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The McDuffie Estate
Willis Polk, Willis Polk & Company, and the Olmsted Brothers created the house and gardens of 22 Roble Road in the 1920's as a dramatic showcase for one of Berkeley's greatest leaders, Duncan McDuffie. Over the years it was used first to entertain at social gatherings, and then as an attractive draw to support progressive candidates and causes. After a recent thorough restoration, rescue and revitalization of 22 Roble Road and its exceptional gardens to their original grandeur by the current owners, this magnificent landmarked property is ready for the next 100 years.
We would like to thank Marion Brenner, David Duncan Livingston, and Liz Rusby for allowing us to use their beautiful photographs of the McDuffie Estate.We greatly appreciate this courtesy.
The Mcduffie Estate is one of Berkeley's most beautiful treasures. Located on almost an acre and designed by legendary architect Willis Polk, the property is surrounded on all four sides by stunning gardens created by the venerable Olmstead Brothers. The property and gardens were landmarked in 2011, and the property enjoys a Mills Contract. Since 1924, the estate has hosted a stunning array of family, political, and community events.
The Spanish Eclectic Architectural style home was painstakingly restored and renovated by award winning architect, Fischer Architecture, and landscape architect David John Bigham.The iconic vine-covered pergola, sunny courtyard, water fountains, and graceful pottery urns all add a graceful Mediterranean flair. More recent upgrades include Solar, Tesla Power Wall Energy storage, radiant heat, custom window replacements throughout, a new tankless water heater, central vacuum, an elevator, heated swimming pool, retrofitting and drainage improvements; the home has also been rewired, and replumbed with copper pipes.
The original Chauffer’s Quarters on the 3rd floor has been converted to an impeccably lit Art Studio, with large windows, a full bathroom, and plumbed for a mini kitchen.
The entire 2nd floor is an extraordinary Principal Suite with a separate dressing room, gorgeous bathroom with spa-type steam shower and tub, and laundry room.
The T-shaped 1st floor is anchored by a grand living room with high ceilings, arched French doors opening to the Southern gardens, and beautiful outlooks from each side. The formal dining room provides a lovely view of the courtyard fountain. The kitchen/great room has been reimagined to accommodate large parties by opening the kitchen’s Nanowall to the Northern garden’s brick patios. Next to the kitchen is an office with adjoining bathroom, a half bath and a loft space. The 1st floor also offers a gorgeous library with circular fireplace and wet bar, as well as a study with adjoining full bathroom.
The lower level offers a lovely ensuite bedroom suite with a media room and terrace overlooking the pool. A laundry room, wet bar, wine cellar, mechanical room, and two additional ensuite bathrooms complete this dynamic level.
The two-car garage has been seismically strengthened and renovated. There is an additional parking space off Roble Road near the southeast corner of the property. The gardens are fed by an onsite well, and the Northern gardens have a recirculating waterfall.
The Mcduffie Estate is a must-see treasure.
John Galen Howard was the architect for the University of California at Berkeley from 1902 to 1924. He founded the School of Architecture there in 1903. Duncan McDuffie and the Mason McDuffie Company commissioned John Galen Howard to design several iconic structures still standing today. Howard’s entrance gates to the Claremont and Claremont Court subdivision, the entrance pillars on the Alameda, the stone pillars in Northbrae are just a few of these beautiful works of architecture.
When Duncan McDuffie was building 22 Roble Road, Howard designed a Mediterranean Urn for the gardens as a housewarming gift. These lovely urns appear in each side of the gardens. During the last 100 years some of the urns had been broken or had disappeared. Fischer Architecture, at the owners’ request (with the help of the Olmsted Library in Massachusetts) were able to have them replaced.
Duncan McDuffie left an indelible mark on the residential development of Berkeley California. He was born in Jefferson Iowa on September 24, 1877, and his family moved to Santa Barbara California soon after. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley in 1899, he worked at a dry goods store in Oakland. Six years later in 1905, he joined Joseph Mason, an insurance salesman and residential developer, to form the Mason McDuffie Company.
The Mason McDuffie Company was not only a real estate company, it was involved in all aspects of real estate: loans, insurance, building and financing for real estate developments. Mason McDuffie and their associates were involved in financing and building 15 of Berkeley’s residential neighborhoods. Notable Mason-McDuffie developments in Berkeley include Northbrae, Regent’s Park, Kellogg Tract, Park Hills, Berkeley Square as well as Claremont and the Claremont Park. In later years, Mason -McDuffie developed St. Francis Woods in San Francisco, a 133-acre site designed by the Olmsted Brothers.
What set Duncan McDuffie and the Mason McDuffie Real Estate Company apart from other developers of the time was their drive to follow the idea of the “Romantic Suburb” rather than adopt the current grid style of neighborhoods. Their Romantic suburbs preserved the natural topography of the neighborhood, and featured tree-lined streets, creeks, parks and large gardens. The Duncan was a well-known conservationist, and he partnered with well-known landscape architects for all the company’s developments.
Duncan was a fearless mountaineer, and an early advocate of the California State Parks System and the East Bay Regional Park System. He chaired the Save the Redwoods League and was President of the Sierra Club from 1928-1931.
The Alameda County's COVID-19 "Shelter in Place" order prohibits Real Estate Broker's Tours and Open Houses until further notice.
The listing agents would be happy to arrange a showing of the property following the current COVID-19 protocals.
Contact David Hill
The Claremont neighborhood straddles the Berkeley and Oakland borders and features lush landscaping, curving streets that hug the canyon hills, and open space. Homes on the leafy side streets provide old-fashioned Berkeley elegance, with turn-of-the-century brown shingles, revivals, prairie-, custom contemporary-, and Tudor-styled structures offering residents a place to call home within the landscaped confines. The landmark of this area is the majestic Claremont Hotel Club & Spa, a vast Victorian edifice perched on 22 acres in the hills. Three outdoor pools, 10 tennis courts, a full-service spa, a fitness club, and three onsite restaurants deliver stunning views, and the resort has become popular with generations of locals as a luxurious getaway. Elmwood's shopping district on College Avenue in Berkeley offers old-fashioned shops, access to the Rockridge Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), grocery stores, bookshops, and flower stands. Restaurants, a movies theater, and a bakery are all a short walk away. The Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve is 208 acres of open space managed by the East Bay Regional Park District and more than 200 acres outside of the canyon owned by the University of California, Berkeley. Garber Park, a 13-acre oak-and-bay-tree woodland south of Claremont Avenue, is owned by the city of Oakland. Trails reward ambitious hikers with panoramic views of San Francisco Bay.