Landmark Bernard Maybeck home for sale in Berkeley

The Kennedy-Nixon home's recital hall has cathedral windows and clear-heart unfinished redwood paneling

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.)

Entrance hallway with decorative leaded-glass doors and more redwood paneling

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.

An angled built-in bookcase is just one of several places for books in the 1923 landmarked home

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.

The 3-bedroomed home on Euclid has had only three owners since it was built in 1914

“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.

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  • serkes

    One of my favorite homes in all of Berkeley … and the Maybeck I admire the most!

  • Meliflaw

    I wish the kitchen (at the Grubb link) hadn’t been quite so updated. The rest of the house is marvelous, especially that angled bookcase and study area. And the recital hall.

  • Berkeleyfarm

    Beautiful. 

  • Daniel C

    I hope that the buyer is interested in maintaining this house’s tradition of amazing concerts.  Thank you Greg Moore for doing so!  It feels like quite a loss…. and I don’t have 2 million dollars….. or 2 hundred dollars….

  • EarlyMorningCoffee

    I really appreciate Berkeleyside for buying me this house. 

  • Margaret Danielak

    My uncle owned the Maybeck at the top of Chabot Road…I remember it was a wonderful home. Wish I could buy this one…looks equally fabulous!

  • DevotedlyCaring

    I assume (or at least hope) your criticism isn’t based on actually seeing the kitchen in person.  The online pictures don’t reveal how carefully we preserved the original design and materials, and worked painstakingly to subtly integrate the absolutely necessary updates.  I know it’s common practice on the internet to make quick judgements without thorough research.  Please, don’t mistake flashy digital photos for the real experience of the place!  This home and all its history have been treated with abundant love and care, and endless efforts toward conscientious upkeep and curation. 

  • Charles_Siegel

    Notice that it has a feature that looks very much like the architectural feature incorporated in the roadside monument on Shasta, shown in http://www.berkeleyside.com/2012/02/01/where-in-berkeley-100/

    That seems to confirm Ira Serke’s comment that this monument was built around an element salvaged from a Maybeck home.

    What is that thing?  Is it a small window?

  • Jim

    The object in question is a quatrafoil, literally four leaves, or four petals. They are found as windows in medieval churches, at the top of gothic arches, and have been much used since – as windows, in paving patterns and tiles, as ballusters, as bas reliefs, as furniture decoration, as stencils and wall paper and fabric decorations.

  • Larkhorn

    Lovely write-up on the house.  Photos show the sunny aspect of the house, the amazing wood and leaded glass window.

  • Mikechio

    This is where I heard Dick Hyman, Marian McPartland, Roland Hanna, Adam Makowicz, Hank Jones Ted Rosenthal, Andy LaVerne, Monty Alexander, Jessica Williams, Joanne brackeen and  John Colianni play solo piano recitals. 

  • PMT

    Though less convenient, there is also the listing of the “Bingham House” in Montecito, also by Maybeck for $14.9M.   http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/699-San-Ysidro-Rd_Santa-Barbara_CA_93108_M24519-54954

  • Diana

    We toured the house earlier today. The kitchen, as well as all bathrooms, has most of the original features and fixtures intact. The kitchen had updated appliances, but that was it. As far as I could tell, the tiling and cabinetry were original. I was thrilled that there was so little modernization done throughout. The place is gorgeous and thrilling to tour.

  • Peter Ashlock

    Maybeck’s homes traditionally had really crummy kitchens by modern standards. It was assumed that either the woman of the family or a servant would do the chores. I lived in Maybeck’s neighborhood (Nut Hill) as a child while he was alive and was in numerous homes he designed as well as babysitting for his son and daughter in law many times. The homes are like living in an artwork, gorgeous to look at but not always conducive to every modern activity. Still I assume them and the smell of eucalyptus as well as the original neighbors, many of them his clients and close friends, as the foundation of my childhood.

  • Merrilee Trost

    I was publicist for Concord Records when we first started Concord’s historic run there. Dick Whittington, Joan Kenston and I tried to talk Carl Jefferson into recording, but he was resistant. Joanne Brackeen called Jefferson the day of her performance there and he relented. Sent Phil Edwards out with his truckful of recording equipment and the rest is history. Later, Bud Spangler and his crew came with a portable board to do the recordings.

    My friend Margy Coate showed up for most every concert to serve the wine and snacks. Later, Margy and I became friends with Greg Moore who bought Maybeck and were thrilled that he was going to carry on the tradition of presenting music, albeit classical rather than jazz. He spent a humungous amount refurbishing Maybeck and kept the “good vibes” going. Such a lovely man, I’m glad to hear that he’s still going strong despite his life-threatening injuries in the wreck that totaled his car.

    My friends and I have years of fond memories of Maybeck Recital Hall. Long may she reign.

  • J.c. Sherman

    The house had 4 owners, not three.