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 façades; 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.