26 February 2015

Tour of the Kael-Basart House & Environs

Courtesy of Committee to Preserve the Jess Murals & Kael-Basart House

2419 Oregon Street, Berkeley
Sunday, 15 March 2015
from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Admission $20
(tax deductible)

In 1956, legendary film critic Pauline Kael engaged artist Jess Collins to paint murals in her 1904 brown-shingle house. The murals are a veritable treasure trove (see article by Greil Marcus in ARTFORUM), and the Committee to Preserve the Jess Murals & Kael-Basart House was formed to ensure that both house and murals remain so.

On this benefit house tour, sponsored by BAHA, you will see Jess’s remarkable murals up close and learn about key figures that contributed to Berkeley’s post-WWII artistic renaissance.

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2014

Walking Tour of the Neighborhood

What links Pauline Kael to famed Japanese-American painter Chiura Obata, beat poet Robert Duncan, Max Scheer and his Berkeley Barb newspaper, jazz critic Phil Elwood, 1960s singer Country Joe McDonald, the Jabberwock folk music club, and the pioneering James Leonard family that owned a quarter-square mile of Berkeley in the mid-19th century?

Berkeley historian Steven Finacom will connect the dots as he leads a walking tour on Oregon Street in the immediate vicinity of the Kael-Basart House. The tour will depart at 1:30, 2:45, and 4:00 pm and will last about 40 minutes.

Tickets may be purchased in advance or on tour day (advance reservations required) and will be handed out at the ticket table on site. Advance purchase may be made via PayPal or by check sent to:

P.O. Box 1137
Berkeley CA 94701

Landmark designation for the Channing Apartments

The Channing Apartments (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2014)

The Channing Apartments, 2409 College Avenue, were designated a City of Berkeley Landmark on 5 February 2015. This is the oldest surviving apartment building designed by the important Berkeley architect Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr. The building was constructed in 1913 by the Alameda County Home Investment Company, which was founded by Ratcliff and his partner, Charles Louis McFarland.

The Channing Apartments are distinguished by its graceful façade, which echoes that of the Hearst Memorial Mining Building on the University of California campus. It was featured in the October 1914 issue of The Architect and Engineer as part of a 23-page lead article on Ratcliff’s recent work.

In the mid-1920s, Alameda County Home Investment Co. sold the Channing Apartments to John Weston Havens, a nephew of Francis K. Shattuck and heir to his estate. Following Havens’ death in 1929, the building passed into the possession of his only son, John Weston Havens, Jr., who kept it until his own death in 2001. The Havens estate sold the building in 2005.

When the Channing Apartments were built, the Ellsworth Tract and its neighboring blocks were among the most elegant neighborhoods in Berkeley. Over the decades, campus expansion has brought about the destruction of several residential Southside blocks and the degradation of many surviving buildings. The Channing Apartments now face three institutional blocks that were almost completely cleared of their original buildings for the construction of Unit 1 and Unit 2 residence halls and the Underhill parking structure and athletic field. On its own side of the street, the Channing Apartments building is the only unaltered survivor from the first half of the 20th century.

The landmark application is accessible here.