Fulton House: A home for generations of inhabitants, track athletes or not

Julian Kilchling/Staff

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On the corner of Channing Way and Fulton Street peeks a familiar face.

He sits behind the window of a dark green house surrounded by an equally green, spaced-out picket fence. After you swing open the unlocked metal gate and walk up the cobblestone walkway, you can make out who’s hiding.

Barack Obama.

A cardboard cutout of the 44th president is just one of the dozens of items that line the inside of Fulton House —  home to six members of Cal’s track and field team.

Almost everything on the walls belong to UC Berkeley distance runners Josh Lewis, Evan Malone-White, Leland Jones, Thomas Joyce, Robert Brandt and ex-track runner Jeff Schaefer. From a 10-foot wooden Bear cutout to a Conway Twitty album that looks eerily similar to Cal track and field director Tony Sandoval, every single trinket on that shelf has a memory.

We have a old wrestling belt that gets tossed around every now and then,” Jones said. “There’s also friends that’ve done art pieces that we have hanging out around there. And every now and then we collect something new. If it seems worthy of the shelf then we toss it up there. It’s ever growing, ever changing.”

And it doesn’t stop at the shelf. The walls are decorated with track memorabilia, with its most notable addition finding itself in the most fitting of locations — the bathroom door.

“These are the Cobb Track and Field rules,” Jones said as his housemates snicker. “I think about our friends down in Palo Alto and all the things we do right that they do wrong, and everything comes out clean.”

It’s that loose, easygoing energy that keeps everything moving along smoothly at Fulton House. And it has to be smooth when you’re spending upward of 60 hours a week with your housemates, both at home and on the track.

Chemistry is an essential part of the decision process of who ultimately is chosen to move into the infamous track house. For some current residents, the journey to becoming a tenant started as early as high school.

“A lot of guys in the Cal team went to Loyola High School, so I always heard about the Fulton House —  that was kind of a big deal,” Brandt said. “I had to live in the dorms for a year and hung out around Fulton a lot. And then after freshman year, Josh and Evan were like, ‘Hey, do you want to live in Fulton?’ I was like, ‘Yeah let’s do it.’ ”

The hospitality doesn’t just stay within closed doors because the door is always open. It is not uncommon to walk into Fulton House and see a long jumper lounging on the sofa, or an old high school friend that’s up from SoCal for a visit. And although rare, it also isn’t impossible that a Track House tenant will open the living room door and see someone he’s never seen in his life on the couch.

But Fulton House’s inviting atmosphere is just one of the qualities that make the house what it is.

“We’ve done brunch here. We’ve had a concert. It’s not a lot of work, we’re accustomed to it,” Jones said. “The living room’s good crowd once we clear out the couches. It’s a good room to dance. And the concert went off without a hitch a few weeks back.”

When the night dies down, the six go to their respective rooms — each customized to fit the personalities and needs of their tenants.

Josh and Evan’s room, for example, is kept safe with a spear made from the Maasai people of Africa, while Jeff’s room is kept safe by his pet mouse Coco. Numerous NBA jerseys drape over Evan’s bed, while a promotional poster of Tom Cruise as Maverick in “Top Gun” half-hangs by three thumbtacks between the two makeshift bedrooms in the attic.  

Artwork, however, seems to be the one thing that everyone can agree on. A communal posterboard is pinned to the kitchen wall with several sharpies, where any member of the house can add a doodle whenever they’re cooking breakfast or dinner. Art of old tenants further decorate the living room, while Jeff’s room has his own custom creations scattered throughout, most notably a not-so-accurate map he drew of the Bay Area for one of his classes.

Despite the crazy peculiarities of the Fulton House, Obama’s inviting face has always meant home.

“At the end of the day, all my teammates, I feel like I’d do anything for them,” Malone-White said. “They’re my brothers. It’s a big family that lives in this house, like, we got to look out for each other.”

Contact Chris Tril at [email protected].