Thorsen House

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William R. Thorsen House
Thorsen House.jpg
Thorsen House is located in Oakland, California
Thorsen House
Thorsen House is located in California
Thorsen House
Thorsen House is located in the United States
Thorsen House
Location2307 Piedmont Ave, Berkeley, California
Coordinates37°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
Area0.4 acres (0.16 ha)
ArchitectGreene & Greene[2]
Architectural styleUltimate bungalow, American Arts and Crafts Movement
NRHP reference #78000646[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPNovember 20, 1978[1]
Designated BERKLDecember 15, 1975 [3]

The William R. Thorsen House, often referred to as the Thorsen House, was built in 1909 in Berkeley, California for William Randolph Thorsen (1860- 1942) and his wife Caroline Canfield Thorsen (1858-1942). 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 the last of four Greene & Greene designed ultimate bungalows and is the only one located in Northern California.[4][5]


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 younger sister of Nellie Canfield Blacker, owner of the Robert R. Blacker House in Pasadena, California. 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 were later called back to make additional pieces.[6]

Restoration and tours[edit]

The Thorson estate was sold to the California chapter of Sigma Phi Society for $29,000 in 1942.[7] Sigma Phi Society is currently 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.[8] The Thorsen House can be toured throughout the week on an informal basis; visitors can contact the Thorsen House via its webpage or simply knock on the door.[9]

Thorsen House entrance


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ "The Thorsen House". California Sigma Phi Society. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  3. ^ "Berkeley Landmarks::Landmarks #1-100". Berkeley Landmarks. Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. 2010-06-06.
  4. ^ "William Randolph Thorsen". California Death Index, 1940-1997. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  5. ^ "Caroline Canfield Thorsen". California Death Index, 1940-1997. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  6. ^ "William R. Thorsen House". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  7. ^ Sam Whiting (April 29, 2014). "Thorsen House restoration in Berkeley". Hearst Communications, Inc. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  8. ^ "Thorsen, William Randolph, House, Berkeley, CA". Pacific Coast Architecture Database. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  9. ^ Official Thorsen House Website (Sigma Phi Society) access date: 1/4/2010

Related reading[edit]

  • Bosley, Edward R.; Robert Judson Clark; Randell L. Makinson (1996) Last of the Ultimate Bungalows. The William R. Thorsen House of Greene and Greene (University of California)
  • Makinson, Randall (2001) Greene & Greene: Architecture as a Fine Art (Gibbs Smith) ISBN 978-1586851057
  • Johnson, Robert; Janet Byron (2015) Berkeley Walks: Revealing Rambles through America's Most Intriguing City (Roaring Forties Press) ISBN 9781938901515

External links[edit]