Like a Rock: The Hellbaum House in Berkeley is built into and around enormous boulders

midcentury-house-built-on-bedrock house-built-around-bedrockMany midcentury homes were built by skilled craftsmen, using quality materials — yup, “built like a rock.” But this 1950 time capsule house — known locally as the Hellbaum House, after its original owners actually is built on and around rock — massive boulders — inside and out!   The home also boasts an original elevator that has operated without issue since the day it was installed… steel kitchen cabinets painted in an auto body shop… and other beautiful midcentury modern interior features. Oh yeah: It’s for sale!

The house — which is in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood of Berkley, California — is listed for sale by realtor Ira Serkes. Note, the listing says there is already an offer pending with four backup offers. Here are the detail from the listing:

  • Price: $1,100,000
  • Year built: 1950
  • Square footage: 2,610
  • Bedrooms: 3
  • Bathrooms: 2 plus 2 partial

The Hellbaum House in Berkeley’s wonderful Thousand Oaks neighborhood!

custom-slate-floorAt a massive street side boulder, rising tiers of Arizona flagstone walls, steps and handmade bronze railings lead you up to the front entry (note the stone inset of the builder/owners’ initial!); the same flagstone is repeated inside at the fireplace, its raised hearth and floor to ceiling detail, and outside at walls and chimney. Three bedrooms, two and a half baths at main living level; half bath in garage; elevator from garage to kitchen.

midcentury-steel-kitchen-cabinetsHuge kitchen [Editor’s note: Those look like vintage Geneva kitchen cabinets — maybe St. Charles — to us) has terrific storage (auto shop painted cabinetry with chromed hardware!); an island counter; breakfast area space; Large room off kitchen includes laundry and a built in desk across one wall; ideal study/art/office space. Filtered Golden Gate, Bay Bridge, San Francisco, Mt. Tam and westward views are seen through large windows; half bath off kitchen.

vintage-pink-bathroomTwo full bathrooms have the original Naugahyde wall covering, enclosed bath tub/shower combos and vanities with chromed tube lights and mirrors. Through a wide central hallway, access three good sized bedrooms: master suite has one large closet with built in drawers, a second smaller closet and opens through sliding glass doors to a mahogany deck and back garden with plantings amid more rock; another bedroom has a built in desk, shelving and glass paned display cases.

midcentury-modern-deckmidcentury-porchDetached garden studio built of clear heart redwood: originally used as a BBQ shed with a fireplace, sink, built-in cabinetry and windows all around, it’s now the perfect art/meditation/separate office space. Recessed lighting in main rooms; soffit lighting in the dining area.

house-built-around-bedrockAt the garage level (more of the street side rock … and another behemoth rock!) there’s a half bath, utility closets housing elevator machinery and radiant/water heating equipment, and many storage spaces; think installation of a translucent garage door to brighten this area for multiple uses; art; kid playspace; workshop….or park two cars and maybe a third!

619 Vincente was designed, built and lived in by its original owner for many years, and one of its current owners grew up across the street and played among the area rocks as a child.

It is noted in BAHA* and “Berkeley Rocks: Building With Nature by Jonathan Chester (Ten Speed Press)” for its innovative systems: an elevator fairly uncommon in Berkeley homes at the time, and a radiant heat system through ceiling pipes; each room has its own thermostat, and there is radiant heat under the garage floor as well

Per BAHA; “For the structure, Hellbaum purchased a Southern Pacific bridge and anchored the structure on several of the I-beams from the bridge” Look up when you’re in the garage … the beams are overhead.”

Above: The home’s current owner used to live across the street when she was growing up and has fond memories of playing in the garage near the massive boulder. Apparently there was a swing attached to one of the home’s girders that the neighborhood kids used to swing on while also wearing roller-skates and then fly off and skate out of the garage and down the driveway. Sounds like a lot of fun if you ask me!

Above: We even get a video tour of the elevator — still workin’ after all these years — very cool!

Link love:

Tips to view slide show: Click on first image… it will enlarge and you can also read my captions… move forward or back via arrows below the photo… you can start or stop at any image:

  1. Ruth says:

    This reminds me of an episode on the Dick Van Dyke show: “Your Home Sweet Home is My Home” where there is a huge rock in the basement. Could there be a connection between the idea for that episode and this house?

    Episode Summary
    Rob has a new tax accountant, Bert Steele, who is going through Rob’s return with him. Among the receipts and such is a check to Jerry for $37.50, which Mr. Steele assumes is a medical deduction. Rob explains that it’s not; Rob pays Jerry $37.50 every year for what he and Jerry call “friendship” money. The story… When Laura was pregnant with Ritchie, she and Rob knew they needed a bigger house than the one they had in Willitown. Jerry and Millie, their best friends and neighbors in Willitown, went house hunting with them. Laura found this almost perfect house an hour’s drive away in Westchester County, except for one rather large approximately two meter round irremovable rock from the basement. Although the best house that they saw by far up to that point, Rob and Laura, with a little convincing from Jerry and Millie (the convincing in large part due to the far distance from Willitown), decided initially not to buy the house. But the pressure of needing a new house before the baby came made them change their minds. The ensuing discussion between Rob and Laura and Jerry and Millie, another house for sale, and the problem caused by the irremovable rock led to the annual $37.50 payment.

  2. When I was about 7 my parents looked at a house with a tree growing out of a rock and my sister and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I pity anyone who looks at this house with children and then has to answer for why they aren’t buying it.

  3. tammyCA says:

    Ha, naturally the first thing I thought of is the Dick Van Dyke show (it’s always been my fave show, have all the DVDs).
    Yeah, we had a “free-er” childhood back then & no adult supervision…I’m always amazed (and grateful) we survived with the stuff we did! It actually makes me shudder now to think of what could’ve happened!

  4. Sandra says:

    Editorial note: “Realtor” is a trademark of the National Association of Realtors, and should always be capitalized. One can be a real estate salesperson or broker (often regulated or licensed by the state), without being a member of the NAR (in which case one is not a Realtor).

  5. JKM says:

    Looking at the house on google maps, I see where the house across the street is built up against a giant boulder in its backyard and boulders are visible in a couple other yards. Very unique area and it’s cool how the homes were built without destroying natural formations. The sellers seem nice, too.

  6. sara says:

    What an incredible house! Love love love! Berkeley would probably be a pretty darn nice place to live as well. I especially love the wood floors. I like the different plank widths and it just works so well in this house!

  7. Kelly Wittenauer says:

    Cool house! Surprised no one has yet mentioned the possibility that the idea to build on & incorporate the natural boulders into the house, could have been inspired by FLLW having done so at Fallingwater just over a decade before.

    To all those here reminiscing about childhood adventures from the days before “suing as an income stream came about” – thanks for providing some smiles with my lunch:) I remember talking with one of my brothers a few years ago. About all the things we did as kids, that we would in no way allow our kids to do. And the fact that our parents, and others of the time, never gave it a second thought.

  8. ChrisH says:

    “Many midcentury homes were built by skilled craftsmen, using quality materials —”

    OK, if you want to believe that ….

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