Developers Felix Marcuse and Julius Remmel emerged in the late 19th century as a surprising team. Before surrendering to the siren call of real estate, Marcuse was making his living selling groceries, wine, and ice at his Bay Station grocery store. Remmel was teaching music. His advertisement in an 1883 Alameda Weekly Argus newspaper informed readers that he taught “piano-forte, organ, and flute.” Interested parties could inquire at Green’s Drug Store.
Alameda historian Woody Minor tells us, “by 1888, Marcuse was selling real estate, by 1889, Remmel was building houses, by 1890, they were partners in a successful firm.” The pair defined their clientele in very broad terms. “Homes for Everybody,” their newspaper advertisements declared. “Any Kind of House in Any Location on Any Kind of terms.”
Join Alameda Post Historian Dennis Evanosky and Publisher Adam Gillitt at 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 23, for an exploration of homes along the 1200 blocks of Eagle and Pacific avenues built by the famed architectural firm Marcuse & Remmel. If you can’t make it on Saturday, plan on joining us on Sunday, October 1, at 10 a.m. Meet us at the Bay Eagle Community Garden at the intersection of Bay Street and Eagle Avenue. Dennis will point out the changes neighbors endured in the early 20th century and we’ll see what’s there today. We’ll also have a look at the transitions in transportation that were taking place not far away. Tickets are $20.
The pair did not wait for business to come to them. They got right down to brass tacks and hired architects and builders. We’ll see five of their 1891 creations on the north side of the 1200 block of Eagle Avenue, all designed by their in-house architects, Cary and Johnson, and all purchased by a one investor, Mrs. E. A. S. Page. Retired Alameda Museum Curator George Gunn tells us that Marcuse and Remmel built these homes in two of the Victorian-era styles popular at the time—Queen Anne and Colonial Revival.
The firm also purchased property on the north side of the 1200 block of Pacific Avenue. We’ll walk two blocks up Bay Street and have a look at the eight homes Marcuse and Remmel built in 1895. It appears that Marcuse and Remmel sold these homes without having to keep them in their inventory. Bookkeepers, clerks, and a master mariner were among the purchasers of the homes. A. F. St. Sure, the City Clerk, purchased one of the homes. The least expensive home cost Marcuse and Remmel $2,500 to build, the most expensive, $4,500.
Gunn tells us there is a home on the one block east that may be one of the firm’s first creations. He says that Julius Remmel built the home—something interesting for a music teacher to suddenly be doing. Gunn lists Remmel as the owner, along with “Marcuse and Lesser.” He then adds an interesting comment, describing Remmel as “builder, installment house.” Lesser was an early investor in the firm, Herman Lesser.
Read Dennis’ article There Goes the Neighborhood.
The firm built six homes on the 1300 block of Pacific—all in 1895. These homes are of interest because they show the transition from the gaudy Queen Anne style to the more sober Colonial Revival design. Minor relates that Marcuse & Remmel built “as many as 350 homes throughout Alameda.”
As the 19th century came to a close, so did Marcuse and Remmel. The firm almost survived the economic depression that struck in the 1890s, but Christmas time in 1899 brought the news that a lumber company had called in its debt. Woody Minor relates that the following February, the Argus newspaper ran this headline: “Builders Have Failed, Marcuse & Remmel File Petition in Bankruptcy.”