Berkeley woman saves historic Glen Ellen homes
Glen Ellen’s historic Last House, the former home of writer M.F.K. Fisher, is still standing. So is the residence of David Pleydell-Bouverie, next door on the Bouverie Preserve in Audubon Canyon Ranch.
All the credit for saving Last House goes to the heroic action of the Audubon Canyon Ranch’s fire ecologist, Sasha Berleman, said Wendy Coy, communications manager for the organization.
When one of Sonoma County’s many fires began Monday, Berleman, who lives in Berkeley, “grabbed her gear and headed straight for Bouverie,” Coy said.
When she arrived, nearly all the buildings in the Bouverie Preserve were on fire. Along with the assistance of neighbors, a bucket brigade was formed using water from the swimming pool next to David Pleydell-Bouverie’s house in order to separate burning structures from the two stucco houses. Adjacent staff offices, housing and buildings all burned to the ground, but the two homes were saved. ”It’s just devastating,” Coy said. After the fire seemed somewhat under control, Berleman kept watch all Monday night, camping on the gravel driveway, putting out hot spots, of which there were many.
Last House was built for Fisher by Pleydell-Bouverie in 1971. A few years later, Pleydell-Bouverie donated his 535 acres of wildflowers, waterfalls and wildlife to the nonprofit Audubon Canyon Ranch.
The famous food writer’s personal possessions recently returned as part of a restoration project, were all saved. That includes the writer’s signature rattan Peacock chair, diningroom table, pottery, books, photographs, awards, artwork and a wellused Coronamatic typewriter.
A letter from George Washington is one of many treasures in PleydellBouverie’s house that thankfully was preserved.
Coy is still awaiting word on which wildlife survived on the 535-acre property. She said there would have been even more devastation if the Bouverie Preserve had not done a controlled burn in May.