Magnes Museum to sell its Russell Street property

The Judah L. Magnes Museum will be putting its property at 2911 Russell Street on the market next month, in anticipation of moving to a new facility in downtown Berkeley in 2011. The 12,000 ft stately home, which is sited on a 25,000 sq ft lot, is expected to list for around $3 million.

The museum is currently negotiating a partnership with UC Berkeley that will move its rare books and the archives in the Western Jewish History Center to the Bancroft Library. The museum’s collection of painting, prints, photos and Judaica will be housed and exhibited in a renovated facility on Allston Way near Oxford Street.

The Magnes, a museum of art and history focused on the Jewish experience, has been at its current site for more than 40 years. It was founded by Rebecca and Seymour Fromer, who died late last year. The museum has the third largest collection of Jewish objects in the United States, and many of its photos and collections are now on-line.

The museum held an informal reception for immediate neighbors on Russell Street on February 9 to present details of the move. Some minor remodeling of the property will be undertaken before it goes on the market next month. The listing will be handled by Nancy Rothman and Georgia Cornell with Pacific Union.


The 1909 property was originally known as the Burke House as it was owned by the Burke family. Katherine Delmar Burke was the founder of the eponymous girls’ school in San Francisco. The property could revert to a single family home, although the museum is not ruling out a sale to another institution. The site  is currently zoned for residential use and the museum operated under a zoning variance.

[Disclosure: Berkeleyside co-founder Frances Dinkelspiel is the Magnes Museum’s board president.]