Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Fox Bros. Construction Company

The Fox Brothers Construction Company was active form 1924 through 1953. They left a number of cottages and somewhat anachronistic buildings throughout the immediate East Bay. The architectural style that the firm employed has been called variously Tudor Revival, Mother Goose, Fairytale, Doll House, or Storybook.

Fox Common
Fox Common is located at 1672 University Ave. and consists of a small collection of rustic, Tudor Revival cottages wedged between a couple of modern commercial buildings. The cottage at the front of the lot was built in 1940, while the cottage at the back of the lot was built in 1931. Today, these buildings are listed on the Berkeley register of historical buildings and house doctor's and accountant's offices. The lot is very quaint, with heavy shade form several large trees. The buildings are amazing, with incredible detail and do not fit in with the rest of the neighborhood at all.

Fox Court
Fox Court is another collection of storybook cottages that is located at 1472 University Ave. This group of buildings is much more private, and had a locked gate that prevented my exploring it more fully. However, the buildings that face the street are still interesting, and showcase the same general aesthetic and architectural style that the Fox Bros. Construction Company was known for.

The Berteaux Cottage
The Berteaux Cottage is located at 2350 Bowditch St. The building is owned by UC Berkeley, and was originally located at 2612 Channing St., but was moved to the new location in 2001. I particularly liked the chimney on the Berteaux Cottage, and the wavy leading used in the paned front window. It's obvious from the construction methods used in these buildings that there was a pretty significant amount of extra work that went into these buildings looking intentionally asymmetrical, handbuilt, and artisanal.

G. Paul Bishop Studio
The G. Paul Bishop Studio is located at 2125 Durant Ave. It was built in 1939, and is the most atypical of the Fox Bros. buildings that are still standing in Berkeley. It looks like an early 19th century mill or blacksmith's shop more than anything else, and doesn't have the same rustic touches that the other cottages do. It's interesting that I never noticed the building before, especially since I've been up and down this stretch of Durant more than once, and the building kind of sticks out like a sore thumb.

All of these buildings are really unique and made this day of seeking out historical sites in Berkeley really memorable. It's a real treat to be riding through a busy university or downtown area and turn a corner to find these picturesque little cottages. I'm going to chalk up the presence of all these unique, completely out of place and time cottages as yet another Berkeley thing, and just appreciate the fact that someone out there thought that the community needed a touch of rustic Old English style.

Getting There By Bike...
All of these cottages are located in either downtown Berkeley or close to the UC Berkeley campus, and are easily visited on a single trip.
Fox Commons and Fox Court are both located on University Ave., on the south side of the street, and are a couple of blocks apart. I used Addison St., which is one block to the south, to get around the neighborhood. It was a lot better than trying to ride up and down University Ave. All of these buildings house businesses, so please try to respect the fact that people may be trying to work while you're visiting.
The Berteaux Cottage is on Bowditch St. between Durant and Channing. It's really close to the university so expect poor driving and students on bikes going every which way. I like to have a bell for situations like this, if for no other reason than a bell says "Hey, get out of my way!" in a much nicer manner than yelling at someone. While you're in the neighborhood, make sure to take a peek at the First Church of Christ, Scientist that is around the corner at 2619 Dwight Way. It was designed by Bernard Ralph Maybeck, and is the only building in Berkeley to be registered as a National Historic Landmark.
G. Paul Bishop Studios is found at 2125 Durant, between Shattuck and Fulton St. It's hard to misss, it's the only red brick building on the block. Traffic here is less than wonderful, and when I visited there was a lot of street construction taking place. After you've taken a look at the building, turn around and notice the former Howard Auto Co. Showroom, now a Buddhist bookstore. It's a beautifully restored Art Deco building with some really great tile work.

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