25 June 2012

West Berkeley cultural tour with Richard Schwartz

Contra Costa Road (now San Pablo Avenue), looking north from University Avenue, 1861

Berkeley historian Richard Schwartz will lead a “Berkeley Magical History Tour” around the Ocean View district on Saturday, 30 June 2012, at 11:00 am. Meet at Builders Booksource, 1817 4th Street.

Tourgoers will learn about the gigantic Native American shellmound; the old French Quarter that wowed the Bay Area’s chefs; the famous Bath Beach, where Bay Area residents came to vacation; the enormous Standard Soap Works; Berkeley’s first jail and firehouse; and the public halls, parks, and businesses where the community was brought together. Discover Berkeley’s past through unique and thrilling stories and old photographs. You will never see West Berkeley the same way again.

$10 tour charge (kids free). Reservations (510) 845-6874.

24 June 2012

Berkeley’s Main Post Office to close

Photo: Daniella Thompson

Berkeley’s Main Post Office at 2000 Allston Way will be closed and put up for sale in four months. The elegant building, designed by Oscar Wenderoth and completed in 1915, was modeled on Filippo Brunelleschi’s Italian Renaissance masterpiece, the Ospedale degli Innocenti (1419–1424) in the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, Florence.

The post office features two New Deal works of art: the mural “Incidents in California History” by Suzanne Scheuer and the bas-relief “Post Office Activities” by David Slivka.

The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is an important component of the Civic Center Historic District, which is now threatened on several fronts, with the uncertain future of Old City Hall and Veterans Memorial Building, both badly in need of seismic retrofitting.