High-Peaked Colonial Revival

Part 3: Groupings and variations

Daniella Thompson


3020, 3026 & 3028 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

16 February 2005

Grouped in pairs and threesomes, High-Peaked Colonial Revival houses make for an impressive sight. Especially when their roof ridges curve upward at the tips, they resemble a fleet of majestic ships sailing forth. A particularly attractive type designed by A.W. Smith appears in several locations in Berkeley. There’s a trio on Martin Luther King Jr. Way (see Part 1 for photos of 3028 MLK Way), a pair at 2818 and 2120 San Pablo Avenue, and two singles at 1810 and 1831 Prince Street. This design comes in two major variants: the entrance porch is either supported by three columns and extends across the entire length of the front fašade or it is restricted to the right-hand side of the fašade, with a shallow triangular gable roof supported by two columns. Since 2818 San Pablo Ave. was built by A.W. Smith in 1901, there’s good reason to believe that the other six were also built by him around the same time.


3026 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
(photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

3020 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
(photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

1810 Prince St. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

Alterations over the decades mask some of the original character of these graceful dwellings, but several examples viewed together serve to reveal the lost elements. Of the threesome above, two are immediate neighbors on MLK Way. Both have lost their original windows (it’s unfortunate that even what appears to be a loving restoration at 3020 MLK should be compromised by inappropriate windows with fake muntins). The house at 1810 Prince St., although not as spiffy-looking as its newly refurbished MLK cousin, retains the original diamond insets in the upper panes of all its windows, as does 3028 MLK Way, seen in Part 1.


3020 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
(photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

3020 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
(photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

3020 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)


3026 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

In my photographic peregrinations around Berkeley, I found too many high-peaked houses that had lost their original windows and doors, and also far too many inappropriate alterations.

A rather mixed result was achieved in a recent renovation at 2818 San Pablo Avenue (see photos below). The house was converted into a duplex, and the attic dormers suffered unsightly modifications. The ground floor retains most of its diamond-inset windows (see detail in Part 1); however, all but one of the upper-story windows present a discordant note.


2820 San Pablo Ave. (photo: Daniella
Thompson, 2005)

Diamond-pane gable window at 2820 San Pablo Ave. (photo: Daniella
Thompson, 2005)

2818 San Pablo Ave. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

Judging by the surviving ground-floor windows and by the gable windows at 1810 Prince St., one can safely assume that the triple window in the front gable of 2818 San Pablo Ave. used to have diamond insets in the upper panes. The topmost gable window may have been made up of small diamond panes, as is the case next door at 2820 San Pablo. The new horizontally sliding window at the top is an unhappy choice. Building an extra liveable floor within the attic obviously dictated operable windows, but a sash window or else a single casement would have been more in keeping with the original design. The southern dormer suffered the most egregious disfiguration, losing its two triangular gables, as well as the upturned curvature of its roof ridges.


2818 and 2820 San Pablo Ave. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

On the northern side of 2818 San Pablo, the dormer was turned into a double-decker, and the new windows on the second and third levels break the symmetry of the original design (the horizontally sliding window on this side is as jarring as the one at the front). Like the twin rooflines on the southern side, the main ridge lost its up-curved prow. There’s still a chance to do something better next door, but market economics don’t encourage it.


2818 and 2820 San Pablo Ave. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

Continue to Part 4


See also:
Colonial Revival buildings in Ashby Station


Essays & Stories

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