Berkeley’s historic Troll House is up for sale for $900,000

The cottage commonly known as Troll House and located at 2321 Valley Street is for sale and listed for $899,000. Courtesy of Red Oak Realty

Owsley “Bear” Stanley lived in a cottage in the Poet’s Corner neighborhood of Berkeley for a short time during the Summer of Love. But as the king of acid well knew, small doses pack a punch.

Owsley Stanley (left) with Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead in 1969. Credit: Rosie McGee

A sound engineer for the Grateful Dead who made his own LSD and supplied it to everyone from the Merry Pranksters to the Beatles, Stanley moved into the fairytale-like cottage of the Brothers Grimm in the spring of 1967. December 1967, narcotics agents raided Stanley’s home. drug lab in Orinda, and he spent much of the next five years in prison.

The cottage, commonly known as Troll House and located at 2321 Valley St. (north of Channing Way), is for sale and listed at $899,000. With a cobbled path leading to the front door, stained glass windows, and a cylindrical fireplace, the aesthetic remains pale in comparison to the figures that occupied the two-bed and one-bath dwelling during the counterculture movement.

“Don’t call it the troll house!” urged Rhoney Gissen Stanley, one of those cottage characters. Rhoney married Stanley “in a hippie way,” she said, and raised their son, Starfinder, while the father served time after the lab collapsed. “We didn’t call it the House of Trolls,” she insisted.

Rhoney remembers riding the back of a Harley Davidson Hell’s Angel around Poet’s Corner, going “around the cul-de-sac”. She danced with spiritual teacher Richard Alpert, better known as Ram Dass, who experimented with LSD with Stanley. “He was my dance partner,” she said. “Bear loved to dance, as did Ram Dass. He was a fabulous dancer. She said Stanley, who died in a car crash in 2011, had a contentious relationship with Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary, an LSD advocate who also worked with Ram Dass.”Owsley didn’t like drinking, so he didn’t get along with Leary,” she said. “He thought alcohol was a bad high.”

The nickname “Troll House” for Stanley’s cottage is most firmly established in countercultural lore by a 1982 Rolling Stone article written by Charles Perry, who once lodged with Stanley and watched the rise of his empire. LSD and his taste for the arts.

“The Troll House, as some called it, was a regular stopover for the transcontinental psychedelic elite,” Perry wrote. “There was usually someone trying to sleep on the pillow-strewn floor while the 24-hour party was going on. I used to drop by every week or so to see the latest wrinkle: the ether-extracted THC, the early copy of the Beatles sergeant. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or whatever.”

During an open house on May 14 (another will take place this Sunday, May 22), hundreds of potential buyers and culture vultures took selfies in the fireplace and asked questions about the square of the cottage in the counterculture movement. “It’s a huge selling point,” said Red Oak Realty agent Chimene Pollard. “About 80% of people knew the story, about 30% are fans of the architecture and the style. I felt like a docent. It’s a sweet moment to bring this to everyone.

Among the visitors was Rhoney, who wrote Owsley and Me: My LSD Family, “a love story against a backdrop of the psychedelic revolution of the 60s”. The book, published two years after Stanley’s death, was co-authored with Saturday Night Live writer Tom Davis. “Most of the time the memories are about trauma and pain and unpleasant things,” Rhoney said over the phone. “We remember the hard things rather than the easy things. I had no bad memories [of the cottage]. I only had good memories.”

Belinda Taylor, longtime editor for The Oakland Grandstand, was inspired to purchase the Troll House in 1990 by her love of the house’s history and architecture. It was while living in the chalet that she wrote Become Julia Morgana piece about the iconic Bay Area architect.

“Taylor’s most productive creative moments happened in this house,” said her daughter Jenny Taylor, who inherited the house when Belinda died in 2018. “She was so in love with this house and all of her story. Until the day she died, she loved this house more than anything she had loved before.

The Fox Bros Construction Company built the 1,238 square foot home in 1928, four years after the company was founded, according to the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. Company manager Carl Fox used irregular Dutch-sourced clinker bricks to give its storybook character.

Although the Troll House was authored by the Berkeley Historic Plaque Project, it is not an official Berkeley landmark, which means its future owners can more easily renovate the property. (The Fox Bros. have built two clusters of similar storybook cottages that are landmarks: Fox Commons is located at 1670-76 University Ave. and Fox Court is at 1472-78 University Ave. Fox Court is listed on the National Register of historical places.)

“There was usually someone trying to sleep on the pillow-strewn floor while the 24-hour party went on.” -Charles Perry

Coincidentally, it was during Stanley’s stay at the cabin that the Taylors moved from Ohio to the Bay Area during the Summer Of Love. Jenny said her mum ‘kept hearing the song The Californian dream and couldn’t help it. We protested in People’s Park. I was one of the kids who put flowers in National Guard rifles.

The Summer of Love was largely defined by counterculture music, political protests during the Vietnam War, and drug experimentation. This is how Perry described an LSD pill from Stanley in Rolling Stone:

“In about 40 minutes, I was two-dimensional, fainting into the wall of the womb of the world, which turned into the wall of an Egyptian tomb, and I was a painting of an ancient Egyptian on a tomb wall with hieroglyphics shooting out from my elbows and knees and disappearing down the wall too quickly for my two-dimensional eyes to read.

The LSD experience was enhanced by the decor of Stanley’s Cottage. He filled it, Perry writes, “with Persian rugs, hi-fi equipment, Indian fabrics, Tibetan wall hangings, pillows, hash pipes, musical instruments made by his personal luthier and of all kinds of electronic toys, such as ultraviolet lamps and stroboscopes”. lights.”

Stanley owned a pet owl after deciding it was his longtime girlfriend Melissa Cargill’s totem animal, according to Robert Greenfield’s book Bear: The Life and Times of Augustus Owsley Stanley III. The owl was named Screech, after the sound Cargill made when it first saw it. At the Troll House, the owl often escaped from its cage to the living room rafters. Perry, previously an animal keeper, was often asked to retrieve the bird. At Saturday’s open house, visitors spotted Screech’s stripes on the rafters as they climbed the stairs.

A prop owl rests in the rafters of the Troll House, a tribute to Stanley’s pet Screech. Courtesy of Micha Dunston

“It was my job to take care of the owl,” said Rhoney, who at the open house noticed the bathroom where she placed the owl with her meal, a live mouse, and then closed the door. “The owl died the day after Bear was incarcerated.”

Rhoney said the cottage also had a bunny, donated by novelist and friend Ken Kesey (the leader of the Merry Pranksters), who often dashed into Bob Thomas’ art studio. Thomas designed an iconic Grateful Dead (“Live/Dead”) album cover and the band’s skull and lightning bolt logo, inspired by a vision Stanley had while on a road trip from Oakland to Novato.

“One day in the rain I looked to the side and saw a sign along the highway that was a circle with a white bar across it, the top of the circle was orange and the bottom blue,” wrote Stanley on his website, thebear.org. “A thought occurred to me: if the orange was red and the crossbar was a slashing lightning bolt, then we would have a very nice, unique and highly identifiable mark to put on the equipment.”

After Stanley was arrested in the drug raid, Rhoney said she was the last to leave the cabin, although she does not remember how long she stayed. “In those days, so many things happened in one day,” the UC Berkeley grad said. “We all moved to a house in Piedmont.”

A three-minute virtual tour of the property (see above), written and produced by Micha Dunston and paid for by Red Oak Realty, runs through the living room where friends once lay on Stanley’s pillows. “If walls could talk,” says Taylor, as the video’s narrator, “its words would probably be a psychedelic poem.” The images continue up the stairs, through the bedrooms, into the kitchen and into the garden.

Video producer Micha Dunston emerges from a crawl space while filming The Troll House for Red Oak Realty. Courtesy of Micha Dunston

Stanley, the grandson of a Kentucky governor who dropped the first name Augustus, moved to Berkeley in 1963. He dropped out of college to join the Bay Area psychoactive drug scene. Cargill, a chemistry student from California, helped him assemble and operate the drug labs.

Stanley attracted many musicians to his LSD at Acid Test parties, some hosted by Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. During one of these Acid Tests in 1965, Stanley donated $10,000 worth of electronic sound equipment to The Grateful Dead. LSD was made illegal during Owsley’s stay at the cabin, leading to the fateful raid on his Orinda lab.

After Stanley’s release from prison in the early 1970s, he would help perfect the Dead’s Wall of Sound, the largest concert sound system in existence at the time. According to a Dead Heads newsletter, the system used 5-inch, 12-inch and 15-inch speaker clusters and ran on 26,400 watts of continuous power to project acceptable outdoor quarter-mile and clear sound. . up to 500 or 600 feet.

“We had a fabulous sound system,” Rhoney recalls of the chalet. “The first speakers of the Grateful Dead came out of this house.”

Rhoney dreams of one day erecting the house as a historical monument.

“Wouldn’t that be cool?” ” she thinks. “If I could create a trust. … I do not know. I don’t know how I will buy it. But is it going to cost a million dollars?

More 1960s nostalgia, in the form of the Bay Area real estate market.

The Troll House, located at 2321 Valley St. in Berkeley, is a two-bed, one-bath cottage listed at $899,000. You can see the list and details of this Sunday’s open house on the Red Oak Realty website.


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Raymond I. Langston