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Abandoned UC presidential mansion may be renovated after years of neglect

Abandoned UC presidential mansion may be renovated after years of neglect
The Daily Californian
15 August 2013
Ph: J. Hannah Lee

Endowed to the University of California by benefactors Anson and Anita Blake in 1957, the Blake House estate has housed five UC presidents but has fallen into disrepair over the years and is now unlivable. Now, according to UC spokesperson Steve Montiel, the Office of the President is currently weighing all options for the property, but ultimately, the decision of how to use the Blake House comes down to the president and the UC Board of Regents.

If a full multimillion-dollar renovation does happen, Montiel estimates it would take a year or two to completely renovate the house after the president and regents approve any work. “We are right now in the process of getting some plans to repair the minor structural damage,” Montiel said. “It turns out the structural work is fairly small. That will bring the structure from what is considered a poor standard to a good standard."

There is one part of the Blake House, however, that is still in use and thriving: its garden.

The College of Environmental Design now uses the Blake Garden for teaching and research, and it is responsible for the garden’s upkeep. With more than 1,200 different plant species, the garden is a valuable resource for students as an outdoor laboratory for plant identification, and graduations from the college are sometimes held there.

In the past, environmental design students have worked on semester-long assignments to design and build installations, many of which can still be seen across the estate. Projects include all of the benches, stream restorationg, and a handmade bamboo aqueduct that carries natural spring water.

The groups that visit the garden are not limited to students from UC Berkeley. The estate is a popular spot for visiting scholars, elementary school children and Kensington community members.

“It’s not just about the campus,” said Linda Jewell, a professor of landscape architecture and urban design at the college. “It’s as much for the community as it is for the campus. Our department uses it because it’s valuable.”