Now aren’t you glad you asked me that?

Gee, MC2, since you asked.
Yes, it's a Victorian, built for a retired sea captain named Ferguson
by a German builder who changed his name to Patiani, because being
Italian was thought to be more artistic.
Evidently this part of Berkeley was full of sea captains in the 1890's.
He had this place built for him, and then the screwy family on the
corner built a house on the lot between them. And put it smack on the
property line — so from that side the next house is literally six feet
away.
So our sea captain sold out and moved to San Francisco.

We met the grandchildren of the people who bought it from him, which was pretty neat.
They spent summers here in the twenties, when they were growing up, and
had stories about when there was a stream running down Parker Street,
and how their grandparents gardened (they planted this climbing rose).
Their parents had married in our living room, and their unmarried aunts bought the house on the other side and lived there together all their lives.
Sounds like it was a great place to be a kid in 1925.

Then a Japanese family owned it, and eventually split it into a rooming house, where there was a famous rent strike in the 60s, and one of the tenants ended up buying it.
He'd fallen in love with it, and did a fairly lovely restoration — a lot of beautiful choices.
But then he went and took out a pantry and two closets, given that Victorians aren't known for their closets to begin with.
He turned it into a duplex, and sold it to his tenants.
And we bought it from them.
And through all this the same screwy family still owns the corner house, and the house next door.

Screwy how? you ask.
Well, they don't actually live in either of the two houses, which are now both sitting empty.
It used to be that only one was empty, because the really old guy moved out of the house next door nto one of his other properties.
He walked around the corner every day with his little dog, and come back to visit his stuff.
Then he died, and his son emptied out the tenants of the corner house to make it easier to sell.
But he wants about twice what anyone will ever pay, so now they are both sitting empty.
The good part is it's mostly quiet.
The bad part is that when it's not quiet, it's because it's attracted squatters again.
And we get the cops to roust them out because there is no plumbing so they do their stuff in the hedges.
And because we don't want them to set the houses on fire smoking or cooking or heating.

And, well, there was the time their demented cousin left a pipe bomb in the house next door, and we were evacuated by the bomb squad who finally exploded it in the backyard.
He'd been disappointed in love when their drugged-out worker dumped him, so he left it for her to find.
Or the time that same drugged-out worker was trimming their hedge and just kept going on well into our yard, and massacred our roses.
I went out to stop her, and she said she wasn't dealing with this shit and walked off.

A very Berkeley morning.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. OMG!! This is the reason no-one will buy, not because it comes highly priced. News has obviously gotten around about the exciting possiblities of living in a house where a demented cousin may have left who knows what lying around for people to find.
    Bomb squad? Really?

    Reply

  2. It's so neat that you know so much (and care!) about the history of your house. From the bits that are poking out I can tell that's it's a beautiful home and in the hands of very good tenants 🙂

    Reply

  3. Wow! What a history and well, what a present day your house is having! ;)It's SO gorgeous! Got any spare rooms? I'm moving in!!!

    Reply

  4. OMG! Can I sleep on the couch? I lived in a house that the original host of the TODAY show owned. I didn't know it until he died and they filmed the news in front of my house. In LA I lived in the GoGO's apartment as they were moving out. When I moved, I lived next door to the house that Mickey Mouse was created in. The Manson Family killed Rosemary and Leno LaBianca a few doors down. It makes it fun knowing the history. Lauo, dang, pretty house and I am not scared of color. I love it.

    Reply

  5. You need to go on IF WALLS COULD TALK, on HGTV! I love this kind of history, domestic and so tangible.

    Reply

  6. I hope this is all written down somewhere in more detail, so that the next owners will know this fun stuff. Not that you guys will move soon, but nobody lives forever.I love looking at all the houses like this in Berkeley. Sometimes I have occasion to take ye olde AC Transit buses through town and I used to occasionally walk through a neighborhood like this. Fascinating in looks and history.

    Reply

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