04 September 2017

The Berkeley Shellmound Fall 2017 lecture series


Ohlone Indians in a Tule Boat on San Francisco Bay, by Louis Choris, 1816, published 1822

The Hillside Club
2286 Cedar Street
Berkeley, CA 94709
All lectures begin at 7:00 pm

Tickets $15; $40 for the series
Order tickets here.

There is evidence of human habitation in Berkeley as long as 5,700 years ago. The Berkeley area’s first residents were Ohlone Lisjan native people; their descendants still live in this area. The West Berkeley Shellmound—a City of Berkeley Landmark—is the oldest known of hundreds of shellmound sites around San Francisco Bay. For nearly six thousand years, people have chosen Berkeley as a place to live.

In the late 19th- and early 20th centuries, the above-ground portions of the Berkeley Shellmound were demolished, and streets and developments were laid over a good part of the site. However, much history and culture remains underground; previously unknown native burials were discovered as recently as 2016 along Fourth Street. One square block remains undeveloped, bounded by Fourth Street, Hearst Avenue, University Avenue, and the railroad tracks. A major commercial/housing/parking garage project is currently proposed for that block, and going through the City’s review processes.

Thursday, 26 October 2017, 7:00 pm
Archaeology and Mapping the Shellmounds

Brian F. Byrd, Ph.D., a prehistorian and archaeologist specializing in the Bay Area shellmounds, and R. Scott Byram, P.h.D., an archaeologist and the author of Triangulating Archaeological Landscapes, will talk about the importance of the shellmounds in the mapmaking efforts of the U.S. Coast Survey more than a century-and-a-half ago.

Thursday, 2 November 2017, 7:00 pm
The Native Perspective

Ohlone leaders Corrina Gould, Ruth Orta, and Vincent Medina will present a panel discussion on the ancient ancestral West Berkeley Shellmound site.

Thursday, 26 October 2017, 7:00 pm
Archaeology and the Mounds' Importance in Early Mapping

Brian F. Byrd, Ph.D., a prehistorian and archaeologist specializing in the Bay Area shellmounds, and R. Scott Byram, P.h.D., an archaeologist and the author of Triangulating Archaeological Landscapes, will talk about the importance of the shellmounds in the mapmaking efforts of the U.S. Coast Survey more than a century-and-a-half ago. John Blanchard, chief mapmaker for the San Francisco Chronicle, will discuss modern mapmaking techniques using the latest in mapmaking programs, and how he would make a map of the shellmounds for the newspaper. Robin Grossinger of the San Francisco Estuary Institute will be commentator.


Photo courtesy of the Nels Nelson Archive, American Museum of Natural History

The series is sponsored by the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, Indian People Organizing for Change, California Institute for Community, Art and Nature & Earth Island Institute’s Sacred Land Film Project.

Come see us at the Solano Strol

The BAHA booth will be located at 1741 Solano Avenue, on the north side of the street, near Ensenada Avenue.

08 July 2017

Charles H. Spear House designated a landmark


Charles H. Spear House (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2017)

The Charles H. Spear House is one of the most notable and elegant Colonial Revival residences in Berkeley. Constructed in 1904, the building is remarkably intact, retaining a very high degree of its historic fabric and detail. Among the building’s significant features are a symmetrical façade; a cornice decorated with molded corbels and egg-and-dart molding; a central dormer with arched window; a pair of oval portholes set in wide, molded casings and ornamented with medallions and elaborate scrollwork; a central portico with a circular canopy decorated with dentils and egg-and-dart molding, supported by two round columns with Ionic capitals and flanked by two pilasters, also with Ionic capitals; and two large triple-window bays set in wide, molded casings and surmounted by arch pediments ornamented with dentils and scrollwork.

Charles Henry Spear (1862–1928) was a well-known political figure in the State of California. He began his political career in 1884 as Assistant Postmaster of West Berkeley, rising to Postmaster in 1885. He served as Berkeley’s City Clerk from 1886 to 1893 and was elected Alameda County Recorder in 1894. In 1900, he was appointed Port Warden in San Francisco. In 1902, Spear acted as chairman of the state’s Republican Campaign Committee, and in 1903, Governor George C. Pardee made him president of the State Board of Harbor Commissioners. His term coincided with the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, and Spear received high praise from Commander Charles J. Badger, U.S. Navy, for restoring “normal business conditions in the shipping district in the shortest possible time.”

In 1923, Spear was reappointed president of the State Board of Harbor Commissioners, this time by Governor Friend W. Richardson. Resigning from that position in 1925, Spear became general manager of Los Angeles Harbor, remaining in that office until 1927, when ill health forced him to retire and return to Berkeley, where he passed away the following year.

The architect of the Spear House has not been identified, but the builder was well known in both building and political circles. As a contractor, Robert Greig (1861–1931) was Berkeley’s premier practitioner, constructing some of the city’s most prominent buildings, including City Hall (1908); the first public library (1904, demolished); Berkeley High School’s main building (1901, demolished); the Masonic Temple (2105 Bancroft Way, 1905); and the Barker Block (2486 Shattuck Avenue, 1905).

Like Charles Spear, Robert Greig was prominent in the Republican Party. In 1915, he was appointed as Berkeley’s Building Inspector, and in 1924 he became Director of Housing for the State of California. “He was a recognized authority on building codes, and many of his suggestions were incorporated in the State Building Law and in housing regulations,” stated his obituary.

When the Charles H. Spear House was built, the neighborhood north of Berkeley Way was purely residential, composed of Victorians and Colonial Revival houses. The area’s character persisted largely unaltered until the 1950s, when large, boxy apartment buildings began to replace many historic houses.

In the 1960s, BART acquired and removed the houses along five and a half blocks on the north side of Hearst Avenue between Milvia Street and Sacramento Street. Concurrently, commercial establishments began replacing some of the houses along Grove Street. These days, the east side of the 1800 block and the west side of the 1900 block of M.L. King, Jr. Way are composed entirely of commercial buildings, making the Spear House a rare and noteworthy reminder of the street as it used to be a century ago.

The landmark application is accessible online.

26 June 2017

The real story behind the “Morning Glory House”


Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2007

The Stick Style house at 2009 Berkeley Way was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark in 1979 under the name Joseph Clapp Cottage, although Clapp neither built it nor owned it, and had never lived in it.

What is the real story behind this house? Read it here.

09 June 2017

2017 House Tour photo gallery


Photo: Anthony Bruce

See photos shot on the day of the John Hudson Thomas & Friends in Claremont Park House Tour.

27 May 2017

An Enchanted Evening to benefit Good Shepherd Church

Sunday, 25 June 2017
5:00 pm
Selden Williams House (Julia Morgan, 1922–28)
2821 Claremont Blvd, Berkeley
Advance tickets: $30 via Eventbrite
At the door: $40

The Good Shepherd Church invites you to enjoy the wonders of the glorious Selden Williams mansion and a wonderful concert by the critically acclaimed soprano Shauna Fallihee and pianist Randall Benway.

The evening’s enchantments include:

  • Mozart arias
  • Appetizers and wine
  • A silent auction

All funds raised will support the Good Shepherd Pan de Cielo feeding ministries: the Monday sandwich ministry, the Friday hot lunches and food pantry, and more!

For further information, please see the Good Shepherd website.

Visit us at the Bay Area Book Festival

Photo: Steven Finacom

Saturday & Sunday
3 & 4 June 2017
Berkeley Civic Center

Look for the joint BAHA/Berkeley Historical Society booth on Allston Way, in front of the Berkeley Community Theatre and across from Civic Center Park.

We will offer dozens of titles of history and fiction about Berkeley, including many hard-to-find or out-of-print BAHA and BHS publications.

Authors will be on hand to sign their books.

27 March 2017

Richard Schwartz launches new book with multiple events


Builders Booksource presents

A walking tour of the Peralta Park neighborhood

Led by Richard Schwartz

Saturday, 29 April 2017
1:00 pm
1316 Albina Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94706

Tickets: $20, or $10 with book purchase
Reservations: (510) 845-6874

Historian Richard Schwartz is marking the release of his latest book, The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty: The Extraordinary Rise and Fall of Actor M.B. Curtis (RSB Books, April 2017), with a walking tour of Peralta Park, the North Berkeley subdivision developed by Maurice B. Curtis, the actor who made his name as “Sam’l of Posen” and who built the fabled Peralta Park Hotel.

The author’s additional book-launch events in Berkeley:

Saturday, 8 April 2017
Public Book Launch Party
Program & Book Signing
5:00 pm–7:00 pm
Berkeley Public Library/North Branch
1170 The Alameda
Berkeley, CA 94707

Wednesday, 12 April 2017
Talk & Book Signing
7:30 pm
Pegasus Books
1855 Solano Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94707

Thursday, 18 May 2017
Author’s Night
7:00 pm
Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association
Thousand Oaks Baptist Church
1821 Catalina Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94707

Saturday, 22 July 2017
Program & Book Signing
1:00 pm
Berkeley Central Public Library
2090 Kittredge Street (at Shattuck)
Berkeley, CA 94704

04 March 2017

BAHA 2017 Spring House Tour

Announcing our 42nd Spring House Tour and
Garden Reception

Sunday, May 7, 2017
1:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Tour map, illustrated guidebook & refreshments provided
General $45; BAHA members $35

This year’s tour focuses on Claremont Park, the elegant, leafy neighborhood developed by Duncan McDuffie and laid out to conform to the existing topography, celebrating the creeks, oaks, and gentle slopes to create a setting for well-designed residences.

Open on the tour will be several exceptional houses designed by John Hudson Thomas between 1911 and 1914—the architect’s most daring and creative period. Also featured will be neighboring houses designed by top Bay Area architects, including Bernard Maybeck, Julia Morgan, Albert Farr, Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr., and Harris C. Allen.

Tour goers will also have the opportunity to visit several glorious creekside gardens.

For complete information and tickets, see the House Tour page.

02 February 2017

Captain Slater House designated a landmark


Captain Slater House (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2016)

The Captain John Slater House at 1335 Shattuck Avenue was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark on 2 February 2017. The Slater House is one of the finest 19th-century residential buildings surviving in Berkeley. It is the only building in Berkeley known to have been designed by the distinguished architect Thomas J. Welsh (1845–1918), who designed many Catholic churches and public school buildings in San Francisco.

Constructed in 1894, the Captain Slater House appears to be the earliest Colonial Revival–style building in Berkeley. The house retains its symmetrical façade with practically all its original features intact, including a pediment-gabled dormer; wide entablatures decorated with dentils; Tuscan-order columns, fluted pilasters, and classic double-urn balustrades; bay windows with diamond panes; a wood-paneled entrance niche; beveled glass in the front doors and the transom; and the original street retaining-wall and twin curved stairways.

The first owner, Captain John Slater (1849–1908), was a well-known master mariner in the employ of shipping tycoons William E. Mighell and Charles C. Boudrow, who made their homes a few blocks away on Oxford Street. In the mid-1890s, Captain Slater set several speed records in the broad-beam bark Wilna. Later he commanded the clipper ship Charmer on the San Francisco-Honolulu route and also made longer trips to Australia and South Africa.

Captain Slater’s youngest son, Colby E. “Babe” Slater (1896–1965), who was born in this house, was the first University of California, Davis alumnus to win an Olympic gold medal. He earned two gold medals as a member of the 1920 and 1924 U.S. Olympic Rugby teams and was captain of the 1924 team. “Babe” was the earliest athlete to be inducted into the Cal Aggie Hall of Fame. In 2012, he was inducted into the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame and the World Rugby Hall of Fame. The annual Colby E. “Babe” Slater Memorial Athletic Award and the “Babe” Slater Perpetual Athletic Trophy are given each spring to the U.C. Davis student selected as Athlete of the Year. On 30 July 2016, the U.C. Davis Library held a special celebration of “Babe” Slater’s legacy, marking the first time since 1924 that rugby was played in the Olympic Games.

In the early 1920s, the Captain Slater House became the home of former Berkeley mayor Samuel C. Irving (1858–1930), who lived here until his death.

When it was built, the Captain Slater House joined the earlier Captain Seabury House (1322 Shattuck Avenue, demolished) and the Captain Maury House (1317 Shattuck Avenue, greatly altered) to form a close-knit enclave of famous sea captains’ residences. The Captain Slater House is now the only historic sea captain’s house surviving on this block with its intact original façade, as well as the only recognizable 19th-century house on the block.

The Stained Glass Art of Bruce Porter

Artistic License presents

The Stained Glass Art of Bruce Porter

An illustrated lecture by Theodore Ellison

Wednesday, 1 March 2017
7:00 pm
Hillside Club
2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley

Suggested donation $10 general; $5 Hillside Club members

Bruce Porter (1865–1953) is perhaps best known for the stained-glass windows at the Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco and the formal gardens he designed at Filoli. A true Renaissance man, Porter was at the center of Bay Area cultural life at the turn of the 20th century. This talk, by Oakland based glass artist Theodore Ellison, will cover the artistry and timeline of Bruce Porter’s first career as a stained-glass artist. Found in churches, private homes, and exclusive clubs around California, this is a comprehensive look at Porter’s glasswork and will present the context and artistic influences that inspired his unique approach to the craft.

Artistic License is a group of skilled professional artisans dedicated to historic architectural restoration and newly interpreted period design. Working in the tradition of historic artisan guilds, Artistic License members provide a wide range of services and products from architectural design and building restoration to period furnishings and fine finishes.

Susan Cerny Memorial Issue



The Winter 2017 BAHA Newsletter is a memorial issue for our recently departed board member and leading preservationist Susan Cerny. Visit our website to access the Newsletter’s online edition

27 January 2017

Winter 2017 Lecture Series

All lectures will take place at the Hillside Club,
2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley.

Tickets: $15 per lecture, $40 for the series
Purchase tickets by mail or online



Telegraph Avenue north of Bancroft Way, 1938

Telegraph Avenue: Past, Present, and Is There a Future?

Thursday, 16 February 2017
7:30 pm

Speaker: Tom Dalzell

Telegraph Avenue is Berkeley’s most storied street, an iconic district that goes back to the dedication of the Berkeley campus in the 1860s and that gained international attention in the 1960s. The businesses, buildings, people, and events associated with Telegraph Avenue are a fundamental part of Berkeley history. But much of that legacy is threatened and endangered.

Join us for an illustrated talk looking back at the rich, and quirky, history of Telegraph Avenue, from the “lost block” that once extended north from Bancroft Way to Sather Gate and housed a horde of collegiate businesses to “The Village” at Blake and Telegraph, a “Hippie modern” restaurant and shop complex that still survives, albeit precariously.

Your energetic guide will be Tom Dalzell, creator of the popular Quirky Berkeley website, author, labor lawyer, and internationally known expert on slang. BAHA President Steven Finacom will also provide a brief perspective on the preservation and development challenges facing Telegraph Avenue in the present.

Copies of Dalzell’s most recent book, Quirky Berkeley, will be available for purchase and signing after the talk.



Wedding chapel for the Claremont Hotel by Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW Archive)

Frank Lloyd Wright in the Bay Area

Thursday, 9 March 2017
7:30 pm

Speaker: Paul V. Turner

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) often spent time in San Francisco, which he called “the most charming city in America.” Between about 1900 and 1959, Wright designed roughly 30 projects in the Bay Area, a third of which were built. They included houses, a gift shop, a civic center, a skyscraper, a church, an industrial building, a mortuary, a bridge across the San Francisco Bay, and a wedding chapel for the Claremont Hotel. The unbuilt structures are among Wright’s most innovative, and the diverse reasons for their failure counter long-held stereotypes about the architect.

Paul V. Turner is Wattis Professor of Art, Emeritus, at Stanford University, and author of Frank Lloyd Wright and San Francisco (Yale University Press, 2016). Turner trained as an architect and art historian, and has written extensively on architecture, including the book Campus, an American Planning Tradition (M.I.T. Press, 1984).

Copies of Frank Lloyd Wright and San Francisco will be available for purchase and signing after the talk.



An early, unrealized design for the El Cerrito BART station by Vernon DeMars (Vernon DeMars Collection, U.C. Berkeley Environmental Design Archives)

When Architects and Artists Had Big Dreams for BART

Thursday, 30 March 2017
7:30 pm

Speaker: Dave Weinstein

Back in the mid-1960s, planners envisioned a rapid transit system that would link the entire Bay Area, with stations in Napa, Fairfield, Santa Rosa, Brentwood, Livermore, Campbell, San Jose, and Los Altos, among other spots. Every station was to have art. BART’s architects hoped that the new system would not only provide transportation but aid in “controlling and directing future urban growth and development, and [...] upgrading economically and physically depressed and stagnant sections of the urban complex.”

What happened to BART’s art and architecture, and to those dreams?

Dave Weinstein has researched and written extensively about Bay Area architecture, design and history, including the books Signature Architects of the Bay Area, It Came From Berkeley: How Berkeley Changed the World, and the text for Berkeley Rocks: Building With Nature. He is a leader in historic preservation and history projects in El Cerrito.

18 January 2017

Allen Stross passes away


Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2008

We are saddened to learn that Allen Stross, one of Berkeley’s iconic residents and a longtime friend of BAHA and the Berkeley Historical Society, passed away this afternoon. He was 93 years old.

For many years, Allen was a regular fixture at BAHA’s house tours, and until a decade ago he acted as our tour photographer.

According to an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle three years ago, “Allen Stross of Berkeley started working at age 13. He’s been a delivery boy, a sign painter, a Navy sailor and a photographer for the Detroit Free Press. Now, at age 90, he and his wife live on about $21,000 a year. After they pay for rent and medications, they're left with just $416 a month.”

While living in Detroit in the 1960s and ’70s, Allen taught photography courses and contributed photographs to the Historic American Buildings Survey, housed in the Library of Congress.

The photo above shows Allen on a BHS walking tour of the McGee-Spaulding-Hardy District.

13 January 2017

Building Berkeley: a lecture at the Berkeley City Club

The Berkeley City Club Presents

Building Berkeley: Bernard Maybeck, John Galen Howard, Julia Morgan, and the U.C. Berkeley Campus.

An illustrated lecture by Prof. Margaretta Lovell

Tuesday, 7 February 2017
6 pm
Berkeley City Club
2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley

Members $5; general $10; tickets via Eventbrite

Margaretta Lovell, Professor of American Art and Architecture at U.C. Berkeley, will discuss the history of the major Berkeley campus buildings. Among other topics, her lecture will cover the origins of college campuses; how the Berkeley campus location was determined; the Organic Act of 1868 that created the University of California; how the Stanford campus influenced Phoebe Apperson Hearst; the Hearst International Competition for the design of the U.C. campus and the architects who submitted plans; how the Hearst Memorial Mining Building survived the 1906 earthquake; original plan for the Campanile; and Julia Morgan’s campus designs.

31 December 2016

The Past and Future of Holy Hill at the Hillside Club Round Table

The Hillside Club Round Table Presents

The Past and Future of Holy Hill

An illustrated lecture by Daniella Thompson

Wednesday, 25 January 2017
7:30 pm
The Hillside Club
2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley

Free to Hillside Club members; donation requested from guests

This month’s Round Table discussion will cover the history of the Northside in general and of Holy Hill in particular, in light of the possible sale and development on the Pacific School of Religion’s site. The lecture will be presented by architectural historian and Round Table regular Daniella Thompson, who has recently led several walking tours of the area to raise awareness of the plans for this picturesquely unique and culturally significant place. She will discuss what’s at stake for the neighborhood and the city.

17 December 2016

Nicholas Friend honors Charles Keeler

The Hillside Club Round Table Presents

Honoring Charles Keeler: The Triumph of Light
A Lecture and performance by Nicholas Friend

Wednesday, 21 December 2016
7:30 pm
The Hillside Club
2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley

  Charles Keeler, Bernard Maybeck’s first residential client and his most influential early advocate, deeply understood the vital importance of communal cultural ritual. In his play, The Triumph of Light: A California Midwinter Sun Mystery, he exhorts us to emerge from our gloom, to rise together as Community—recommitted to our highest ideals—even though we find ourselves in the dark.                      

Cultural historian Nicholas Friend honors Charles Keeler’s enduring contribution to the cultural heritage of Berkeley through an offering of a simple lecture and performance. After remarks on the science and the art of Winter Solstice practices and traditions, and on other things as well, he will conclude with a performance, in costume, of well-chosen extracts from the text of The Triumph of Light.

01 December 2016

Susan Gaines Dinkelspiel Cerny, 1940–2016


Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2007

BAHA is tremendously sad to learn of the passing of Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny early this morning. Past BAHA president and longtime BAHA board member, past member and chair of Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, author of Berkeley Landmarks, editor of and contributor to An Architectural Guidebook to San Francisco and the Bay Area, Susan was a pillar of support for history and preservation in Berkeley and beyond. A celebration of Susan’s life will take place on Saturday, 4 February 2017, 1:00 pm, at the Berkeley City Club.

Read Susan’s obituary in the Berkeley Daily Planet.

19 November 2016

Native Berkeley: Ancient Wisdom for Troubled Times

Sunday, 4 December 2016
2:00 pm
North Berkeley Senior Center
1901 Hearst Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709

$10 general; $8 senior/student
Advance tickets through BrownPaperTickets

Three of Berkeley’s most knowledgeable scholars and historians will join three highly accomplished Native Ohlone cultural practitioners for an exploration of Berkeley’s indigenous heritage—its deep past, its vibrant present, and its promising future. Sponsored by a number of community organizations listed below, participants will include, in order of appearance:

Vincent Medina. Outreach coordinator for the quarterly magazine News from Native California and board member of Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival, Medina traces his ancestry to the Native villages of the East Bay. He is a fluent speaker of Chochenyo, the language of Berkeley. He will open the program with a welcome.

Malcolm Margolin. Author of The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area, founder and publisher emeritus of Heyday Books and News from Native California, Margolin will give an overview of 12,000 years of human habitation in the Berkeley area.

Kent Lightfoot. Archaeologist, Professor of Anthropology at U.C. Berkeley, and author of California Indians and Their Environment, Lightfoot will discuss the village site on Fourth Street (the area around Spenger’s park lot).

Richard Schwartz. Historian and author of several books on the history of Berkeley, Schwartz will show slides of mortar holes, petroglyphs, deposits of shell beads, stone chips, and other signs of the Indian past that abound in Berkeley.

Linda Yamane, Rumsien Ohlone, has mastered several traditional Native arts, including basketry (her baskets have been commissioned by the Oakland Museum and other leading institutions), boat building, song, language, food, storytelling, and more.

Quirina Luna-Geary, Mutsun Ohlone, noted for her revival of the Mutsun language, has recently been researching Native dance traditions and dance regalia.

Vincent Medina (see above) will tell stories and discuss his work in bringing back language and other aspects of traditional culture.

The program will conclude with a panel discussion by the various participants on what all residents of Berkeley might gain from a better understanding of Native heritage.

Sponsors include Friends of Ohlone Park, Heyday Books, and News from Native California.

Seating is limited to 200, and there are no reserved seats. If not sold out online, tickets will be available at the door (cash only).

Holiday Open House

Thursday, 8 December 2016
4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
McCreary-Greer House
2318 Durant Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704

The McCreary-Greer House will be filled with holiday cheer, including light refreshments. Meet board members, staff, and volunteers. Come enjoy the historic main rooms, newly carpeted during a recent house refurbishing.

There will be a display of rare Wheelock china, depicting scenes of Berkeley buildings and landscapes a century and more ago. These decorative porcelain pieces were produced in Germany and Austria from local images. Antique postcards showing the same scenes will also be on display.

The BAHA bookstore will be open for your holiday gift shopping.

BAHA’s antique parlor piano will be available for playing.