If you search The web for “castles in Berkeley,” the first result will be this:
This is not in our Berkeley. It is Berkeley Castle, in the town of Berkeley, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom/Great Britain/England. It was built in the 11th century.
Tradition holds that Edward II was murdered there on September 21, 1327. Something about a red hot poker.
The second most likely search result is this:
Once again, not our Berkeley. This castle sits on a hall overlooking Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. Politician and whiskey magnate Samuel Taylor Suit commissioned the castle in the 1880s. He died in 1888 before the castle was finished. His widow Rosa Pelham Suit completed work on the castle. Alfred B. Mullett, remembered for his monumental Victorian architecture, designed the castle, informed by the original English Berkeley Castle.
In our Berkeley, I find three castles. This posting requires a moderate suspension of disbelief by you. I believe that there is, in the words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a “semblance of truth” in this post, which should suspend judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative.
And no, I am not counting Castle in the Air on Fourth Street, a fairly magical store but not random enough to be quirky. And not a castle.
And no, not The Ark on Fourth Street either. A great castle. I would have died for this as a little boy.
I mean real castles.
Let’s start with the strongest – the Hume Castle
Samuel James Hume was head of the Greek Theater Department at the University of California. Portia Hume worked on community mental healthcare and created the Center for Training in Community Psychiatry. The Center lives on, named after her.
In 1927,the Humes commissioned John Hudson Thomas to build in Berkeley a more-or-less replica of the Augustinian convent in Toulouse.
The convent was founded in 1286 and the building constructed between 1310 and 1341. It ceased being a convent in 1790. It is now a museum.
The Hume castle is on Buena Vista (2900 Buena Vista) as it winds up from the Temple of the Wings.
It is hard to see much from the street because of vegetation.
This photograph from 1971 provides a better view of the exterior of the castle.
The next four photos are credited to Foster Goldstrom and Hiro Morimoto:
Those interior photos sure remind me of Bryn Mawr College.
The Hume Castle was listed for sale in 2016. Redfin posted these amazing photos:
That’s a castle! Or something close! I missed the open house in April 2016 on account of my daughter Julia got married and I was out of town. Dang!
The second almost castle is on Rose as it intersects with Bayview. Known as the Needham House, it was designed by owner William Needham and built in 1927. It was part of BAHA’s 2016 house tour – I went through it. Quirky! I had walked by many times and remember fondly the parakeet aviary that was in the corner of the yard for many years.
These photos are all from Old House Dreams’ website.
As we move to the third castle in Berkeley, I ask that we briefly revisit Coleridge and his theory of the “willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.” By this, Coleridge meant that a reader will/should accept an author’s view of the world, as unbelievable as it may be, long enough to appreciate the author’s vision and work.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at 2313 Valley Street.
The last house on the east side of the street is 2313.
What elevates this to castle is the wall around the house – starting on Valley and winding east along Bancroft.
Halfway to Acton it cuts back along the east end of the property. Castle? It is something like clapping in you believe in fairies, but – can we just disarm our skepticism for a few minutes and accept this as a castle?
Thanks to BAHA, we have this photo of “The Armenian Castle,” designed by Walter H. Ratcliff Jr. for Dr. Mooshegh Vaygouny, built in 1912.
It doesn’t look like this today. At all.
A final castle requires neither Coleridge nor Peter Pan – a solid castle. Except it is gone. I am desperate for another castle and this one is so very very good that the fact that it is gone matters not to me.
The Twin Castle Express was once on San Pablo – 3020 San Pablo. This blurry photo from Yelp gives a feel. A sign standard shaped like a lance! Parapets! Although I doubt that there was an allure behind the parapet, something I mention only because I am taken by the use of “allure” to mean the walkway behind the parapet.
These are better photos, the first of a number taken by Traci Hui. She is a writer, illustrator, and colorist. She clearly grokked the Twin Castle Express.
I never went to Twin Castle, but there is poetic praise of it found on Yelp. Damon E. placed it in cultural context: “You weren’t an East Bay punk if you didn’t know the joys of their $2.50 fried tofu sandwich.” Peter G. remembered “Chinese rice plates, Burritos and Tacos, Fish and Chips, Milkshakes, Burgers, Tofu Sandwiches, Fajita plates, Fried Chicken, Soups, Soft Serve Ice Cream (aka Frosty Flavors), Hot Dogs, plus candy bars and lotto tickets.”
But, Twin Castle closed.
It is gone, a parking lot now. Here is a series of photos showing its decline. It has been razed. A castle razed!
The signage was nothing short of spectacular.
Wow. Very wow.
But – Traci Hui has published a little zine about Twin Castle Express.
To say that it is perfect is not fair. To say that it is spot-on perfect is not fair. To say that it is as perfect as perfect can be is almost but not quite fair. Think Ben Jonson’s “His Excuse for Loving” or Thomas Moore’s “Believe Me If All These Endearing Young Charms” or Keats'”Ode on a Grecian Urn” or Lord Byron’s “Youth and Age” or Longfellow’s “My Lost Youth” – it is, not to put too fine a point on it, a perfect ode to youth. And to a whimsical, quirky hamburger stand now almost ten years gone.
I urge you to buy Hui’s little zine. Not much money. But perfect. You can buy it here.
There is a Twin Castle Express in North Hollywood. I haven’t been there either.
The Twin Castle Express of course evoked the White Castle chain. Here is the original White Castle in Wichita:
And here is one of the most famous White Castles, Building No. 8 in Minneapolis:
But no need to go into White Castle. Let us not diminish from the greatness that was Twin Castle.
I showed the castle photos to my friend. He ate at Twin Castle a few times. “That food was fried” he remembered. He also remembered the punk embrace of Twin Castle. He pulled out a poster from a portfolio in his study:
“I tried to like punk. Damn the man, logical evolution, pure and authentic. But I couldn’t.” I had heard him say the same thing about jazz, how because of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady he really tried to like jazz but couldn’t. At least he tries.
I thanked him for his musical reminisces and asked about the castle photos.