Photos: Virginia Bates Zielinski


Joseph Formica has said: Im not a copy cat. Ive always wanted to do something original.  Joseph Formica lives under the little hill near San Francisco Bay a mile from my home.  Joseph Formica was born in New York City in 1911. His father was born in Messina, Italy.  Joseph worked as a textile cutter in the garment trade in NYC. In 1940 Joseph moved to California to work in the Kaiser Shipyards. He bought La Casa Formica in the 1940s.  He has been working on it for 60 years. I first saw La Casa Formica from the back of the Pacific East Chinese Mall Parking lot. It occurred to me that it is rare for a house in El Cerrito to have roman statues on the roof. I drove around the corner. I parked in front of La Casa Formica.  Joseph Formica came out on his porch. I yelled: Your house is beautiful! Joseph Formica invited me in. He is very jolly. Every inch of his house is crammed with all kinds of mementos of his life. He has had a stroke. His memory is now around him in his creation.  Joseph started with a 3 room cottage. It is now 13 rooms. La Casa Formica has been called the Hearst Castle of El Cerrito.




 On the back of this card, it says:

Hands that help are better far than lips that pray.
Good deeds are never childless.
A noble act is never lost.
A virtuous action never dies.

The time to be happy is now.
The place to be happy is here.
The way to be happy is to make others happy.

When I asked him if he wrote this, he said,
 "No, but I agree with it one hundred percent."

When we had seen the whole house and were about to leave, 
he said brightly
"Do you want to go upstairs and see the rest?"