monthly Craigslist finds
Signature Style in the San Francisco Chronicle

Charles "One Nail" MacGregor, Albany California

Our friend Lotusgreen (of the Japonisme blog) tells us a bit about Charles "One Nail" MacGregor, a housebuilder in the Berkeley and Albany, CA area who was known for some very special marks he left on the homes he built: amazing chimneys, clinker brick, unique stucco patterns, Batchelder fireplaces, inlaid oak floors and - in the front and back yards - lemon trees and camellia bushes. Even when the realtor doesn't know or chooses not to bill the house as a MacGregor, they still cost a pretty penny - one modest MacGregor, which had been in Charles' family since it was built in 1926, recently sold for $639,000.

While MacGregor considered himself "just a builder," he did design many of the houses himself, and all those he built are known for their sturdiness. He also collaborated with noted designer Walter W. Dixon, a master of the storybook style; they worked on a number of properties in the 1930s that remain some of the most interesting residential structures of the east bay.

Even though many of his signature chimneys are long gone - the photo linked in the previous paragraph is one of the few left - and most of his lemons and camellias have been replaced, he lives on in dozens of homes in Albany and Berkeley, as well as in the name of Albany's "continuation" high school, where several of my miscreant friends were relocated to when they had disagreements with Albany High's teachers and administrators.

The next time you are in the area, take a look at 1389 - 1391 Solano Avenue, which was MacGregor's office. Dixon designed the Spanish-style building for MacGregor in the 1930s. Let us know if it's still there, and if it is, take a picture for Hewn & Hammered!