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Early north Berkeley house celebrated its natural surroundings

By Susan Cerny Special to the Daily Planet
Saturday June 02, 2001

Berkeley Observed 

Looking back, seeing ahead 


The Thousand Oaks district of north Berkeley was subdivided in 1909 by John Spring (1862-1933) a local capitalist who was involved in much of the land speculation in Berkeley, Albany and El Cerrito around the turn of the 20th century. He was associated with Francis Marion “Borax” Smith (who assembled the Key System electric streetcar line), Duncan McDuffie, Louis Titus and Frank Haven.  

The expansion of public transportation through the North Berkeley Tunnel and down Solano Avenue in 1911 made it possible to live several miles from the center of town.  

This location was known for its rock formations and spreading oaks interspersed with grassy glades. It was a favorite place for walking and picnics. Because of its beauty a bond measure was proposed to set aside 100 acres for a public park but the measure failed. Perhaps, as this picture shows, there was so much open space the need to fund parks seemed unnecessary. While there is a wide diversity of style and size of homes in this neighborhood, the rock outcroppings are a distinctive feature of Thousand Oaks. There is a large rock behind this house, (on the left side of the picture). Many houses on Vicente Road (above Colusa Avenue) have large rocks in their front gardens and some houses are even built on top of the rocks. The house was designed by James W. Placheck a prolific Berkeley architect. He designed many buildings including the Main Branch of the Berkeley Public Library.  

Susan Cerny writes ‘Berkeley Observed’ in conjunction with  

The Berkeley Historical Association