Do you even know where Albina Street is in Berkeley? It's only one block long, entered mainly off of Hopkins Street in North Berkeley, near where Hopkins and Gilman Street connect. If you have kids going to high school at St. Mary’s (as I do) you would know, because Albina leads to the school’s gated entrance. This whole area was once known as Peralta Park.
But even if you were going down Hopkins Street, about to reach Gilman, you would’ve seen this incredible house in your peripheral vision. You’d see a Victorian-style two story conical tower with a spider-web type window in one of the gable-ends of the house. You’d see the green copper edges of the roof just peeking out from the large palm and other trees dotting the property. And for the last 40 years, you would have seen this house in various stages of what became the owner’s life's work — the masterful restoration and modernization of a house known originally as The Lueders House, built in 1889.
The current owner, Thomas Roe, died recently, but the legacy of his work will pass on to a new owner as the house is now on the market. The price of such a work of art, architecture, landscaping and fanatical attention to detail is $2.5 million. This house is going to get a lot of attention, with an article coming in the SF Chronicle and just through word of mouth among us Realtors. I bet the public open house on Sunday Sept. 25 will be mobbed. The listing agent's website is at 1330albina.com.
In 2006, Daniella Thompson wrote an excellent piece about the history of the house and its original owners for the Berkeley Architectural Association (read her most recent piece about on Berkeley Patch). Donna DeDiemar wrote a very detailed playbook — as a tribute to her friend and neighbor Mr. Roe — that documented all the work Roe and his cohorts had done since 1972. There was a copy of this book in the house but it is not published or generally available. This is unfortunate because any architectural restoration buff would appreciate reading about, and seeing pictures of, the various stages of this 40-year long process.
I’m sure others will be writing about the house in more detail, but some of the things that caught my eye were the stunning vertical grain redwood walls and ceiling, the incredible stained glass dome in what the listing agent calls the “sunroom” but I would call the “conservatory”, the restored steel radiators, the high ceilings and tall windows, the flawless almost glass-like exterior trim paint, the porcelain “pillow tank” pull chain toilet, the barrel-vaulted stone tiled shower, and the plaster walls. According to the book by Ms. DeDiemar, the walls are made of “Marmorino Venetian plaster, a 16th century technique of slaked lime putty, ground marble and pigment combined into a paste and trowled in layers with each layer allowed to bleed through to the next to give a deep rich surface.” You can’t help but rub your hands on them!
A special shout-out goes to the upper level of the house, which is reached by a wooden spiral staircase. Here is a second kitchen, which in any other “normal” house would be considered something to brag about. Here, it is completely upstaged by yet more fabulous woodwork, interesting roof angles and decorative steel tension ties, lots of windows with bay views, another luxurious bathroom (with a very unusual toilet seat!), a tower-ceilinged bedroom with a beautiful Moroccan chandelier, and a final stairway which leads past the spider-web window to a “widow’s walk” roof deck looking right out to the Bay.
Worried about old-house structural issues? Probably none here! The foundation is all steel-reinforced concrete and great attention was paid to proper engineering of all the structural elements of the house. I don’t know for sure, but I expect all the wiring in the house has been replaced, as with the plumbing.
The grounds themselves are stunning, with immense and interesting trees, lush ferns, a fabulous workshop or garage, iron gates and all on a double and very private lot of 13,300 sq ft.
So if any of you out there can afford a $2.5 million house and want a property like no other in Berkeley, you have to see this one. Contact me, or your own agent, for a private showing.
Brett Weinstein is the broker and co-founder of Realty Advocates, a Berkeley-focused real estate firm in business since 1986. Besides appreciating Berkeley’s architectural treasures, he has found over 100 murals painted throughout the City. Click here to see his archive, or .