Berkeley may be a city known more for its brown-shingle and craftsman homes, but it also has its share of mega-mansions, many of them built at the turn of the 20th century by developers converting empty subdivisions into elegant, tree-lined neighborhoods.
One such mansion, the 8,600 ft house at 2840 Claremont Blvd, went on the market in June priced at $5.45 million. It sold on Dec. 15 for significantly less than its owners were hoping for: $3,600,000, which works out at $464 per square foot.
The landmark home has eight bedrooms, five bathrooms, a large entryway, a formal dining room, a grand living room and a suite of servants’ rooms upstairs. Paul O. Teitzen, the president of the Bank of Santa Maria in southern California, hired the architectural firm of Hodges and Mitchell to build the home, and moved in with his family in 1910. This was just four years after ground was broken for the Claremont Hotel (it opened in 1915) and three years after Duncan McDuffie and Joseph J. Mason started to subdivide the area bounded by Derby Street, Belrose Avenue, Claremont Boulevard, Claremont Avenue, the Claremont Hotel, Russell Street and Oak Knoll Terrace.
For those who might be cursing at having missed out on the opportunity to snap up that home, there’s a new opportunity just a few doors down. The seven-bedroom home at 2967 Avalon Ave. (on the corner of Claremont Boulevard) listed recently for $4,868,999. The circa 1907 palatial pad is described by the listing real-estate agency, Alain Pinel, as a “magnificent home … ideal for entertainment on a gracious scale and filled with warm living spaces.” It was, according to the listing, built by John A. Marshall, a building contractor, as his family home and designed by Berkeley architect Edward B. Seeley on a 12,000 square foot lot.
In a sign of the times, the last time the house changed hands, according to Redfin, was in 1982, for the slightly more reasonable price of $330,000.
And then there’s Berkeley’s Spring Mansion, sometimes referred to as the city’s “Hearst Castle,” over at 1960 San Antonio Ave. in North Berkeley, which could be yours if you’re in the market for a 12,000 sq ft property which listed in September for a cool $7.5 million. There’s nothing retiring about this property, which the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association has described as one of the largest residential parcels in the city.
The house was built in 1912 for entrepreneur John Hopkins Spring who wore many hats. His achievements include creating San Francisco’s first department store, City of Paris in Union Square; and laying out the subdivisions that would become the city of Albany, Thousand Oaks and the Solano Avenue shopping district. Spring was also an early investor in the Claremont Hotel. The house was modeled after Empress Elisabeth of Austria’s Achillion Palace in Corfu and designed by John Hudson Thomas with interiors showing a mix of influences, such as Vienna Secessionist, Arts & Crafts and Egyptian style.
The last time the Spring Mansion was for sale, in 2010, it was part of a package that included three other properties on the estate. An investment group had it on the market for $6,495,000.
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