In this deep dive into the Chipman family and 1290 Weber Street, we’ve learned how the home’s first owner in 1893 was William F. Chipman, son of William W. Chipman, co-founder of the city of Alameda. Chipman and his first wife Sophie lived here until William’s wandering lips sank the marriage in 1906, just weeks before the great San Francisco earthquake (see Part 1).
Hope over experience
We also saw William take on Oscar Wilde’s quote about second marriage being “…the triumph of hope over experience” when he married Bernice Harrell in 1911, a woman 25 years his junior (see Part 2). That marriage was a success, though, and they were together until 1938 when William died at Stanford Hospital after a long illness. The couple, along with their three children, had been living in San Francisco.
A rebellion in the ranks
Some of the stories unearthed about William F. Chipman paint a portrait of a man who was driven, successful, and maybe not always that easy to get along with. When he was a captain in the California State Militia, a story appeared in the San Francisco Call in 1896 about a rebellion in the ranks of company G. The majority of the company had complained that their commander (Chipman) was “incompetent and refused to be appeased.” All attempts at arbitration had failed, and ultimately all of the men, described as “malcontents,” were assigned to a different company. Afterwards, Chipman abruptly tendered his resignation.
Chipman’s granddaughter starts a fight
In 1961, Alameda was rocked by what the newspapers called a “Great Land Battle” when Carol Heche, granddaughter of William W. Chipman, made a bold claim to the filled tidelands at South Shore and Alameda Point (see Part 3). Her claim was based on the 1851 document signed by her grandfather and by Spanish land grant owner Antonio Maria Peralta. How that case worked out was an interesting side-story to this look into the Chipman family and 1290 Weber Street.
A new generation takes over
In 1970, Terry and Lynn Hodges were looking for a home. Finding San Francisco too expensive, they happened upon Alameda one day and discovered the Gold Coast neighborhood. 1290 Weber Street was up for sale, and they jumped on the opportunity to own a piece of history. “It was in pretty rough condition,” Lynn said, recounting the extensive renovations ahead. They started with the kitchen, which meant Lynn’s wife Terry had to cook on a hot plate and do dishes in the bathroom sink during renovations. For the first two weeks there was no heat in the house, and the water heater had broken too. That winter, it was 32 degrees inside the house at times.
One room at a time
The Hodges took on their project the way anyone would approach such a large undertaking: one step at a time and one room at a time. They took 13 painted doors and miles of molding to a woodworker on Oak Street for $250 worth of stripping and refinishing work. Lynn refinished the old pocket doors, which had been left moldering inside the walls for years. Wallpaper had been stripped, parts of a ceiling had collapsed, a plaster medallion had shattered on the floor, and the roof leaked. Lynn gathered the shards of the broken medallion, made a mold, and cast a new one. No one ever said restoring a Victorian-era house was easy, and that certainly held true for the Hodges.
Balancing work and more work
Terry was working as a teacher at Immaculate Conception Academy in San Francisco, while Lynn was vice president and chief financial officer at a construction supply company. In their “free time,” they were raising a son and daughter and restoring 1290 Weber Street. Needless to say, it was a busy time, but the result turned out beautifully—a fine family, and an 1893 historic home brought back to its original 19th century grandeur.
Doors the Chipmans once walked through
In 2002, in preparation for being part of the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society home tour, the Hodges were working on restoring the front double-doors and transom window. These doors, works of 19th century art, feature decorative woodwork, moldings, and exquisite leaded glass. The stained glass transom window proclaiming their house number was designed and created by Tom Rissacher, a Sebastopol artist who also created two decorative windows in the front bay.
The Hodges have in their possession a rare piece of history, in the form of the original signed contract for their house. Dated March 21, 1893, the document says the house would cost $2,700 to complete, with all work to be done by builder Peter Christiansen to the satisfaction of architect William Leviston. The paperwork specifies the location as being “on Weber Street between Central Avenue and San Francisco Bay” and is bound in a canvas portfolio. These treasured ephemera were on display during the 2002 home tour.
Still standing into its third century
And so the old house that has seen so much life over the generations moves forward into its third century, still standing tall and proud on the street named after Caroline Chipman’s favorite composer, Carl Maria von Weber. Thank you to the Hodges and all of those who have lived in and cared for this Alameda Treasure over the years. You have preserved a wonderful piece of history, one that still serves its original purpose as a comfortable and beautiful home for people to live in, a role it will hopefully one day carry into a fourth century.
Source information on Terry and Lynn Hodges and their restoration of 1290 Weber Street is from the 2002 home tour booklet by the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society.
Contributing writer Steve Gorman has been a resident of Alameda since 2000, when he fell in love with the history and architecture of this unique town. Contact him via [email protected]. His writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Steve-Gorman.