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Marcuse & Remmel: Up Close and Personal

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 Post - a Queen Anne style home
Recessed windows, a decorative frieze, and a bay window with stained-glass define this home as Queen Anne. The gingerbread is more sober than earlier homes in this style, however. The builder has added a design on the front-facing gable to draw the eye to the pair of windows upstairs. A trio of brackets support the hood above the windows. This hood recalls homes built in the earlier Italianate style. Photo Adam Gillitt.

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.

Alameda Post - two colonial revival style homes
Arches and columns define these homes. The jerkinhead roofs above the recessed windows work to give them their own personalities. The absence of gingerbread from these homes tells us that we have put the gaudy Queen Anne style behind us and are celebrating the arrival of a new style, Colonial Revival. Photo Adam Gillitt.

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.

Alameda Post - a Queen Anne style home
Spindles and spandrels join with dentils and oak leaves to complement the Queen Anne style home. A decorative front-facing gable with a touch of decorative stucco and a porch that recalls a tower set this colorful raised-basement cottage apart from all the others on the street. Photo Adam Gillitt.

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.”

Alameda Post - Two Queen Anne style homes by Marcuse and Remmel
These Queen Anne style cottages are two of five that Marcuse and Remmel built for Mrs. E. A. S. Page on the 1200 block of Eagle Avenue. Decorative barge boards, recessed windows, and fish-scale shingle define the style. Photo Adam Gillitt.

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.”

Dennis Evanosky is the award-winning Historian of the Alameda Post. Reach him at [email protected]. His writing is collected at

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