Thorsen House

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William R. Thorsen House
Thorsen House.jpg
Thorsen House is located in California
Thorsen House
Location 2307 Piedmont Ave, Berkeley, California
Coordinates 37°52′8.34″N 122°15′7.09″W / 37.8689833°N 122.2519694°W / 37.8689833; -122.2519694Coordinates: 37°52′8.34″N 122°15′7.09″W / 37.8689833°N 122.2519694°W / 37.8689833; -122.2519694
Area 0.4 acres (0.16 ha)
Built 1909
Architect Greene & Greene
Architectural style Ultimate bungalow, American Arts and Crafts Movement
NRHP Reference # 78000646[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP November 20, 1978[1]
Designated BERKL December 15, 1975 [2]

The William R. Thorsen House, often referred to as the Thorsen House, was built in 1909 in Berkeley, California, by William Randolph Thorsen and Caroline Canfield Thorsen. Designed by Henry and Charles Greene, of the renowned Pasadena firm of Greene & Greene, in the American Craftsman style of the Arts and Crafts Movement. The house is considered as the last of four Greene & Greene designed ultimate bungalows and is the only one located in Northern California.[citation needed]


Detail of Leaded Art Glass window in the Thorsen House.

William Thorsen was a lumber baron from Michigan who retired to California and purchased a lot in Berkeley, California. His wife, Caroline, was the sister of Nellie Canfield Blacker of the Robert R. Blacker House. Inspired by the Greene brothers' work and also the wife and daughter of lumbermen, she desired a designer house like her sisters[citation needed].

The entry hall is paneled in Burmese teak while the living and dining rooms are paneled in Honduras Mahogany with ebony pegs covering the screws. The fireplace in the living room is surrounded with mauve Grueby tiles. The front door contains leaded art glass in the pattern of a gnarled grape vine, executed by Emil Lange, who also worked with the Greenes on the Gamble House. The Greenes were originally commissioned to make furniture for the dining room, but they were later called back to make additional pieces. In 1924, Mrs. Thorsen wrote to Charles Sumner Greene, calling him back for a renovation of the western balcony, turning it into a greenhouse.[citation needed]

Restoration and tours[edit]

The house is currently owned by the Sigma Phi Society, which is raising funds for an extensive $10 million restoration and seismic upgrade. The active members of the Sigma Phi Society are students at U.C. Berkeley and are primarily responsible for upkeep of the house under the guidance of architectural experts. Students living in the house have produced some replica furniture in the dining hall. Several contractors are working with the society to restore the house to its original state.

The Thorsen House can be toured throughout the week on an informal basis. Visitors should contact the Thorsen House via its webpage or simply knock on the door.[3]

Thorsen House entrance


  1. ^ a b Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "Berkeley Landmarks::Landmarks #1-100". Berkeley Landmarks. Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. 2010-06-06. 
  3. ^ (Sigma Phi Society) Official Thorsen House Website. access date; 1/4/2010.

External links[edit]