Eddie’s Doghouse Returns to the Marin Civic Center

By Carol Acquaviva

A ‘Home’ may be the noblest of all works of art…”

— Frank Lloyd Wright

“The reasons I would like this dog house is for the winters mainly.” — Jim Berger, age 12.

The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed doghouse, donated by Jim Berger to the County of Marin. Anne T. Kent California Room Photo.

We are happy to announce that Eddie’s House — the doghouse custom designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright — is now on permanent display in the second floor cafeteria of the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael.

This doghouse happens to be the smallest structure ever designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is fitting that is located inside the largest existing building Wright ever designed.

Jim Berger grew up in San Anselmo in a home designed by Wright and built by Jim’s own father, Robert. Robert and Gloria Berger had commissioned Wright to design their Usonian-style house in 1950–51. But Jim felt that the family dog, a Labrador retriever named Eddie (full name Edward, as noted by Jim in the letter below) deserved his own special house, too.

“I will pay you for the plans and materials out of the money I get from my [paper]route.”

— Jim Berger, age 12

In 1956, then 12-year-old Jim wrote directly to Wright asking for plans for a compatible doghouse. Eventually, Wright responded with plans for the four-square-foot doghouse, which he had written on the back of an envelope and at no charge. The triangular structure was to complement the design of the Berger’s house, and included signature Wright features like the low-pitched roof with exaggerated overhang. Wright, with his attention to every detail, suggested that Jim use scrap pieces of Philippine mahogany and cedar left over from the home’s original construction.

Letter written by young Jim Berger of San Anselmo, asking Frank Lloyd Wright to design a doghouse for the Berger’s dog, Eddie. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

Jim’s father and brother, Eric, finally built the doghouse in 1963. Eddie refused to use it, however, preferring to sleep in the warmth of the main house. In 1970, Gloria Berger sent the unused doghouse to the dump.

Eddie’s doghouse, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1957, pictured here at the Berger residence in San Anselmo. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

In 2010, Jim and Eric Berger rebuilt the doghouse from the original plans, for a documentary film about Wright. It had one flaw common to many of Wright’s buildings, however: the roof leaked.

In 2016, Jim generously donated the re-built doghouse to the County. You may have seen this doghouse on display in the Civic Center Library, shortly after its donation to the County.

May, 2016 photograph of Jim Berger upon donation of the replication doghouse he built from Frank Lloyd Wright’s custom design. Anne T. Kent California Room Photo.

Now, it takes its home, beautifully displayed behind curved plexiglass: material fabricated from one of the original Marin County Civic Center skylights! Although there are no skylights in the original 1958 Civic Center model, located on the first floor of the building, Wright had intended that the mall space be open to the sky, allowing for natural light and natural air-conditioning. Within five months of Wright’s death in 1959, the design for skylights to shelter the public mall areas had been developed by William Wesley Peters and incorporated into the design of the building.

View of the skylights in the Administration Building of the Marin County Civic Center, around the time of its completion in 1962. Photograph by Janet McIlraith, Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

We hope you will stop by the cafeteria on the second floor of the Marin Civic Center, the next time you are in the neighborhood, to see this architectural rarity. Additional information and photographs relating to the doghouse can be viewed on our California Room Digital Archive.

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Anne T. Kent California Room

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