Home Recalls Edwin, Julia Waite

Dennis Evanosky    one of three homes Edwin’s widow Julia, had built on Alameda Avenue, stands three doors down from the Meyer’s House and Gardens.

 

In 1895, architects and builders Marcuse & Remmel built three side-by-side houses at 2029, 2031, and 2035 Alameda Ave. for Julia Stone Waite, the widow of the well-known editor and politician Edwin G. Waite. The home at 2035 will be open as part of this Sunday’s Alameda Legacy Home Tour. Edwin came to California from New York in 1849, beginning his career at the helm of the Nevada City Transcript. 

Edwin served in state politics for four decades, starting in the legislature and ending as California’s secretary of state. In 1856 he married Julia E. Stone, a 16-year-old New York native; they had five daughters. The family moved to Alameda in 1879, when Edwin had a state job in San Francisco. Their Central Avenue mansion stood on three-quarters of an acre, the landscaped grounds taking in 200 feet of frontage, a short walk from the newly opened Chestnut Station commuter train stop.

Edwin died in office on Oct. 30, 1894. He was 68 years old and gearing up to run for a second term as secretary of state. Six months after her husband’s death, Julia commissioned a row of rental houses behind her mansion. One of Julius Remmel’s brothers happened to be her son-in-law, so it’s little surprise that Marcuse & Remmel got the job. The Alameda Argus first noted the contract on May 11, 1895, reporting two weeks later: “On Alameda Avenue, between Chestnut and Willow streets, the firm is erecting three large two-story dwellings for Mrs. Julia Waite, widow of the late Secretary of State. They are of colonial style.” 

Julia would keep the properties as rentals until shortly before her death in 1931, at age 92, when they passed to separate owners. The Waite mansion came down in 1968, razed for apartments, leaving the Alameda Avenue row as the sole vestige of the family.

The lovely Colonial Revival house at 2035 was not always so lovely. Over the decades it has been through various incarnations and suffered many abuses. It had been hacksawed, burned, clawed and even shot. However, thanks to current owners Virgil and Margy Silver, you would never know it.

While there is not definite documentation, there is evidence that it might have been a boarding house during World War ll. The Silvers found locks on all the doors, including the closets. They also found nails in the woodwork and door casings, where it appears blankets were hung for privacy. After the war it was a fourplex and in the late ’60s or early ’70s, it became a duplex. 

Then in 1975 the Restoration Goddess smiled upon the house and “along came Margy.” Wanting to live in a home with income, she purchased the duplex at an auction. Later she and Virgil married and were living in a Craftsman bungalow on the East End. They moved back in eight years ago and proceeded with the spectacular restoration.

One of the signature trademarks of Marcuse & Remmel is the ornate pressed “grape-leaf” pattern on the door and window trims. All of it had been painted, with up to seven coats in some parts, and Margy stripped all of it! What you see now is the natural wood with three coats of Tung oil with a lovely low luster. Some of the door and window casings had been removed or damaged. 

Virgil and Margy were fortunate to have purchased some trim that was being removed from another Marcuse & Remmel house in Alameda. They also found some doors in the basement that had not been nailed shut like several others throughout the house.

The wainscoting in the hallways and stairway is the original Lincrusta, which rarely survives in historic homes here. As you walk through the house, notice the push-button light switches with a modern twist — a dimmer button. The upstairs hall bathroom is a tribute to Leadville, Colo., (from The Unsinkable Molly Brown movie) where Margy was born. The Silvers found the corner sink at a flea market in Auburn. The etched glass window and claw-foot tub are the originals from 1895.

The library and middle bedrooms, once connected as a unit, are now reconfigured with better closets. The bookcase in the middle bedroom with the “Oz” collection is also from Leadville. The master bedroom and bathroom reveal even more of the attention to detail and care that the Silvers invested in this renovation project. The bathroom had once been a kitchen with no corner blocks and crowns. Virgil and Margy made a mold from existing ones elsewhere in the house and created new ones. The stunning stained glass was custom fitted to a salvaged door.

The front and rear parlors had been an apartment with an exterior door to the porch installed where the right side bay windows had been. They were able to restore the bay window with the “rescued” grape leaf wood trim. The “slipper sofa” is from the mid-1800s. The exquisite set of pots you see are not for tea or coffee, but for Chocolate!

The kitchen was another major redo by the owners. They re-worked the original kitchen, the butler’s pass through to the dining room, the stairs to the basement and removed the chimney. Now they have a lovely, light-filled kitchen and powder room with modern upgrades, all done in a turn-of-the-century style. The flooring is Marmoleum and the drawer pulls are “Windsor.”

The public is welcome to visit the home on the tour Sunday and continue out to the deck and into the beautiful garden. Be sure to take a leisurely stroll around before leaving.

 

Courtesy Ancestry.com    Edwin Waite, a former California Secretary of State once lived on Central Avenue in Alameda

 

Denise Brady is past-president of the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society, co-hosts of the annual home tour.