2620 Piedmont Avenue
Back before the 1906 quake, William Gester had a dream for he and his new wife. He was a Berkeley civil engineer, who was particularly intrigued by the monolithic concrete construction he had been studying. So he engaged famed Berkeley architect, Joseph Leonard, to construct his dream … the first reinforced concrete house in this area now known as 2620 Piedmont Avenue in the Elmwood. .
As you walk down Piedmont Avenue today, you can’t help but notice this distinctive house, with its Roman Stone façade, Queen Anne tower and arched vestibule. While the façade is Roman Stone, or cut stone, the structure itself is reinforced poured concrete. To be sure, this is a concrete structure of “Roman” proportions … with 20-inch thick foundation walls and 12-inch thick walls above the foundation.
Once inside, you’ll notice it does indeed have the grandeur of Mr. Gester’s dream house. Period moldings abound. There’s a turreted living room with stone fireplace, a formal dining room with stone fireplace, a large kitchen with butler’s pantry, along with four bedrooms and three baths (including two master suites.)
Perhaps the best part of Mr. Gester’s dream though was unknown to him at the time he built it. For in April, ’06, just a few months after he had completed it, Mr. Gester was at home with his family when the big one struck. They survived the earthquake together … with nary a scratch.
And now, having survived many other chapters, the Gester house has been restored to its former grandeur. And once again, the Gester house stands ready to be the dream house for an architectural fan of today.