Last of the ‘Ultimate Bungalows’: the William R. Thorsen House of Greene & Greene

A masterpiece of the American Arts and Crafts movement, the William R. Thorsen house in Berkeley, California (1909), was the last of the masterfully crafted ‘ultimate bungalows’ designed and furnished by renowned architects Charles and Henry Greene. Adjacent to the University of California campus, the Thorsen house has served since 1943 as the home of the Sigma Phi fraternity, whose members have earned international recognition as careful stewards of the house. In spite of use by students, the Thorsen house remains among the most original, intact examples of the Greenes’ work. Indeed, the unique responsibility entrusted to the young residents has created generations of preservation-minded citizens. A present hazard of the Thorsen house includes multi-story brick chimneys in a regional fault zone that endangers lives and promises to cause irreparable damage to this landmark structure. Recent earthquakes on the Hayward fault have heightened awareness of this. Friends of the Thorsen House has been formed to support preservation and seismic rehabilitation, and we seek your support so that this Greene & Greene masterwork may inspire future generations through its extraordinary design and craftsmanship.

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