18 December 2007

1930s Japanese flower nursery demolished for condos

1800 San Pablo Avenue (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2006)

This Streamline Moderne building occupied a corner lot at 1800 San Pablo Avenue from 1946 until Saturday, 15 December 2007.

The San Pablo Florist & Nursery was established by the Iwahashi family. When they moved back to Japan in the mid-’30s, the business was bought by Hisako and Shigeharu Nabeta, who came from two of the earliest flower-growing families in Richmond.

This information was recently uncovered by historian and West Berkeley resident Donna Graves in the course of her work on the Preserving California’s Japantowns project.

The Nabetas were interned in a camp during World War II and returned to Berkeley in 1946. They built this building and a house next to it where they lived until Shigeharu’s death in 1994.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission declined to initiate this building several years ago, paving the way for demolition. The use permit calls for a four-story, 51-unit apartment complex with retail space and 67 parking spaces.

Another historically and architecturally significant building, the Mid-Century Joe Donham Willys Showroom (1952) at 2747 San Pablo Avenue, awaits the same fate (see plans for the five-story condo development that will replace it). The LPC voted almost unanimously not to accord the building any protection.

With the demise of these two buildings, little of architectural interest remains on San Pablo Avenue. The one notable exception is the landmark H.J. Heinz Factory (Albert Kahn, 1927).


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