Historic Preservation in Point Richmond

blue water with a city across the bay in the distance.
View of San Francisco From the Point Richmond Project
Looking uphill at a white and brick three story house.
Standing for 100 years and more.

Location, Location, Location: This is an amazing site, just take a look at the view. The house sees a gigantic swath of the San Francisco Bay, with a view of the Bay Bridge, and the Golden Gate Bridge peeking out from behind Angel Island, and from upstairs, the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge. There’s also a nice framing of Point Richmond Ferry Point and the shore and beach below.

Historic. The house is more than 100 years old and was pretty isolated when first built. The community grew in around it, but the property is still pretty large.

Project start, signs go up.
Project start, signs go up.

The house has stood through many earthquakes, large and small, and the settling has been slight despite the brick foundation. As you can see from the photos, the poor thing needs some restoration. In the 40s the house was remodeled, and expanded. The large front porch was enclosed with the stairwell element added as an entry signifier.

At that time, the exterior was changed from all shingle to board and batten at the second floor with stucco at the first, and a brick exterior at the base. Over the years there have been quite a few incremental changes and none of the windows match. We’re breaking this up into several phases. The first phase includes reworking the first floor, restoring the garage and a voluntary seismic upgrade. I also get the opportunity to unify most of the windows into historically appropriate double hung windows. I reworked the alley entrance to the house so that there’s a sense of entry that is both better covered and more accessible.The alley is where everyone comes to the house anyway, and this improves that relationship. The design includes many improvements to energy efficiency and the use of green materials. We elected to rebuild the detached garage in the same style so as to keep the 1940s style and scale for the streetscape and keep the neighborhood happy.

Keeping the neighbors happy: The neighborhood council was just as surprised as we were to find that we we’re not required to strictly comply with Historic Preservation in this location. The property happens to fall just outside that boundary.  Regardless, the council is pretty aggressive in their review and the weight they pull with the city. So if it’s not approved by the neighborhood, it’s a real uphill battle with the city.

Design by Interactive Resources
New footings and reinforcement.

Considering our experience with historic preservation, this was not hard, just political. The best move when it’s political is to approach all the major players and make sure they feel that they’re in the loop. The design is mindful of the history in this house and maintains and restores many details that need care and attention.

In the photo to the right, you can see the formwork and rebar for the new footings for the house. After a lot of discussion, we decided to put the new footing in next to the brick so we wouldn’t have to lift the whole structure. For engineering, I decided to bring on the big fish in the little pond of Point Richmond, Interactive Resources. I know Andrew Butt from my work on the WCCUSD Citizens Bond Oversight Committee and I’ve gotten to know his work. His architecture and engineering firm does mostly schools and commercial projects. They’ve done a great job on the Nystrom Multi-purpose building in Richmond and several other school projects.

Part of the project is to rebuild the garage. Below right you can see the original garage and the freshly poured footings is where we are today further below. The only salvageable lumber was the lower cords of the roof joists. The walls were slowly crumbling at the base and there was not much to the foundation.

Existing Garage
Existing Garage

We have Floyd Construction building out this project and I’m happy to have them again. I’ve worked with Joe and his team for years. I look forward to more great results from his very capable Foreman Paul McGlaughlin.