Have cottage, will travel
With its relocation and facelift now complete, an architecturally significant 'granny flat' becomes home to the Staff Ombuds Office

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs



Fox Cottage is now home to the Staff Ombuds Office,which includes, left to right, Director Anita Madrid, Ombudsperson Margo Wesley and Assistant Ombudsperson Michele Bernal.
Peg Skorpinski photo

29 August 2001 | No one said moving an 8-ton, 70-year-old historical landmark would be easy. But seven months after seismic upgrades, a delicate two-block journey and extensive preservation work, Fox Cottage is open for business.

The quaint, fairy tale-style building, with its small-paned windows, “clinker” bricks, cylindrical chimney and slate roof, was moved last January to make room for construction of new dining and housing units.

The structure — originally used as an in-law cottage — looks right at home in its new Bowditch Street location. But getting it there was a tricky feat of engineering, says Leslie Hoffelt of Capital Projects.

Before the move could even begin, she says, the structure — designed and built in 1930 by Berkeley alumnus Carl Fox — needed seismic upgrading to prevent it from collapsing.

“It was made of unreinforced brick and rated poor seismically,” said Hoffelt. “To strengthen it, dowels were drilled into the walls and reinforced with concrete on the interior wall surfaces.”

Next, massive steel beams were poked through openings left after the removal of the old, water-damaged windows.

Using these beams, the building was jacked up four feet in the air, then lowered back down onto three giant dollies. A semi-truck slowly towed the structure around the corner, from Channing Way to Bowditch Street.

As the building inched towards its destination, hordes of curious onlookers, and a few concerned preservationists, lined the streets to watch.

“We had several hundred spectators throughout the day,” recalled Hoffelt. “This added to the complexity of the job because of safety concerns.”

When the four-hour trip was over, cranes, steel cables and pulleys were used to carefully place the cottage on its new foundation. And with only three feet of clearance through the front side of the lot and 15 feet in the back, there was little room for error, said Hoffelt.

“It was nerve-wracking to watch and much more complicated than I had originally thought,” Carrie Olson, city of Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission member, said. “But I think the university did a good job, not only with moving the structure, but finding a good location, alongside other vintage Southside houses.”

While the move was completed in one day, it took several months to renovate the cottage. The work included replacing the roof and windows, removing partitions, re-exposing trusses and joists and modifying the bathroom to make it handicap accessible.

Fox Cottage’s three new tenants — Staff Ombuds Office director Anita Madrid, Ombudsperson Margo Wesley and Assistant Ombudsperson Michele Bernal — moved in just a few weeks ago and have already fallen in love with their new home.

“This location is perfect for our tiny office,” said Bernal. “The cozy, private atmosphere seems to have a calming effect on our clients, allowing them to open up and speak more candidly about their issues.”

About the Ombuds office
From its new digs in Fox Cottage, the Staff Ombuds Office continues its efforts to help employees work through conflicts in the workplace. Its confidential and “off-the-record” services are available to all staff, either individually or in groups, and to those who supervise or manage staff.

“The Ombuds Office provides a sounding board,” said Ombudsperson Margo Wesley. “We provide a safe place for people to say what’s on their mind and explore options.”
The office offers a number of services, including:

• Individual or group counseling, including assessments, coaching and role playing.
• Mediation to help parties in conflict reach a resolution.
• When appropriate, referrals to other campus groups, such as CARE Services, Human Resources or the Title IX Office.
• A lending library, stocked with books on conflict resolution, civility, organizational behavior and communication.
• Classes, workshops and customized trainings on conflict resolution and other topics.

The configuration of space at Fox Cottage will allow The Ombuds Office to hold some workshops and brown-bag discussions on site, says Director Anita Madrid.

For information on Staff Ombuds Office classes and services, see or call 642-7823.


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