Chances to buy — or at a minimum see inside — a Bernard Maybeck designed home in Berkeley come along rarely. The Kennedy-Nixon house at 1537 Euclid Avenue in north Berkeley has just gone on the market.
The landmarked home, which was built in 1914 (and quickly rebuilt in 1923 after it burned down in the devastating Berkeley fire of that year), is priced at $1,995,000. The home has had only three owners since it was built, and it has stories to tell.
The Nixon family built it as a live-in studio for their daughter’s piano teacher, Alma Kennedy. It was designed to include a recital hall, a waiting area for students’ parents, a reception room with a small kitchen and an upstairs sleeping quarters. The recital hall, with its cathedral windows and clear-heart unfinished redwood paneling, is particularly arresting.
When Ms. Nixon herself became a piano teacher, she built a small house adjacent to the recital studio and connected the two buildings by a second floor bridge. When Ms. Nixon died in 1980, jazz pianist Dick Whittington purchased the property with the intent of creating a commercial concert venue. Over the next 15 years Concord Records recorded 42 solo piano recitals and 10 jazz duets in the Maybeck Recital Hall and, thanks to Whittingon, the hall became one of the region’s best-loved venues. (Read Berkeleyside’s article on Dick Whittington, who now lives in the Monterey area, when he was in Berkeley to perform in January.)
The home’s story continues when, in 1996, Gregory Moore, a young music composer, was looking for a house to buy in Berkeley, following a serious car accident that left him reassessing his life. After viewing several homes and finding nothing appropriate, he was just leaving his realtor’s office to return to his home in Los Angeles when the phone rang. Dick Whittington was putting the Kennedy-Nixon house on the market.
This house was made for Moore as it provided the perfect place for him to begin his career as a composer. The recital hall also had over a year’s worth of concert bookings , which would introduce him to musicians from around the country who came to Berkeley to play.
In the 15 years he has lived there, Moore has composed and hosted recitals and musicians in residence. He has also become a Maybeck expert, reproducing the Maybeck-designed furniture that was taken out of the house and discovering the architect’s signature details, such as the dragon in every building he designed (a decorative cap to a gutter in this house) and the “A” hidden discreetly as a tribute to his wife, Annie. He has developed a relationship with the house he never could have imagined was possible.
“I believe that the house tells you about living in it, such as the way the sun moves through the house throughout the day, encouraging me to move with it,” says Moore. “After a while I realized that without thinking about it, I started each day in the kitchen, moved to the living room and ended up in the Recital Hall at the west end of the house. Even after 15 years, there are things I learn about the house that surprise me.”
Moore is moving on to the next chapter in his career but hopes he can pass on the home to someone who has the same reverence for Maybeck that he now does having lived in one of his homes.
For more details about the home and its open hours, visit the Grubb Company which is handling the sale.
Want to read Berkeley news on your iPhone? Download the free Berkeleyside iPhone app.