Set among cypress and eucalyptus trees, a brown-shingled house sits on a hillside above the University of California campus in Berkeley. The 1910 house, my home late in the 1960s, is but one of 100 or so designed by the city’s most renowned architect, Bernard Maybeck (1862-1957). The hours and hours I spent here – gazing out to the Golden Gate through my wisteria-framed windows and savoring the early evening’s flood of amber light – supplied some of my happiest memories of my Berkeley days. Although the presence of Nobel Laureates like physicists Luis Alvarez and Emilio Segre and the wildly fanciful spirit that prevailed here during the decade’s waning years certainly deepened my love and respect for this university community, it was the rich architectural traditions and favorite neighborhood rambles that recently lured me back to live in the hilly university city on San Francisco Bay.
The particular knoll on which I lived acquired the nickname Nut Hill early in the century, most likely in honor of its artistic and lovably quirky inhabitants. The celebrated photographer Dorothea Lang figured among its residents, as did artist Worth Ryder, author George Stuart, and Bernard Maybeck himself, whose sensitivity to the aesthetics of wood made him a Berkeley folk hero of sorts. Writers Mark Twain and Jack London and dancer Isadora Duncan regularly visited.
Bernard Maybeck, along with Bay Area architects A. C. Schweinfurth and Ernest Coxhead, wholeheartedly embraced the…