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Fox’s romantic retreats hide within busy University Ave.

By Susan Cerny
Saturday January 12, 2002

There are two complexes of romantic “Storybook” cottages on University Avenue designed by Carl Fox and constructed by the Fox Bros. Construction Company. The cottage pictured here is located at 1672 University Ave., and is the cottage which is visible from the street.  

It was built in 1940 and the cottage in the rear was built in 1931. This complex is known as Fox Common and is a green oasis of rustic, brick-sided cottages nestled in a tree-shaded garden, wedged between two, two-story, stucco-sided commercial buildings on busy University Avenue. 

As late as 1941 University Avenue was not fully developed. There were almost equal numbers of homes, automobile-related business such as garages, gas stations, repair shops and dealerships and other commercial buildings, as there were vacant lots. This uneven development remains evident today.  

The second complex is known as Fox Court and is located at 1472-78 University Ave. and was constructed between 1927 and 1930. Both complexes are City of Berkeley Landmarks, and Fox Court is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  

Fox Court and Fox Common are Romantic Tudor Revival in style and are picturesque, rustic and romantic. Their exterior siding consists of various colors, textures and sizes of brick irregularly laid and interspersed with rough stones. The style is referred to by many names: Mother Goose, Hansel and Gretel, Fairy Tale, Doll House or Storybook but is just a variation on the Tudor Revival style popular in the 1920s and ’30s. 

The Fox Brothers Construction Company was established in 1924 and continued to build homes and commercial buildings until around 1953. Carl Fox, the principal of the firm, was raised in Grass Valley and received a degree in Mining Engineering from UC Berkeley in 1911. Before establishing the Fox Brothers company, he spent time working as a mining engineer and a salesman in Asia. Carl died in 1966. 

A profile of Carl H. Fox in The Courier, Sept. 11, 1926, describes him as the “... senior member of the firm Fox Bros. ... many homes have been made most enjoyable and delightful through his ability as designer and constructor. ... His latest effort is to aid in the development of University Avenue into a business street.” Although located at various addresses, the Fox Bros. offices were always on University Avenue. 

The Fox brothers left a legacy of romantic cottages scattered around the city. Berteaux Cottage, recently moved from 2612 Channing Way around the corner to Bowditch Street near the University, and the G. Paul Bishop Studio at 2125 Durant Ave. are also city landmarks.  


Susan Cerny is author of Berkeley Landmarks and writes Berkeley Observed in conjunction with the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.