Structure Type: built works - dwellings - houses

Designers: Camber Construction Company, Incorporated (firm); Howard, John Galen, Architect (firm); ReARRANGEMENTS, Interior Design (firm); John Galen Howard (architect); Duncan McDuffie (developer); Janice Weingrod (interior designer); Gary Whitehead (architect)

Dates: constructed 1911

2 stories, total floor area: 5,362 sq. ft.

156 Tunnel Road
Claremont, Berkeley, CA 94705

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McDuffie's address was also given as 22 Roble Road.


Duncan McDuffie, the Iowa-born real estate dealer, began development of his Claremont residential tract in 1905, and located his own primary residence here in 1910. He resided in this house until about 1925, when he commissioned Willis Polk to design him a new Spanish Colonial Revival residence at 22 Roble Road. This earlier house was used for other purposes on the McDuffie Estate.

Building History

Although born in Jefferson, IA, Duncan McDuffie (born 09/24/1877 in Jefferson, IA-d. 04/21/1951 in San Francisco, CA) had relocated to Berkeley, CA, by 1898, where he attended the University of California. McDuffie was hard to miss. He was very tall by standards of the time, standing about 6-foot, 4-inches tall, and was quite outgoing. In his early years after graduating from UCB, he lived in a boarding house at 2401 Durant Avenue. As per the 1900 US Census, McDuffie worked as a clerk in a dry goods store before starting his career in real estate. ((See, Source Citation California State Library; Sacramento, California; Great Registers, 1866-1898; Collection Number: 4-2A; CSL Roll Number: 6; FHL Roll Number: 976452, accessed 11/10/2021 and Source Citation Year: 1900; Census Place: Berkeley Ward 2, Alameda, California; Page: 18; Enumeration District: 0396; FHL microfilm: 1240083, accessed 11/10/2021.)

He left the dry goods business and associated with Joseph Mason, an older real estate dealer, with whom he formed the Mason-McDuffie Real Estate Company. Rapidly, the firm's holdings became increasingly valuable. Mason-McDuffie profited from the thousands of San Franciscans who relocated permanently to the East Bay after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire.

While at the University of California, McDuffie came to know Prof. Joseph LeConte (1823-1901), a geologist, and his son, Joseph Nisbet LeConte (1870-1950), who became a UCB engineering professor, and began socializing with them. At this time, many in Berkeley recognized the early signs of human impact on the environment. Poet and architectural theorist Charles Keeler advocated building "Simple Homes" in Berkeley, ones that would preserve existing conditions and focus on muting architectural imposition on the natural environment. The LeContes were prime movers in forming the Sierra Club, and were active hikers and outdoorsmen in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The nascent environmentalist movement blossoming in Berkeley influenced McDuffie to become an active conservationist and mountaineer himself, with one 13,282-foot peak in the Sierra being named for him. He led the Sierra Club as President for two terms, 1928-1931 and 1943-1946, and became a key supporter of the Berkeley-based Save the Redwoods League, founded in 1918, a group that lobbied California's state government to set aside key reserves of mature redwoods as public parks. All of this environmental activism affected some of McDuffie's approaches to developing residential sub-divisions. (See Dave Weinstein, SF, "SIGNATURE STYLE / Duncan McDuffie / Natural neighborhoods / Visionary developer created elegant urban 'residential parks.'" published 02/07/2004, accessed 11/10/2021.)

McDuffie established many developments in Berkeley and Oakland, with three being most notable, the upper-income, residential enclaves of Northbrae and Claremont in Berkeley and Saint Francis Wood in San Francisco. He envisioned his developments as "residential parks" adapting ideas drawn from earlier American and English architects and landscape designers for residential tracts placed in verdant settings that respected, where possible, existing topographic contours and mature vegetation. He also buried power lines in his developments to preserve views, something few did at the time.

McDuffie chose to settle in Claremont by about 1910, on land that had once beent the Edson Adams Ranch, a 125-acre parcel southeast of Berkeley's central business district. It became known for the grand Hotel Claremont erected in 1906-1907, and attracted upper-income, white buyers of Northern European descent from its beginning. Racial covenants, then standard across the Bay Area (and United States), kept out "less desirable groups" including African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Jewish-Americans and most Hispanic-Americans.

He wed Jean Stuart Howard (born 09/15/1879 in PA-d. 05/11/1955 in San Francisco, CA) on 06/01/1911 in Alameda County, CA. (See, Source Information California, U.S., Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1850-1941 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014, accessed 11/04/2021.)

McDuffie knew many local architects and referred land clients to them. He asked his friend, John Galen Howard (1864-1931), to enlarge the carriage house on a property that was being sub-divided, in 1910. In 1920, McDuffie lived with his wife, Jean, and three servants, Hattie Updyke (34 years old), a maid from Utah, Emily (Unknown last name, [38], from Finland), the maid and Matsu Watari (53), a Japanese-born laundryman. Additionally, Donald Stoddard, a 25-year-old railroad clerk from CA, was listed as a lodger.

Ten years later, a niece lived in the house with the McDuffies, Jennifer Howard (born c. 1924 in NY). Three new servants, a nurse, Sagrea Jones (born c. 1890 in NY), a housemaid, Marie Beraudiere (born c. 1895 in France) and Yee-Gee Fong (born c. 1900 in China).

Building Notes

The US Census of 1920 listed an address of 156 Tunnel Road for the McDuffie House, while the 1930 US Census listed the house as being at 22 Roble Road. McDuffie expanded his estate over time, erecting new buildings to the east toward Roble Road. It is possible that he wanted to have a larger dwelling and automobile access to a street less busy than Tunnel Road, and built an entrance on Roble for this reason.


A later owner attempted to renovate bathrooms and bedrooms between 2006-2010, but ran out of money following 2008. Janice Weingrod, ASID, was involved in these renovations, as was Camber Construction Company, operated by Gary Whitehead.

PCAD id: 6170