an upstairs bedroom…I wonder if it is still there? This was in the late 1970’s! I have not been back to Berkeley for many years…are there still free boxes?
What about the 2 or 3 buildings on the east side of Spruce st, just above Hearst? Google maps shows the address 1829 on one. I can’t picture them well enough to remember if they’d qualify as bungalow courts but they certainly qualify as quirky.
I will check it out – Tom
Check out the ones on Addison between Curtis and San Pablo. Love them. Thanks for sharing.
Maybe Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association would like to take the bungalow project on? My sister, Susan Cerny, who died a few months ago and was active in BAHA, would have loved this! I love the idea of living in community in a setup like the bungalow courts where each person has their own space but is in proximity to the group. I’d add a common gathering space to the design.