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Off to Greener Acres

This Wednesday morning was sunny and mild for our Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays’ first spring walk. A large turnout at the Exedra of 37 walkers and two K-9 best friends were ready to enjoy it.

We try to walk every traffic-safe Piedmont street during the year, but one set we didn’t get to last year was the steep Glen Alpine Road/Sotelo Avenue loop. But the weather was great and we were ready for the challenge.

Off we went up Highland, Sheridan, Wildwood, and Crocker Avenues, then up Hampton Road. We decided not to collect some very large Easter eggs on a lawn at Highland and Sheridan, and stopped in front of 395 Hampton Road at the foot of Glen Alpine. On our previous two weeks’ walks we had checked out Piedmont real estate, and this home had the highest list price on the

market. We took the attached group photo in front of it.

It is an eight bedroom/9 bath, 11,870 square foot home on 1+ acres with space for eight cars was is listed for $14.5 million. It is known as the “Hampton House.” The research of the Piedmont Historical Society, reported, “Albert Farr designed this elegant Mediterranean home in 1927... Tall windows, a Spanish tile roof, shutters and a symmetrical façade complete his design … Farr designed this home for William St. Cyr Cavalier and his wife Camille in 1926. Cavalier was an investment broker and president of his own business, William Cavalier & Company. The Cavaliers had three children when they built this home, and a nurse and servant to help. Cavalier ultimately merged his company with Dean Witter and Co. He died in 1945, but Camille continued to live in the house until her death in 1966. Several new owners have remodeled it, but it continues to maintain Farr’s grand design. Farr has been called one of the most artistic architects on the West Coast. He practiced from 1905 to 1937, and designed more than 40 homes in Piedmont.

There was more history too. Before the Hampton House was built, Louis Titus, a successful Berkeley real estate developer, bought 50 acres in these Piedmont hills in 1911. He intended to build a Spanish-Italian mansion to be called “Greenacres.” However, in 1912 the Piedmont’s Board of Trustees, now called the City Council, decided new property taxes were needed to pay for

the new City’s public services. They passed taxes based on the amount of land owned, and Titus’ taxes were increased to a reported $200,000. He decided Piedmont was not such a great place for this mansion. Greenacres was never built.

We continued up Glen Alpine and came to the steep Indian Gulch Road. Jim Kellogg was once on the Planning Commission and shared that the approval process for a home at the bottom of this cul-de-sac required enlarging the road so fire trucks could access it. We decided to pass on the decent and required accent, and continued up Glen Alpine.

Next up was the story of James Tyson, a wealthy lumber and shipping businessman. In 1914 he purchased 30 acres from Titus’ tract to build his estate, “Oakmont,” at what is now 70 Sotelo. He also build a carriage house as a garage and servant quarters where he and his wife lived temporarily while supervising the construction of their home. This carriage house is now

a lovely home at 45 Glen Alpine with 11 bedrooms and 9 baths in 8,692 square feet.

At the very top of Glen Alpine is another very large, beautiful mansion. 75 Glen Alpine is an 8 bedroom/8 bath, 9,827 square foot, French revival chateau built in 1926 on 1.62 acres. Just to its left are Tyson’s original, two sandstone pillars with the words, “Oakmont” and “70 Sotelo.” However, Oakmont, which he completed in 1916, no longer exists. It was demolished in

1964. The pillars marked the entrance and long driveway to Tyson’s now-gone home. A gated driveway now leads to new homes built on the former Oakmont site.

We turned down Sotelo, and as we went we were able to get a peak of Tyson Lake through the backyards of homes along the way. This lake was another Tyson creation. After he build Oakmont he dammed the creek that ran through his property and created a reservoir for his sons to swim. The lake is now owned and managed by a neighborhood association. As we walked down Sotelo

and retraced our steps to the Exedra a hawk soared over head. It was enjoying this beautiful morning too.


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