Wilson Avenue Walking Tour

The Wilson Avenue Walking Tour begins at Lansing Avenue, proceeding north through Old Fig Garden. The tour focuses on Modern architecture, particularly early houses designed by Charles H. Franklin and Ernest J. Kump, Jr. Eight residences designed by the firm of Franklin & Kump between 1936 and 1942 are situated along North Wilson Avenue between Lansing and Rialto. These houses include exceptional examples of their talent and vary in character from authentic renditions in the California Adobe Ranch style to proto-typical experiments in the International style. Six Franklin & Kump homes are included in this tour.

This section of Wilson Avenue originally was part of the Forkner Giffen Fig Gardens, developed by Wylie Giffen and J. C. Forkner in 1919. Giffen and Forkner promoted these properties as a "Garden Home Acre that equals 10 city lots." The developers offered to provide:

  • Fifty Kadota Figs on each property, for which they would care for three years, free of charge.
  • Ornamental trees and shrubbery on the eight miles of avenues and care for them for three years.
  • Care for the avenues for three years free of charge. Domestic and irrigation water plants, installed.
  • Piped water to each acre free of charge.

The historic landscaping plan for the Fig Garden Tract was designed, quite early in his career, by Horace Cotton (1891-1972), then just twenty-eight years of age. A Berkeley resident at that time, he would later become recognized throughout the Bay Area as a prominent San Francisco landscape architect. A native of Africa, Cotton was the son of missionary parents. He trained at the Ripon College Preparatory School in Ripon, Wisconsin; studied horticulture for five years at Washington State University, Pullman; and completed a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1915. While at Berkeley, Cotton authored a senior thesis entitled, "The Landscape Development of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition at San Francisco and the Panama-California Exposition at San Diego." This study is preserved at the University of California Environmental Design Library at Berkeley.

By 1919, the developers and the landscape architect had planted over 20,000 ornamental trees, and estimated a final planting of 100,000 stretching from the city limits to the San Joaquin River along North Van Ness Boulevard.

Go to map with description of tour locations.

Tour guide descriptions prepared by John Edward Powell © 1994 John Edward Powell. All rights reserved.