How quirky is Berkeley? DIY quirk on Peralta Avenue

Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley Calif, on December 30th, 2015.
680 Peralta Ave. Photo: John Storey

I often feature quirky yards with high production values — collectors or professional sculptors or painters who are gifting their art to the street. They are fine and good, but there are other types of quirk. Quirk is not one-size fits all. There are the high-produced examples, and then there are the DIY front yards, such as this one.

Mark Haggitt. Photo: Colleen Neff
Mark Haggitt. Photo: Colleen Neff

Mark Haggitt is the creative spirit behind the yard, porch and sidewalk strip at 680 Peralta Ave. He has lived in this house since 1989, and, with the help of his son Ian, a student at Berkeley High, Haggitt has slowly transformed his yard into a collage of improvised art. He describes himself as a packrat, and he uses the word “detritus” to describe the materials with which he works.

After a childhood in Canada and Clearwater, Florida, Haggitt came to the Bay Area. He has lived and worked here without a car, relying on his bicycle when he was working as a salesman for hair products with territory that stretched from San Francisco to Walnut Creek. He walks dogs. He surfs. He makes art for his yard and porch.

680 Perata Avenue. Photo: Colleen Neff.
680 Perata Ave. Photo: Colleen Neff.
680 Peralta Avenue. Photo: John Storey
680 Peralta Ave. Photo: John Storey
680 Peralta Avenue. Photo: John Storey
680 Peralta Ave. Photo: John Storey

Haggitt says that his art is an expression of his psyche, manifestations of a psychological exploration. and that the art in the yard is connected to natural forces, as is almost everything in his life.


680 Peralta Avenue. Photo: Colleen Neff.
680 Peralta Ave. Photo: Colleen Neff.

Haggitt is drawn to all things Celtic. The stone circles of the British Isles inspired this front-yard replica.

Hagitt is an extrovert with a Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski vibe. If the warm greetings that he got from half a dozen neighbors while we were talking with him are any indication, he is well-liked in his neighborhood.

As we stood talking with Haggitt, he got a surprise visitor.

Ann Perkins and Mark Haggitt. Photo: Colleen Neff.
Ann Perkins and Mark Haggitt. Photo: Colleen Neff

It was Ann Mills Perkins. Perkins was born in a hospital in San Francisco in 1934 and brought back to this house, where her parents lived, by ferry. She graduated from Berkeley High School in 1952. In 1964, she and her husband moved to Redding, where she has lived ever since. She had not seen the house, which her parents sold in 1948, since leaving the Bay Area. When we left, she and Haggitt were settling in for a good long talk.

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 8,000 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.

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