Community

How Quirky is Berkeley? Fairy Mural on Chaucer Street

Scottish Brownie at 1110 Chaucer. Photo: John Storey
Scottish Brownie at 1110 Chaucer St. Photo: John Storey

The concept of “mural” takes a new life at 1110 Chaucer St., just above San Pablo Avenue between Channing Way and Bancroft Way. Winding its way from the east end of the house westward, around the corner of the house and up to the chimney, is a celebration of fairies and California native plants.

The mural is the result of a collaboration about 15 years ago between home owner Riley and then-tenant Stefen. Two people with single-name names! Riley restores urban creeks. Stefen paints murals.

Riley at 1110 Chaucer Street. Photo: Colleen Neff.
Riley at 1110 Chaucer St. Photo: Colleen Neff
Dutch Boy mural on Milvia just south of University, circa 1974. Photo: Stefen
Dutch Boy mural on Milvia just south of University, circa 1974. Photo: Stefen

Stefen’s most famous and beloved mural was on the side of a Dutch Boy paint store on Milvia at University.

Photo: Berkeley Public Library
Photo: Berkeley Public Library

In 1977, the store passed to a new owner who opened Au Coquelet there.  One night the mural was painted over. The owner posted a note in the window, denying that whitewashing the mural had been an act of vandalism. “It is an effort to alleviate the suffering of Mr. Stefen the artist. The destruction of his painting (or heart) is due to work required by the city of Berkeley for public safety reasons.”


Stefen and Riley designed a mural for the front of the Chaucer Street house that highlights fairies California native plants. The fairy research was extensive. Riley’s native plant knowledge was already extensive.

There are Brownies, fairies, deer mice with red hats, pixies, goblins, and trolls.

Irish little person with pot of gold at 1110 Chaucer Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
Irish little person with pot of gold at 1110 Chaucer St. Photo: Colleen Neff
Fairy house near roof at 1110 Chaucer. Photo: Colleen Neff.
Fairy house near roof at 1110 Chaucer. Photo: Colleen Neff
Troll under bridge at 1110 Chaucer Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
Troll under bridge at 1110 Chaucer St. Photo: Colleen Neff
Fairy at 1110 Chaucer Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
Fairy at 1110 Chaucer St. Photo: Colleen Neff
Fairy in redwood stump at 1110 Chaucer Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
Fairy in redwood stump at 1110 Chaucer St. Photo: Colleen Neff
Goblin drinking milk left for Brownie at 1110 Chaucer Street. Photo: Colleen Neff.
Goblin drinking milk left for Brownie at 1110 Chaucer St. Photo: Colleen Neff

I don’t think that there is an example of Quirky Berkeley that is more suited for quirky-loving children than this mural. Riley leaves copies of a self-guided tour of the mural in the mail box beneath the cat mail box, detailing the plants and fairies depicted. If I had young children I would take them to Chaucer Street this weekend. It is a lovely and generous gift to the street.

Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.

For a fuller version of this post, see Quirky Berkeley.  For a fuller treatment of Stefen’s murals, see this post at Quirky Berkeley.