It’s not quite Downton Abbey, but the historic Hume Cloister is a modern-day castle straight out of fairytale.
By Ramona d'Viola
Aristocratic, storied, and more than a little Goth, the Hume Cloister at 2900 Buena Vista Way isn’t quite Downton Abbey, but Lady Mary—or any other self-respecting blue blood—would feel right at home in the castlelike fortress. It’s not like Europe and the United Kingdom are lacking for storied castles with medieval flair, but people from around the world are flocking to Berkeley with hopes of purchasing this singular and architecturally significant home.
“Since it went on the market in early April, we’ve had prospective buyers from Australia, Asia, the Continent, and England fly in to preview the home,” says Grubb Co.’s listing agent Bebe McRae. “It’s truly spectacular.”
Situated in the Berkeley hills on just under an acre of land, the eponymously named Hume Castle, or Hume Cloister, was designed by renowned architect John Hudson Thomas in 1929 for his clients, former Greek Theatre Director Samuel James Hume and his wife, Portia Bell Hume, a well-respected psychiatrist.
On their travels to Europe, the couple fell in love with a 13th-century monastery in Toulouse, France, and decided to model and build their own after returning to the United States. With its Gothic arches, vaulted ceilings, ornate metal work, and hand-carved wood, the 6,000-square-foot, five-bedroom, 7.5-bath home is every inch a castle. The only thing missing is a drawbridge and moat.
Nearly every room in the home opens to a verdant courtyard, replete with bocce court, koi pond, and a grand terrace offering breathtaking bay vistas. Bird’s-eye-views of the home showcase an interior courtyard surrounded by elaborate, vine-covered arches, and mature, 90-year-old gardens.
The interiors are unmistakably Gothic, with vaulted ceilings, exposed wooden beams, and stone walls covered in antique tapestries. The home has been an official Berkeley landmark since 1985. The cloister’s tiled roof is visible above a perimeter of stacked masonry walls, covered in vines, belying it size (and location), yet all but dwarfing the adjacent homes.
“Once you’re inside the gates, it’s very private,” says McRae. “Every time I enter the home, it still takes my breath away.”
People interested in this home not only appreciate the cloister’s historical significance, but the surrounding community it resides in. With Berkeley’s reputation as a hub of intellectualism (UC Berkeley, numerous Montessori and private schools, and the German International School of Silicon Valley, are all nearby) the castle’s appeal goes beyond its tony address.
“Prospective buyers from Europe, London and Oxford appreciate the cloister’s Old World ambience,” says McRae. “It feels familiar to them.”
For all its apparent 13th-century trappings and Gothic styling, the home is remarkably modern. Newly installed solar systems and a recently updated kitchen bring the cloister squarely into the 21st century. State-of-the-art insulation installed throughout the home takes the chill out of stone walls, and an enormous fireplace helps warm as well.
It might seem like a fairytale, but you don’t have to be a member of the royal family to own this home. More likely you’ll just need a king’s (or queen’s) ransom to become the ruler of this roost. Let the coronation begin.
The Particulars2900 Buena Vista Way, Berkeley
Broker: Bebe McRae, Grubb Co.
Bedrooms: 5 bedrooms
Square Feet: 5,679
Virtual Tour: https://vimeo.com/106508589
Reprinted from Oakland Magazine
Photo: Liz Rusby
Award winning journalist and photographer, I write about design, architecture, real estate, and all the other good stuff in life.