From Appalling to Appealing: 2516 Encinal Tells its Story

 

I never met a house that had written a book about itself until Alain Pinel Realtor Johanna Hall introduced me to the Craftsman-style cottage at 2516 Encinal Ave. 

The Alameda Land Company built the house (and the Colonial Revival cottage next door at 2512) in 1906. Robert E. Mott founded the company in 1892. His interests also included the Bay Shore Lumber Company at Adams Wharf on the Oakland Estuary at the foot of Madison Street in Oakland. Mott’s company played the role of both architect and builder in Alameda. According to Alameda Museum curator George Gunn the Alameda Land Company designed 12 and built 61 homes here. 

Mott sold 2516 Encinal Ave. to Alexander M. Wright, a San Francisco printer. Wright lived in the cottage with his wife, May, and daughters Grace, Gladys and Dorothy. The family moved from San Francisco, where they had been living on McAllister Street, not far from Alamo Square and just 10 blocks from the devastation that the 1906 earthquake and fire had wreaked.   

Kieran and Sara Hughes purchased the home in 1998. They moved in June. The home had not aged well. “I was felling old and ugly,” 2516 informs us in its autobiography, “cheapened by my cloak of aging cement and asbestos shingles and burdened by three layers of roofing.” 
When Kieran arrived to inspect the home with his Realtor, Bayside Real Estate Realtor Mark Wyman, 2516 tells us that the men were appalled.

“The previous owners had fixed me up to be a rental property, dividing me in half, putting up walls where they didn’t belong — the final insult to years of injury, neglect and cheap fixes, 2516 said. “Kieran saw beyond the surface. He saw my good bone structure of thick redwood timbers.”

The family got to work. Everyone pitched in: Kieran, Sara and daughters. Lizzy was seven at the time and Cynthia, just five. (Cynthia’s swim team later pitched in.) Among the tasks that they performed and they later shared with Realtor Denise Brady included stripping paint from the fireplace, replacing Klinker bricks, woodwork and doors, refinishing floors and walls, repairing ceilings, replacing plumbing and upgrading the electrical system. 

“We touched every bit of this house,” Sarah told Brady. “Throughout the process neighbors cheered us them on.”

In 2007, Brady nominated 2516 Encinal Ave. for an Alameda Architectural Preservation Society award and 2516 proudly displays that award in its book. “What a fitting ending to an amazing journey,” 2516 writes as the book almost ends. Because there is just one more thing. 

“Kieran redid the front hall to go with the glorious beauty of my dining room and living room. More Bradbury and Bradbury wallpaper!” 2516 exclaims.

 

Photos courtesy the Hughes family     The Hughes family found some interesting items while they were renovating 2516 Encinal Ave. They stored them in an equally interesting box (1).
Photos courtesy the Hughes family     Their discoveries included a photograph of an unknown woman (2).
Photos courtesy the Hughes family     The back of the photo (3) tells us that Danish-born photographer Georg Betzonich took the picture at his studio at Kirkegaden 30 in Oslo, Norway (Christiana was Olso’s name from 1624 to 1925). Pladen obevares means “negative stored”; so someone could easily visit the studio and get another copy from the photographer. The phrase on the bottom means that Betzonich used bromide paper to create the best results at the lowest price.