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A Garage on Strawberry Hills



Last Wednesday morning was cool with rain clouds on the horizon. The forecast called for a chance of rain in the morning with more in the afternoon. However, our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group felt we had little to worry about. The weather is always good on Wednesday mornings when we meet then in front of the Exedra for our weekly walk, and a group of 35 walkers and one K-9 best friend were there for a special treat.


For months we have been monitoring the construction progress on a new garage that was being built for a Crocker Avenue home that is owned by Jeremy and his wife, Marie-Elise. We had talked with Jeremy during the construction, and he had generously offered us a tour when the project was done. It is now, and Jeremy said this was a good morning for a visit.


We headed off up Highland Avenue, and then over to Jeremy's house. Jeremy came out to greet us. He is a charming Australian who is also a noted sculptor. According to his website, https://www.bodroga.com/, his artwork evolves with the type of materials and spaces he encounters. It has been exhibited all over Europe, America, and Australia. Marie-Elise is French and Jeremy said there is sometimes a conflict over which flag, the Australian or the French, should be on top of the flagpole in front of their house. However, they agreed on almost everything about their garage project.


Jeremy shared some history on the property that was given the lovely name of "Strawberry Hills" by the original owners, the granddaughter of Hiram Tubbs who founded the Tubbs Cordage Company and built the famous Tubbs Hotel near Lake Merritt. The house was designed by Albert Farr, and construction was finished in February 1906, two months before the big earthquake in San Francisco. This house was Farr's first major commission in Piedmont. Albert Farr had a preference for English architecture, and although it is large, this house suggests an English cottage with rolled eaves on the left front gable. It offers grand views of Oakland, San Francisco, and the Bay. The home withstood the earthquake and must have had a dramatic view of the

destruction. The house originally had a garage on what is now the site of the home next door, but that land was sold, and a house was built on it in 1957.


Jeremy and Marie-Elise bought "Strawberry Hills" in 2020, but they needed a garage again, so they started a three-year project. They spent a year and a half working with the Piedmont Planning Commission and three months excavating the earth and rocks in the hill in front of the house. The weather last winter wasn't always good, except on Wednesday mornings, of

course. The Drogas were especially sensitive to respecting Albert Farr's design legacy in the creation of the garage. They hired Greg Kline, a local architect who incorporated the homeowners' practical needs with classic, historical design references of Strawberry Hills Estate. The garage is two stories and complements the height of their house behind it. There are columns, arches, and a set of windows on the exterior that echo Farr's design of the main house. The garage interior is open with 16-foot ceilings that offer light, flexibility, and versatility for future needs. It would be possible to stack and park up to six cars. A future ADU is also a possibility. A spiral staircase goes up to a rooftop garden and, for those not wanting to make the climb, there is even an elevator. Landscaping is also coming to complete this beautiful project. Jeremy put together a large box of fruits from his pineapple guava trees. He invited us to take as much as we liked home. In return we gave Jeremy an appreciative round of applause.


The visit was completed, but there was still time for us to go up to Sea View Avenue, and do a loop back to the city center. Along the way the Grinch was stealing some Christmas tree lights from a front yard, and Santa and his sleigh were making a visit to another front yard. These were Holiday extras for our delightful visit with Jeremy D. We got back to the city center at exactly noon, just before rain drops started to fall.






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