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Crafty Craftsmans


Last Wednesday morning was sunny and mild, an almost perfect spring day for our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays walk. There was a very large turnout of 53 walkers and four K-9 best friends at the Exedra at our normal start time to enjoy it.


It was a beautiful morning, but there was another reason for the big turnout. Will Adams was going to take us for a tour of Craftsman style homes in Piedmont. Will is an architect, planner, urban designer, a 30 year Piedmonter, Wednesday walker, and writes the Piedmont Post's "Walking Piedmont" column. He took us for a Mediterranean Style Architecture tour in February, and we wanted an encore.


However, to start the morning, Dave D invited the group to his 75th birthday celebration on May 29th at his home after our Wednesday walk.


Will started his tour by providing an introduction to Craftsman style architecture. He told us it and closely related variations are probably the most common architectural style in Piedmont, and maybe in the entire Bay Area. The Craftsman, or American Craftsman style, developed in tandem with the same style in England. Both are offshoots of the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century, which idealized simplicity, harmony with nature, and honesty in construction. It developed as an alternative to the ornate and opulent style of the Victorian age, and resulted in simpler, cleaner and what architects thought was as a more honest design.


Craftsman buildings were thoughtfully constructed by craftspeople who took pride in the quality of their work. The style is literally a blend of art and craft. Hand crafting of the building components both on the buildings' exteriors and interiors is present and valued. Bernard Maybeck and his disciple Julia Morgan are among the famous architects who designed and worked closely with outstanding craftspeople to produce this type of buildings throughout the East Bay with many in Piedmont. There are variations of this genre that include the Craftsman Bungalow, the Prairie style, and even the Mission Revival style, which has many of the same

characteristics.


Then Will led us off to see some examples. We went down Highland Avenue, in what looked like an early 4th of July parade, to Oakland Avenue and up to Hardwick Avenue. Will pointed out two Craftsman homes and asked what characteristics we saw. Their correct answers included: natural colors, covered front porches, wide eaves and gables on low-sloped roofs, exposed rafters, double hung windows, brick chimneys, and some stain glass windows.


The tour resumed, going on to Blair Avenue, crossing Oakland Avenue, and then to two homes on Blair. One was a small bungalow, which Will said would have been inexpensive to build and very popular in California. Further down the street at Bonita Avenue was another Craftsman with its porch on the side. Nearby was a hybrid Tutor and Craftsman design, which Will said shows

how architectural styles can be adapted and change over time. At Hillside Avenue was a larger Craftsman home with front steps that provided tiers for the attached group photo.


We continued on near Will's own home to Dracena Avenue and to a lovely house where the architect has recreated a Craftsman style home with a porch at the front, and shingles, rocks, and landscaping that complete the design. Will took us into and down Dracena Park, emerging on Artuna and Ricardo Avenues. On Ricardo there are many Craftsman homes and Will pointed out two. One has tapered pilaster porch columns, and the other had been remodeled with a large porch, low-pitched roof, and exposed rafters.


That completed Will's tour. We expressed our thanks to Will for all the information he had shared. We knew a lot more about Craftsman style homes now, and are looking forward to another walk with Will later this year.

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