Captain Slater House (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2016)
The Captain John Slater House at 1335 Shattuck Avenue was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark on 2 February 2017. The Slater House is one of the finest 19th-century residential buildings surviving in Berkeley. It is the only building in Berkeley known to have been designed by the distinguished architect Thomas J. Welsh (1845–1918), who designed many Catholic churches and public school buildings in San Francisco.
Constructed in 1894, the Captain Slater House appears to be the earliest Colonial Revival–style building in Berkeley. The house retains its symmetrical façade with practically all its original features intact, including a pediment-gabled dormer; wide entablatures decorated with dentils; Tuscan-order columns, fluted pilasters, and classic double-urn balustrades; bay windows with diamond panes; a wood-paneled entrance niche; beveled glass in the front doors and the transom; and the original street retaining-wall and twin curved stairways.
The first owner, Captain John Slater (1849–1908), was a well-known master mariner in the employ of shipping tycoons William E. Mighell and Charles C. Boudrow, who made their homes a few blocks away on Oxford Street. In the mid-1890s, Captain Slater set several speed records in the broad-beam bark Wilna. Later he commanded the clipper ship Charmer on the San Francisco-Honolulu route and also made longer trips to Australia and South Africa.
Captain Slater’s youngest son, Colby E. “Babe” Slater (1896–1965), who was born in this house, was the first University of California, Davis alumnus to win an Olympic gold medal. He earned two gold medals as a member of the 1920 and 1924 U.S. Olympic Rugby teams and was captain of the 1924 team. “Babe” was the earliest athlete to be inducted into the Cal Aggie Hall of Fame. In 2012, he was inducted into the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame and the World Rugby Hall of Fame. The annual Colby E. “Babe” Slater Memorial Athletic Award and the “Babe” Slater Perpetual Athletic Trophy are given each spring to the U.C. Davis student selected as Athlete of the Year. On 30 July 2016, the U.C. Davis Library held a special celebration of “Babe” Slater’s legacy, marking the first time since 1924 that rugby was played in the Olympic Games.
In the early 1920s, the Captain Slater House became the home of former Berkeley mayor Samuel C. Irving (1858–1930), who lived here until his death.
When it was built, the Captain Slater House joined the earlier Captain Seabury House (1322 Shattuck Avenue, demolished) and the Captain Maury House (1317 Shattuck Avenue, greatly altered) to form a close-knit enclave of famous sea captains’ residences. The Captain Slater House is now the only historic sea captain’s house surviving on this block with its intact original façade, as well as the only recognizable 19th-century house on the block.