A slice of Berkeley history: 19th-century Victorian cottage for sale

1416 Neilson St., a Victorian working-class cottage, has been restored. Photo: Highland Partners

One of Berkeley’s older homes is up for sale. Described variously as a “sweet, storybook Victorian” and a “simple working-class Victorian cottage,” the home at 1416 Neilson St. in the Westbrae neighborhood is one of several remaining original structures on the street.

The house is diminutive, at just 970 square feet, with two bedrooms and one bathroom. But it has additional space on offer in that it has an “enormous” garage/artist studio/shop space in the back, which itself is attached to a separate unit with kitchenette and bathroom. The owners were also exploring putting an extra bedroom and bathroom in the home’s attic, said listing agent Doug Fuller of Highland Partners.

The house has “a lot of charm,” said Fuller, not least because the owners have restored it with period features in mind. That includes retro kitchen fittings, a both a clawfoot tub and a vintage John Douglas toilet, complete with high tank and pull chain, in the bathroom.

The ample garage, with its double swing doors in front, and a large roll-up door along the back wall, is outfitted with the female owner’s motorbike passion in mind: her classic motorbike is on display there while the house is on the market, and a Harley Davidson logo is embedded in the concrete, said Fuller.


The living room at 1416 Neilson. Photo: Highland Partners
The kitchen at 1416 Neilson. Photo: Highland Partners

The sellers told Fuller they believed the house had once been a courthouse for the area, and they thought it was built in 1886. However architectural preservationist Daniella Thompson, on hearing from Berkeleyside that the home was going up for sale, did some digging. She reported that 1416 Neilson St., which she describes as “simple working-class Victorian cottage that has been modernized,” was first assessed in 1893, along with three others, all in the middle of the block. One of them is 1350 Neilson, which was the home of a sausage maker, she said.

Thompson discovered that the house is located in the Christiania Tract, which was subdivided in July 1890. The first house built on the tract was assessed in 1891 to Joseph P. Twyman, a carpenter. That house was located at 1401–05 Christiania (now Curtis) Street. The first owner of 1416 Neilson was Alfred T. Riley, also a carpenter, and he may have built the house himself, she said.

“As far as the courthouse is concerned, there were no courthouses in Berkeley in those days. All local court cases were heard in Oakland.”

The house is listed for $899,000, a sharp contrast to when, in 1898, Riley sold it to a woman called Sallie W. Rose for $641.

The back deck at 1416 Neilson with a view of the garage and attached livable unit. Photo: Highland Partners
The large garage at 1416 Neilson is currently used by one of the owners to nurture her love of classic motorbikes. Photo: Highland Partners

Open house: 1416 Neilson St. is just north of Hopkins. It is having an open house tonight, Friday, 6-8 p.m., with free slices from Fist of Flour’s mobile oven pizza truck. It’s also open on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2-4:30 p.m.