On the cover of last Sunday’s Real Estate section of the San Francisco Chronicle, the wonderful arts and crafts style home at 1272 Caroline Street in Alameda was featured. a couple of weekends ago i had the opportunity to share viewing of an architectural gem near the Western shore of alameda. this barely known treasure was designed by ernest a. coxhead and built by the coxhead and coxhead firm for the old time financier, railroad entrepreneur and businessman George whittell and his family as a summer home. current owner constance farber graciously allowed me to assemble at her home with contingent of architects and architectural historians from berkeley architectural heritage (baha) and other local preservationists from oakland and piedmont for a private tour. i first became aware of this home when employed by the owner to investigate and repair leaks in preparation for sale of the property. the ground floor of the home is masonry construction, stucco over brick. the original method of construction was to mount frames for doors and windows and then cast or build the walls around these forms. these forms or frames often shed water and act as a water barrier. however, when contractors replaced the windows a few years ago, these frames were discarded and not replaced. inevitably leaking occurred. our repair was quite tricky and included copper flashing that was saw cut and epoxied in to the brick wall and filled with a polymer non shrink grout then the entire stucco walls were floated out with a polymer cement with an imbedded fabric mesh. a new color finish coat was applied to the exterior walls leaving no visible evidence of the repairs.
the home today is shorn of the park that surrounded it in its original state. when first built, the grounds of this home reached the waterfront and included barns, gardener’s cottage, and other out buildings. the house, despite the property being diminished in size, has an out of time magical quality. the home, built in 1893, was essentially, never used by the whittell family until sold in 1938, just one step ahead of demolition. since, it has had only two resident owners who have managed to keep the interior essentially original. a two hundred-foot gravel driveway and courtyard leads you to the front of the home. once inside you are greeted by a two story carved oak paneled stairway complete with fluted corinthian columns. the beautiful grained quarter sawn oak is of a warm honey color. one of the things that is so unique about this house is that the entire downstairs, facing the back yard, is a single grand open space. at each end of the great room stand large fireplaces with over mantles dramatically hand carved depicting satyrs and wreaths. The windows and outside window trim of this lovely coxhead home are solid oak. all the interior doors and millwork are nearly three inches thick and gorgeously detailed. something that i have not seen in the united states. the home is decorated with many period pieces including a painting original to the home. despite the large and grand spaces, the home is not at all intimidating but warm and inviting. after an extensive tour, guests enjoyed wine, hors devours and spirited architectural discussion in the lovely back gardens. a wonderful afternoon!
To read the full piece on the coxhead home and its history, click “read more” below and follow the link.