24 August 2007

General Vallejo’s Yankee home

Lachryma Montis, Sonoma (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2007)

We all need a sanity break from Berkeley every now and then, but not everyone can fly off to the Seychelles or to Switzerland when the urge to flee is upon us.

Happily, beauty and calm are within easy reach in northern California. Only 55 miles away, the Sonoma Valley offers a myriad historic, visual, and gustatory attractions.

One of the most beguiling is General Vallejo’s Carpenter Gothic home in Sonoma, which was prefabricated in New England and shipped to California around Cape Horn in 1951.

Now the center of the Sonoma State Historic Park, Lachryma Montis is a charming oasis, especially mid-week, when you can have the place to yourself.

Read an illustrated article on Lachryma Montis in our Essays section.

20 August 2007

We recycle bottles. Why not buildings?

The preservation alternative allows the historic Blood House to coexist with 40 new housing units.

At the 2005 National Trust Conference, economic development consultant Donovan D. Rypkema delivered a presentation titled Economics, Sustainability, and Historic Preservation, stating in a compelling way that sustainable development should be not only about environmental sustainability.
  • Preservation, says Rypkema, means that dollars are spent locally instead of at a distant manufacturing plant. That’s economic sustainability, also part of sustainable development.

  • Maintaining the original fabric is maintaining the character of the historic neighborhood. That’s cultural sustainability, also part of sustainable development.
Rypkema goes on to discuss solid waste disposal:
We all diligently recycle our Coke cans. It’s a pain in the neck, but we do it because it’s good for the environment. Here is a typical building in an American downtown—25 feet wide and 120 feet deep. Today we tear down one small building like this in your downtown. We have now wiped out the entire environmental benefit from the last 1,344,000 aluminum cans that were recycled. We’ve not only wasted an historic building, we’ve wasted months of diligent recycling by the people of your community.
Next is the concept of embodied energy:
Razing historic buildings results in a triple hit on scarce resources. First, we are throwing away thousands of dollars of embodied energy. Second, we are replacing it with materials vastly more consumptive of energy. What are most historic houses built from? Brick, plaster, concrete and timber—among the least energy consumptive of materials. What are major components of new buildings? Plastic, steel, vinyl and aluminum – among the most energy consumptive of materials. Third, recurring embodied energy savings increase dramatically as a building life stretches over fifty years. You’re a fool or a fraud if you claim to be an environmentalist and yet you throw away historic buildings, and their components.
Rypkema reviews the Smart Growth movement’s statement of principles, and draws this conclusion from them:
If a community did nothing but protect its historic neighborhoods it will have advanced every Smart Growth principle. Historic preservation IS Smart Growth. A Smart Growth approach that does not include historic preservation high on the agenda is stupid growth, period.
Rypkema points out that an underappreciated contribution of historic buildings is their role as natural incubators of small businesses, concluding: “Sustainability means stewardship. Historic preservation is sustainable development. Development without historic preservation is not sustainable.”

Read Rypkema’s complete presentation and From Bottles to Buildings by Robert Shipley and Jason Kovacs.

17 August 2007

Berkeley Historical Society Fall 2007 Walking Tours

Civic Center Park (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

See our Events Calendar for tour descriptions and reservation information.

Northbrae & Arlington Villas Parks
Saturday, 8 September 2007
10 am–noon
Tour leader: Susan Cerny

California Historical Radio Society/KRE Radio
Saturday, 22 September 2007
10 am–noon
Tour leaders: Steve Kushman & Mike Adams

The Maybeck Estates
Saturday, 6 October 2007
10 am–noon
Tour leaders: Paul Grunland & Bob Shaner

Downtown Berkeley’s Transformation Over Time
Saturday, 20 October 2007
10 am–noon
Tour leader: Austene Hall with Jennifer McDougall & Juliet Lamont

Civic Center Park in the 1940s (Wayne Paper Box & Printing Corp.)

Lower Codornices Creek: From Rails to Restoration
Saturday, 3 November 2007
10 am–noon
Tour leader: Susan Schwartz with Drew Goetting & Richard Register

Berkeley’s Downtown Parks: Real, Envisioned, and Vanished
Saturday, 17 November 2007
10 am–noon
Tour leaders: Steve Finacom & Linda Perry

Bonus Tour: Hillside School
Saturday, 1 December 2007
10 am–noon
Tour leaders: Kay Dolit & Carolyn Adams

10 August 2007

Buyer sought for historic West Berkeley church

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004

Westminster Presbyterian Church, which changed hands last year, is on the market again. The third landmark designated by the City of Berkeley, the church at 926 Hearst Ave. and Eighth Street is the second oldest in town, having been built in 1879—a year after the neighboring Church of the Good Shepherd went up.

The church was designed by Charles Geddes, architect of Yosemite Chapel. The adjoining assembly hall was designed by Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr. and constructed in 1914.

In 1972, it became St. Procopius Latin Rite Church (unaffiliated with the Roman Catholic Church), and in 1993, it was taken over by the Mekane Selam Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Having outgrown its quarters, Medhane Alem last year sold the church to the Pentecostal congregation New Word of Faith. The current asking price is $1,700,000, and Medhane Alem’s board chairman Benyam Mulugeta is handling the sale. He may be contacted at (650) 906-8012.