Structure Type: built works - dwellings - houses

Designers: Dickey, C.W., Architect (firm); Fink and Schindler, Building Contractors (firm); Charles William Dickey (architect); Walter J. Mathews (architect); William T. Veitch (building contractor)

Dates: constructed 1909-1911

Claremont, Berkeley, CA

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Howard H. Hart (c. 1851-1927) gained fame as one of the select few miners who made large fortunes in the Alaska Gold Rush of 1897, although he reportedly lost most of it soon after obtaining it. In a newspaper obituary, the Spokane Spokesman-Review newspaper said of him: "Howard H. Hart, 76, an outstanding figure in the Klondike mining excitement, and a partner of George Carmack, famous Yukon miner, died at this home here today after having been ill for three months with heart trouble. The fortune that Hart amassed in the Klondike was lost in a shipwreck and he came to California to make another fortune in oil. Hart was a member of the San Francisco-Alaska Club and at one time was its president." (See "H.H. Hart, Noted Miner, Dies," 08/02/1927, p. 8.) Around 1909, he and his wife, Orpha Spinks Hart (d. 1911), settled in the Claremont neighborhood of Berkeley, CA, and commissioned the prominent Oakland architect Charles William Dickey (1871-1942) to design them a grand residence. Hart probably regained his fortune through his wife, who owned real estate parcels in the Rock Ridge section of Oakland as well as significant stock holdings in the Record Oil and Caribou Oil Mining Companies. Both Record and Caribou actively drilled in the "Temblor Pool" on the east side of the field near Coalinga, CA, along Anticline Ridge. In 1910, the Harts saw their investments in these oil companies greatly increase, as the Coalinga fields began their peak periods of production. A flurry of stock trading occurred c. 1910 in the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets, as companies jockeyed for the most productive drilling sites in the Temblor Pool. The Los Angeles Herald said: "During the last fortnight there have been altogether thirty-nine oil companies incorporated in California. The capital stock of these concerns aggregates approximately $21,000,000. The majority of these companies have headquarters in either Los Angeles or San Francisco, but will operate in various parts of the state. The Coalinga fields figure most conspicuously and the Kern fields, including Maricopa, are second in the list of localities in which the newly incorporated companies will operate." (See "Thirty Nine New Oil Companies Organize," Los Angeles Herald, Vol. 37, No. 175, 03/25/1910, p. 13.) At her death, Orpha willed most of the oil stock to her siblings, her Rock Ridge real estate to her adopted children, and stock and real estate to her husband. She donated their Claremont house to the University of California, Berkeley, for use as an art museum after the death of her husband, indicating that she probably controlled the bulk of their fortune. (See "Hart Mansion to Revert to U. of C.," San Francisco Call, vol. 110, No. 146, 11/24/1911, p. 8.)

After the death of Mrs. Hart, a dispute arose about the mansion's interior. An article published in the Architect and Engineer of 09/1915 noted a court case that was occurring between the Hart Mansion's building contractors and H.H. Hart. It said: "For several weeks two experts on interior decorating and finishing have been going over the mansion of Mr. H.H. Hart, at Claremont, from cellar to garret, examining the expensive wood finishing in the Alaska millionaire's home. An order for the examination was made by Superior Judge W.M. Conley, during the hearing of a suit of the Fink & Schindler Company, builders, against Hart, for the payment of $9000 alleged to be due for the finishing of the Hart mansion. William T. Veitch, a builder, and Walter Mathews, an architect, were the experts. The plans for the house were made by C.W. Dickey of Oakland." (See "Experts Examine Hardwood Finish," Architect and Engineer of California, vol. XLII, no. 3, 09/1915, p. 112.)

PCAD id: 19097