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Claremont Court Gem
This stately 1914 home is on the market for the first time since 1962. Its location, history, size and beauty are unparalleled and a once in a lifetime opportunity. From the street it appears inviting and elegant, with a wide front porch spanning the front of the house behind the pretty front lawn. The porch entrance is decorated with little white marble tiles interspersed with black ones and framed with a Greco Roman mosaic pattern. This welcoming space also creates a private space between the street and the inside of the house. Upon entering, the exquisite architectural details and grandeur of this 6-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom home, with library, family room, large basement and attic, reveal themselves.
On the south side of the entrance is a carport with access to the kitchen for easy grocery or delivery drop-off. Just beyond is a freestanding two car garage with two sets of graceful double garage doors that bring to mind the “Great Gatsby” era.
Originally built in 1914 for a physician, Dr. Frank Simpson, the builder and likely designer was J.A. Marshall, the uncle of the well-known Craftsman architect Leola Hall. Hall was a contemporary of Julia Morgan and the rare female in a male-dominated craft at that time. Marshall lived in the house on the corner of Avalon and Claremont Blvd. that sold last year, and there are certainly some similarities between the two homes. Among the former owners of the Avalon estate was Lester W. Hinks Jr., of the historic Hinks Department Store in downtown Berkeley.
Once inside the welcoming grand foyer, with its warm wood paneling, exquisite moldings and high ceilings, the spaces flow seamlessly into each other or can be closed off by beautiful multi-pane beveled glass doors. From here, the rooms open up on all sides. The ballroom-sized living room to the West, with a stone fireplace and windows on two sides (imagine listening to a concert with a baby grand piano playing); the sunbathed dining room to the south, with paneled walls, crystal chandelier and sconces and windows overlooking the backyard; the library on the east side with arched full-length doors, a built-in writing desk, bookshelves and a gorgeous original light fixture; the beautifully crafted stairway that curves up to the bedrooms above and a passage from the library to a powder room, with a side door exiting to the carport. At the south end of the living room and next to the dining room is a bright lounge or sitting area with windows looking out to the backyard – a cozy place to sit and read while bathed in natural light.
Between the dining room and kitchen is the “Butler’s pantry” and then leading off the kitchen are a sunny breakfast room, pantry and the laundry room. From the laundry is a door that exits to the carport and another that leads to a stairway down to the basement.
At the top of the stairs is an expansive landing and hallway which is the artery that delivers you to both the north, south and east bedrooms. On the southwest side of the house is the Primary suite. Surrounded by windows filled with tree dappled light, this area has an elegant dressing room replete with the original glass skylight, a built-in safe for jewelry, and three-way fold-out mirrors which hearken back to an era of private fittings.
Next to the Primary suite is the family room that circulates around a fireplace with carved ornate wooden mantle, beautiful antique tile and brick and outlooks towards the South Bay mountains. The two bedrooms on the east side have picturesque views of the Claremont hotel. The corner room is lined with windows and has a large closet. The smaller room has built-in drawers, a closet and a built-in ironing board.
From this large landing is also a hall bathroom, a smaller stairway to the kitchen and a stairway to the attic. The large full-height attic top floor also has a skylight and could be used as a rec room, art studio or just another special place for children to play.
On the north side of the house (the front), the first bedroom has special beveled glass windows that appear to be leaded panes but are actually separately carved wooden dividers. The adjoining bathroom and center bedroom share the special beveled-glass windows, as does the exquisite arched door, which leads from the center bedroom onto a spacious, sunny balcony. The third front bedroom with its own bathroom, has flower-patterned wallpaper which picks up on the colors and patterns of the maple trees outside. It makes for a symbiosis with the inside and outside.
The private backyard has a lawn and a sunken area on the southwest corner that once led to a path down to Russell Street.
Expansive rooms, gorgeous wood floors throughout, exquisite details, elegant moldings, gracious windows that flood the home with light, high ceilings, a classic floorplan and a feeling of a bygone glamor define this classic Italianate villa modeled after a Pasadena mansion.
In a perfect location, close to the U.C.B campus, the entrance to the 24 and 13 freeways, BART and the amenities of the Elmwood and Rockridge.
The Claremont neighborhood straddles the Berkeley and Oakland borders and features lush landscaping, curving streets that hug the canyon hills, and open space. Homes on the leafy side streets provide old-fashioned Berkeley elegance, with turn-of-the-century brown shingles, revivals, prairie-, custom contemporary-, and Tudor-styled structures offering residents a place to call home within the landscaped confines. The landmark of this area is the majestic Claremont Hotel Club & Spa, a vast Victorian edifice perched on 22 acres in the hills. Three outdoor pools, 10 tennis courts, a full-service spa, a fitness club, and three onsite restaurants deliver stunning views, and the resort has become popular with generations of locals as a luxurious getaway. Elmwood's shopping district on College Avenue in Berkeley offers old-fashioned shops, access to the Rockridge Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), grocery stores, bookshops, and flower stands. Restaurants, a movie theater, and a bakery are all a short walk away. The Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve is 208 acres of open space managed by the East Bay Regional Park District and more than 200 acres outside of the canyon owned by the University of California, Berkeley. Garber Park, a 13-acre oak-and-bay-tree woodland south of Claremont Avenue, is owned by the city of Oakland. Trails reward ambitious hikers with panoramic views of San Francisco Bay.