09 December 2018

Two new landmarks designated

George Wilson House (Google Street View, 2018)

George Wilson House
M.J. Welch (1885–86)
2415 Blake Street
Designated: 6 December 2018

Designed by a prolific San Francisco architect, this small Italianate cottage was constructed a decade after the 1875 subdivision of the Leonard Tract, which had been open farmland until and shortly after that time. As such, the Wilson House represents one of the few original surviving structures in the tract.

Contrary to prevailing legends that have painted him as a banker who built himself a summer home in Berkeley, George Wilson (1847–1926) was an Irish immigrant who came to America in 1871 and settled in San Francisco, where he worked as a clerk, porter, and night watchman. The Berkeley residence was meant to be the Wilson family’s primary home, but the isolated locale and the howling coyotes soon drove them back to San Francisco. By 1900, Wilson was a widower with four daughters aged eight to 16. The Southside was developing, and a small commercial center was materializing at the intersection of Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way. Beginning in 1902, the Wilsons were again listed in the Berkeley directory. The Blake Street house remained in the family until the early 1970s.

In 1974, the house was acquired by Herbert J. Bofinger (1920–1999), an architectural designer and landscaper who lived here until his death. In 1979, Bofinger designed and built in the rear garden a shingled, two-story cottage in the Third Bay Tradition style. This rear structure and Bofinger’s landscaping are included in the landmark designation.

The landmark application and associated reports are accessible online.

Torrey House, 1 Canyon Road (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

Torrey House & Cottage
Ernest Coxhead (1905–06); Walter T. Steilberg (1935)
One & 5 Canyon Road
Designated: 6 December 2018

This Panoramic Hill parcel is distinguished for its three major features: the Frederic & Alice Torrey residence (1905–06), designed by famed architect Ernest Coxhead in the First Bay Tradition style; the elegant Beaux-Arts stairway leading to the house, designed by Torrey’s partner, Henry Atkins; and the Second Bay Tradition shingled cottage atop a three-car Fabricrete garage (1935), designed by noted architect Walter T. Steilberg, who lived next door.

Frederic Cheever Torrey (1864–1935) was a famous art dealer and a partner in the tony San Francisco firm of Vickery, Atkins & Torrey, purveyors of paintings in oil and water color, fine prints, objects of art, and picture frames. In 1913, Torrey caused a major uproar when he purchased the most ballyhooed painting of that year’s Armory Show in New York: Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase. One of the Nude’s most frequent observers was a straggly-looking boy of 16 who lived close by at 2350 Prospect Street and often entered the house without knocking, selecting a book from the shelves and settling down to read. His name was Thornton Wilder.

The Torrey house, cottage, and stairway form part of the Panoramic Hill Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The landmark application and associated reports are accessible online.

16 October 2018

Kenney Cottage dismantled and stored

Kenney Cottage on the move again, 15 October 2018 (photo: Dmitri Belser)

The saga of the Elizabeth M. Kenney Cottage has accompanied us for 18 years. In late 2000, while a demolition permit for the former Kelly-Moore Paint Company building at 1725 University Avenue was before the Landmarks Preservation Commission, a storage building in the rear was identified as a rare example of an early, locally developed prefabricated building system.

The cottage was originally located at 2214 Addison Street. Built in 1887 for Elizabeth M. Kenney, who operated a stationery store in the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot at Center Street and Shattuck Avenue, it was also home to Mrs. Kenney’s nephew, James Kenney, who would become Berkeley’s first fire chief. The Kenneys lived in the cottage until 1898, when it was sold to Ludwig Meinheit.

In 1906, Meinheit moved the cottage to 1725 University Avenue, then a quieter location. The Meinheit family, whose son William became a firefighter under James Kenney, owned the cottage until the early 1960s. The Kelly-Moore building went up in the 1970s.

The Kenney-Meinheit cottage was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark, Structure of Merit, on 5 February 2001. It was moved from 1725 to 1275 University Avenue on 24 August 2003. The new site, owned by the City of Berkeley, was meant to be a temporary one. BAHA took title to the cottage and for the next 15 years made many efforts to find a satisfactory permanent site for the 3-room cottage. All efforts having failed, and pressured by the City to move the cottage, BAHA transferred the title to Dmitri Belser and Tom White, who have a history of successfully moving and restoring historic structures. Until they find a suitable site, the new owners have dismantled the cottage and put it in storage.

22 August 2018

First Annual Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny Memorial Lecture

Thursday, 13 September 2018
7:30 pm (doors open at 7:00 pm)
Ballroom, Berkeley City Club
2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley

Free admission.

Speaker: Richard Guy Wilson, Commonwealth Professor, Architectural History, University of Virginia

Topic: Creating a California Identity: Preserving the Missions

BAHA is pleased to announce the First Annual Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny Memorial Lecture. Endowed by friends of Susan Cerny, the lecture is free to the public, but seating is limited, so registration (at Eventbrite) is required.

In his illustrated talk, Professor Richard Guy Wilson will focus on efforts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to save the crumbling missions of Spanish California, and discuss how those efforts spearheaded the historic preservation movement in the state.

Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny was a 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, and a tireless advocate for preservation.

An informal reception will follow the lecture.

07 August 2018

BAHA office is closed during August

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2018

The BAHA office will be closed to the public during the month of August.

We are finishing some improvements to McCreary-Greer House, including a major exterior painting & repair project and some garden work, and our hardworking staff and volunteers are taking a well-deserved break.

During the closure, you can still contact us via e-mail. Keep your eyes peeled for announcements of upcoming events.

05 August 2018

A tale of two captains and a grocery store

Captain James S. Higgins Temperance Grocery Store
(photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

For many decades, the building at 834 Delaware Street was believed to have been Captain William J. Bowen’s inn, saloon, and grocery store, constructed in late 1853 or early 1854. The late Jerry Sulliger was the first to discover that this building dates from 1874 or ’75 and was initially constructed for Captain James S. Higgins. Contrary to popular belief, Bowen did not sell his grocery store to Higgins. Rather, the two captains operated competing stores across the street from each other for a couple of years, before Bowen got out of the grocery business. A new article by Daniella Thompson provides fresh information to augment Jerry Sulliger’s essay on the subject and sheds new light on the lives of the two pioneer captains.

Read it here:
Berkeley Landmarks: Captain James S. Higgins Temperance Grocery Store

04 August 2018

Come see us at the Solano Stroll

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2007

We look forward to seeing you on Sunday, 9 September 2018, at the 44th annual Solano Stroll. The BAHA booth will be located at 1741 Solano Avenue, on the north side of the street, near Ensenada Avenue.

17 May 2018

Annual membership meeting & lecture

Photo: Daniella Thompson

Thursday, 31 May 2018
The Hillside Club
2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley

6:30 Social Hour — no-host wine bar
7:00 Buffet Dinner ($35 by reservation)*
7:30 Business Meeting and Election of Officers & Directors
Free coffee & dessert for all
8:00 Lecture

Mt. Tamalpais from Berkeley, c. 1905 (Anthony Bruce postcard collection)

4,500 Years of Living in Berkeley

Speaker: Professor Kent Lightfoot
Introduction by Malcolm Margolin

Kent Lightfoot, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, is an expert on the history of the West Berkeley Shellmound, the oldest known site of human habitation in the Bay Area. He will speak about what archaeology at the West Berkeley Shellmound tells us about our community’s first era of human habitation.

Buffet Dinner

Mediterranean Salad
Romaine Hearts with vine-ripe Tomatoes, Olives, shredded Carrots, Scallions, Feta Cheese, and Lemon-Mint Vinaigrette.

Spring Mix, Beets, Pear Salad, with Berry Vinaigrette
Organic Spring Mix, Beets, Pears, Berry Jam, Apple Cider Vinegar, extra virgin Olive Oil.

Jeweled Rice
Saffron Rice with Middle Eastern Spices, caramelized Onions and Carrots, Nuts and Raisins.

Roasted Vegetables
Assorted Vegetables, roasted with extra virgin Olive Oil and fresh Oregano.

Roast Chicken
Organic Mary’s Chicken Breast and Thighs with fresh Herbs, Garlic, Fennel, and Lemon.

Boeuf Bourguignon
Niman Ranch Beef Brisket, Red Wine, Onions, Celery, Olive Oil.

Dinner will be provided by Jasmine Catering.

* If you wish to order dinner, please purchase tickets online and include the names of your guests.

For further information, call (510) 841-2242 or e-mail to baha@berkeleyheritage.com.

Slate of BAHA Officers and Directors for FY 2018–19

President: Steven Finacom
Vice-President: Leila H. Moncharsh
Secretary: Carrie Olson
Treasurer: Stephanie Manning

Directors at Large
  • Jane Edginton
  • Mariana Gallardo
  • Neysa Garrett
  • James Grandison
  • Ann Killebrew
  • Jane McKinne-Mayer
  • Arlene Silk
  • 15 May 2018

    Judge rules for Berkeley in Post Office case

    Photo: Daniella Thompson

    On Monday, 14 May 2018, U.S. District Judge William Alsup found that the Civic Center District Zoning Overlay established by the City of Berkeley in September 2014 is not unconstitutional, as claimed by the USPS and the U.S. Department of Justice.

    Read the details of this case in Courthouse News, Save the Berkeley Post Office, and Berkeleyside.

    The full decision can be read here.

    07 April 2018

    Campanile Way designated a City Landmark

    Campanile Way, a historic roadway on the University of California campus, was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark on 5 April 2018.

    One of Berkeley’s oldest and most important landscape features, the “Way” leads downhill from Sather Tower, pointing directly toward the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay.

    This view corridor was inspired by Frederick Law Olmsted in the early 1860s; he advised the private College of California on planning the new campus site and suggested that the magnificent and symbolic view towards the Golden Gate should be the organizing principle of campus design. In the 1870s, the first buildings on the campus were sited accordingly, flanking a “baseline for buildings” that matched the line of today’s roadway. In the 1880s, the first campus library, Bacon Hall (featuring its own bell, clock tower, and flagpole), stood at the top of the “Way.”

    In the early 20th century, Campanile Way took on its familiar classical form, flanked by John Galen Howard’s handsome granite Beaux-Arts buildings, lined with rows of pollarded London planetrees, and crowned with Sather Tower at its top. Since then, generations of campus users and visitors have been daily inspired by the view of the bay and the Golden Gate from the top of the “Way.” Several U.C. campus planning documents currently in effect recognize the importance of this view corridor.

    The landmark application is accessible online.

    31 March 2018

    04 March 2018

    Hicks House designated a City Landmark

    Thomas & Louise Hicks House (photo: Shmuel Weissman)

    The Thomas & Louise Hicks House, a 1904 Arts & Crafts residence built by Chapin A. Martin at 2901 Benvenue Avenue, was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark on 1 March 2018. One of the most distinctive and best-preserved houses in the Elmwood district, the Hicks House was among the earliest houses constructed in the Berry-Bangs Tract, and the first house on its block.

    The Hicks House is distinguished by a cross-gabled roof with flaring eaves and upturned bargeboards; a symmetrical façade marked by large twin gables; a shingled second story overhanging a first story clad in heavily textured stucco; decorative rafter-tails in the eaves under the second story; an abundance of original wood-sash windows with latticed lights set in wooden muntins; clinker-brick base skirt, porch columns, porch parapets, and chimneys; and a central recessed portico with a heavy timber beam, exposed ceiling joists, and clinker-brick pilasters flanking the front door.

    In its early days, the Hicks House was the home of a lumber dealer, followed in rapid succession by two executives of the Sherwin Williams paint company. For 37 years between 1919 and 1956, the Hicks House served as the manse of St. John’s Presbyterian Church and was the home of its pastors, notably Rev. Francis Wayland Russell, D.D., and Rev. Stanley Armstrong Hunter, D.D., both of whom were nationally known religious leaders. When St. John’s sold the Hicks House in 1956, it became the home and working studio of Mynard and Mary Groom Jones, two well-known concert singers and voice teachers who trained generations of classical singers.

    The Hicks House retains integrity of location, design, materials, setting, feeling, and association. The landmark application is accessible online.

    08 February 2018

    A new Structure of Merit designated

    Google Street View

    The George A. Mattern Building, 2500 Shattuck Avenue at Dwight Way, was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark, Structure of Merit on 1 February 2018.

    The building’s architect, Louis Maylon Upton (1879–1943), made his name by designing elegant Pacific Heights mansions in San Francisco. Although he lived in Berkeley, Upton is known to have designed only four buildings here. Three of those projects, including this handsome, mixed-use corner building, were commissioned by the knitwear manufacturer George Alfred Mattern (1864–1945).

    Constructed in 1923, the Mattern Building was originally clad entirely in buff-colored pressed brick on its street façades, and its corner storefront was designed to house a branch of the Berkeley Bank of Savings and Trust Company. When Bank of America took over the space in 1936, its exterior was clad in stucco. Today, the unpainted brick face remains on the second floor, on the southernmost Shattuck Avenue storefront, and on the western part of the Dwight Way façade.

    Among the Mattern Building’s notable features are a cornice undermounted with dentils; horizontal bands of decorative brickwork below the cornice, above and below the second-floor windows; six fluted pilasters with four capitals incorporating a stylized BA motif; a cutoff corner with a balcony on the second story; double casement windows along the upper-level fa├žades; and a five-part clerestory with turned-wood mullions above the entrance to the southernmost Shattuck Avenue storefront.

    The Mattern Building anchors the northern end of a largely intact block of late 19th- and early 20th-century commercial structures. It is also a relatively rare surviving example in Berkeley of a multistory, brick-clad, mixed-use building that retains much of its original design and its original unpainted brickwork.

    The landmark application is accessible online.

    06 February 2018

    C. M. Cook, the mysterious architect

    Courtesy of Anthony Bruce

    In 1904, upper Telegraph Avenue underwent a character-changing transformation. The stretch between Bancroft and Channing ways, then an elegant residential enclave dotted with imposing mansions, was invaded by commerce. The person responsible was the developer John Albert Marshall, who dared to defy the resident millionaires by erecting the neighborhood’s first mixed-use building.

    “Ground was broken to-day for a three-story business block at Telegraph avenue and Bancroft way, to be erected by J. A. Marshall at a cost of $40,000. Five stores will face Telegraph avenue and two on Bancroft way,” announced the San Francisco Call on October 17. Construction of the Marshall Apartments was the shot across the bow that set the millionaires fleeing.

    The architect of the Marshall Apartments was one C. M. Cook, who had his initial foray into Berkeley only two years earlier. Within less than a decade, Cook’s buildings proliferated through Berkeley. Many of those structures survive, and a few have been designated City of Berkeley Landmarks.

    It all came to a stop in 1910, and the architect remains a cypher—two initials and a short surname. The C. M. Cook mystery is all the deeper, since his 1940 U.S. Census record reveals that the architect’s education did not go beyond the fourth year of high school. Who, then, was Cook, how did he become a sought-after architect, and what led to his sudden disappearance following a brief, meteoric career?

    The mystery is solved in this newly published article.

    03 February 2018

    Paul A. Grunland (1924–2018)

    Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2008

    It is with great sorrow that we learned of the death of longtime BAHA member and well-known and loved community volunteer and historian Paul Grunland. He was 93.

    Paul was active in the Berkeley Historical Society, the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association, the El Cerrito Historical Society, and the Sierra Club, among numerous other organizations. He regularly led informative walking tours in Berkeley and Kensington, conducted interviews for oral histories, and documented the history of the Berkeley Woods tract, where he made his home with Mary (“Peggy”) Post Grunland, his wife of 62 years.

    Before retiring, Paul managed the Capwell’s department store in El Cerrito Plaza. In 2013, he presented an illustrated lecture on the history of this shopping center to the El Cerrito Historical Society.

    Paul was a nature lover, a lifelong outdoorsman, an avid skier and hiker. He was active through his 80s, participating in physically demanding Jepson Herbarium botanical workshops in remote locations. He was seen at practically every lecture in town, and attended a lecture in the Tilden Botanic Garden on Saturday, 27 January.

    Paul passed away on Friday, 2 February 2018, after suffering a massive brain hemorrhage.

    We will miss you, old friend.

    24 January 2018

    Winter 2018 Walking Tours

    Enjoy a series of four walks in February and March, led by expert local guides exploring lesser-known aspects of Berkeley’s historical and architectural heritage. Space is limited; paid reservations are required.

    Admission per walk: $15 general; $12 BAHA members

    Purchase tickets online or by mail.

    Ticket holders will be notified of the starting location(s) by e-mail.

    BAHA archives

    Berkeley Deco and Moderne
    Sunday, 18 February 2018
    1:00 pm–3:00 pm
    Leader: Steven Finacom

    Berkeley is not commonly known as a center of Deco-era architecture, but we actually have many fine buildings designed in the cutting edge styles of the 1930s and 40s. They are concentrated in the downtown area and on the U.C. Berkeley campus. The walk will visit most of these buildings, including what was once the largest academic building in the world, Berkeley’s near-forgotten 1940s Moderne downtown bus station, the narrowest commercial building in town, and possibly a look inside our finest movie palace.

    Courtesy of Tom Dalzell

    Unknown South Shattuck
    Sunday, 4 March 2018
    1:00 pm–3:00 pm
    Leader: Steven Finacom

    People may speed through Berkeley’s South Shattuck district regarding it only as Berkeley’s “auto row,” but it’s actually a fascinating neighborhood that includes rare 19th-century buildings, reminders of the railroads, pleasant tree-lined residential blocks of handsome bungalows, Victorians, and Colonial Revival residences, two magnificent Moderne buildings built as Berkeley’s indoor recreation hubs, and the site of Berkeley’s early traveling circus grounds. We’ll sample the rich history of the blocks south of Dwight Way, between Fulton Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.

    Daniella Thompson

    The Berryman Neighborhood
    Sunday, 18 March 2018
    1:00 pm–3:00 pm
    Leader: Carrie Olson

    Browse one of North Berkeley’s most eclectic early residential districts west of the Gourmet Ghetto and near Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, guided by a neighborhood native. Historic and architecturally interesting houses abound on quiet side streets. The walk route includes the early Berkeley home of the Maybeck family, Victorians and brown-shingles, the Edible Schoolyard, two hidden creeks, and even two of Berkeley’s oldest automobile service stations.

    BAHA archives

    Berkeley’s Shellmound Heritage
    Saturday, 31 March 2018
    1:00 pm–3:00 pm
    Leader: Stephanie Manning

    Explore the Bay Area’s oldest residential neighborhood—the vicinity of the West Berkeley Shellmound—where locals were living more than four thousand years ago. Learn about the ancient “pre-contact” history of this neighborhood and the modern movement to reclaim its native heritage. See buildings saved from the early neighborhood of Ocean View, where Berkeley’s post-Gold Rush settlement began. This is also where Berkeley’s modern preservation movement was born half a century ago, as residents and activists fought to preserve Ocean View from redevelopment into a warehouse district.

    All walks will generally be on public sidewalks, but some include some steep streets or narrow sidewalks. Unless otherwise noted, buildings will be viewed from the exterior.

    23 January 2018

    Pre-Contact and Wild Landscape of the East Bay

    Photo: Daniella Thompson

    Thursday, 22 February 2018
    7:00 pm
    The Ecology Center Store
    2530 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley

    Tickets: $10 (limited space; advance purchase recommended)

    This event promises to be an absorbing exploration of California’s landscape from ancient times until the arrival of Europeans. Kevin Dixon, naturalist for the East Bay Regional Parks, will speak on how we might recreate some of the native landscape with the use of indigenous plants, and how we can see pockets of it even today in various hidden places.

    Chef Vincent Medina (Chochenyo Ohlone) will speak on native use of the indigenous edible landscape, his specialty.

    22 January 2018

    Barcelona Art Nouveau

    Barcelona Art Nouveau

    An illustrated lecture by Erik Kramvik

    Wednesday, 7 March 2018
    7:30 pm
    The Hillside Club
    2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley

    Suggested donation: $10 general; $5 Hillside Club members

    Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852–1932) and Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1850–1923) were the greatest of the Barcelona architects who worked to create a new design spirit, combining the talents of many local artisans and bringing about the ultimate integration of craft and design.

    Erik Kramvik is a charter member of Artistic License, having devoted the past 35 years to the restoration and rehabilitation of period houses in the Bay Area and historic communities in California. Erik also explores the resy fo the world in an effort to document photographically the great achievements in architecture.

    Sponsored by Artistic License, a guild of artisans.

    20 November 2017

    BAHA Holiday Open House

    Photo: Anthony Bruce

    Thursday, 14 December 2017
    4:00 pm – 7:00 pm

    Join us for holiday cheer and light refreshments at the historic McCreary-Greer House.

    Meet and chat with our Executive Director, Anthony Bruce, and BAHA board members.

    Browse our bookshop for attractive and educational holiday gifts.

    We look forward to seeing you and your guests!

    26 September 2017

    The 2017 BAHA Preservation Awards

    The Blood (left) & Woolley Houses (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2017)

    Nine rehabilitation projects received our 2017 Preservation Awards. See them here.

    21 September 2017

    Treasure Island Museum lecture & tour of Admiral Nimitz House

    Eastern Span of old Bay Bridge and Nimitz House (courtesy of NoeHill.com)

    Saturday, 7 October 2017

    Lecture: 10:30 am
    Building One, Room 111
    Treasure Island

    Tour: 12:00 pm
    Nimitz House
    Yerba Buena Island

    Free of charge

    Lecture: Midway 1942: Time for a Command Decision
    Speaker: Michael Svanevik, Professor of History Emeritus, College of San Mateo

    After Pearl Harbor and other breathtaking military victories, Japan was intoxicated with feelings of invincibility. In June 1942, enemy forces maneuvered toward American-held Midway. Brilliant naval intelligence and the steadfast determination of Admiral Chester Nimitz altered the tempo of war, crippling invaders and taking to the offensive in the Pacific.

    Tours of Nimitz House: Rear Admiral John Bitoff, USN (ret), who lived in the house as Commander, Naval Base San Francisco in 1989–1991, will give an introductory talk and lead participants on a tour through the house. Built in 1900, the Classic Revival mansion is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

    For additional information, see the Treasure Island Museum website.