Rented a bike from Mike’s Bikes in Berkeley—an 8 speed city bike, perfectly adequate for getting around the East Bay. Went for a ride from my hotel in Berkeley down the bike “avenue” (Channing), to a jogging/biking trail that runs along the edge of the East Bay. It was gorgeous, warm day—admiring the California bungalows that increased in number as I got into the low-lying flatland area.
There was also the occasional Victorian house that still stands on this side of the Bay. It’s an easy area for biking, as it’s relatively flat throughout Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, and Piedmont.
I always loved the way these bungalows looked—the protecting and sheltering eaves (it rains here fairly often), the slightly Asian aspect, the cozy scale and the windows with chunky divided frames. This one looks like the “porch” was an addition, nicely done to match the rest of the house. Should I presume, based on the car in this driveway, that these houses, though modest in scale, are not cheap?
Wikipedia says they are indeed of Asian origin—a British adaptation of common houses in the Indian province of Bengal. They are not big enough to house servants; though I imagine the larger Victorian houses out here were. That would have been a significant change—that people without servants could now afford their own homes. Next stop, mortgage crisis!
Leslie Freudenheim, in her book Building With Nature, posits that the influential Arts and Crafts movement, which took root in California and spread from there, was begun by a Reverend Joseph Worcester—the minister of a Swedenborgian church across the bay in San Francisco. It seems appropriate that this Arts and Crafts style, though not exactly austere by today’s standards, might have emerged out of a religious—particularly a Northern European—ethos (What about those Bengal cottages, though?).
The Arts and Crafts movement actually began in England, spearheaded by James Ruskin and William Morris, and had Protestant overtones of moral and honest work—often produced by hand (being good in God’s eyes). Mass-produced machine made work was after all, well, evil. Though much of Morris’ wallpaper designs look frilly to us now, at the time (1880’s) the work was considered simple—almost austere. The craftsman and the artist were viewed as equals. It was hoped that hand-in-hand they would create surroundings that had integrity and would add to the richness of living. Interesting that the school my daughter goes to in Oakland used to be called California College of Arts and Crafts—a holdover from this ideal, I guess.
A British Arts and Crafts plaque:
The creation of the Swendenborgian church in San Francisco was influenced by a group of big names at the time: the painter William Keith, naturalist John Muir (Muir Woods), architect A. Page Brown, draftsman Bernard Maybeck (who built a lot of the larger more impressive Arts and Crafts buildings) and most particularly by the Reverend Joseph Worcester, its first minister. The spirit of the church arose from an appreciation of the beauty of nature, and a will to express that beauty as divinity itself. I see a little of the later Frank Lloyd Wright prairie house style here, and some of the nature-based spirituality maybe carried over as well. I can sense that spiritual aim being realized in these little bungalows—no joke. Maybe that’s why I like them—not that I agree with all those Luddite aims of the movement, but I can sense that these houses are not just houses—they’re expressions of an idea.
Between August and October 1882, shortly after Oscar Wilde had spoken in San Francisco, Worcester presented a series of lectures in which he subtly attacked Wilde and the whole concept of art for art’s sake espoused by Wilde and his friend, the painter James McNeil Whistler.
Joseph Worcester, was not only the clergyman responsible for building the Swedenborgian Church, an icon of the Arts & Crafts Movement (1892–95); he was also an amateur architect and the man most responsible for the design of: 1) what may well be the first American bungalow (it was constructed as his own home atop a hillside in Piedmont in 1878); 2) four unpainted, brown-shingle Arts & Crafts houses on Russian Hill erected between 1887 and 1889 (two are still standing); 3) at least one of painter William Keith’s three studios; and 4) the Stratton house in Berkeley, about which the Strattons wrote:
If our house was not planned in the fear of the Lord, it surely was planned in fear of the late Joseph Worcester [...]. Worcester’s quiet disapproval or clear acceptance of any feature proposed had in it for us something of a pope’s finality.
According to Charles Keeler, a poet, ornithologist and advocate of the Arts & Crafts style for Berkeley homes, Worcester’s “...word was law in the select group of connoisseurs of which he was the center.”
Yale Evelev, from Luaka Bop adds: "There was a concurrent east coast Arts and Crafts movement that started in Buffalo."
And here's a nice quote from that Wikipedia article that highlights the moral and spiritual underpinnings of the movement:
A quotation from John Ruskin formed the Roycroft "creed":
"A belief in working with the head, hand and heart and mixing enough play with the work so that every task is pleasurable and makes for health and happiness".