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Thorsen House

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Title: Thorsen House  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Greene and Greene, History of Alameda County, California, Fraternity and sorority houses, Arts and Crafts movement, National Register of Historic Places listings in Alameda County, California
Collection: American Craftsman Architecture in California, Arts and Crafts Architecture in California, Buildings and Structures in Berkeley, California, Bungalow Architecture in California, Fraternity and Sorority Houses, Historic House Museums in California, History of Alameda County, California, Houses Completed in 1909, Houses in Alameda County, California, Houses in California, Houses on the National Register of Historic Places in California, Museums in Berkeley, California, National Register of Historic Places in Alameda County, California, Sigma Phi
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Thorsen House

William R. Thorsen House
Thorsen House is located in California
Thorsen House
Location 2307 Piedmont Ave, Berkeley, California
Area 0.4 acres (0.16 ha)
Built 1909
Architect Greene & Greene
Architectural style Ultimate bungalow, American Arts and Crafts Movement
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 78000646[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP November 20, 1978
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.


  • History 1
  • Restoration and tours 2
  • Notes 3
  • External links 4


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.

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.

Restoration and tours

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. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ (Sigma Phi Society) Official Thorsen House Website. access date; 1/4/2010.

External links

  • (Sigma Phi Society - Tours)Official Thorsen House Website
  • Greene and Greene Virtual Archives Website
  • Official Thorsen House Restoration Campaign Website
  • Berkeley Landmarks Website
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