Berkeley Landmarks :: 2009 Designations

Berkeley Landmarks designated in 2009

Olsen House (photo: Jim Samuels, 2008)

Helen and Donald Olsen House
Donald Olsen (1954)
771 San Diego Road
Designated: 5 March 2009

The Olsen House, a shimmering vision of light amid the oaks across from John Hinkel Park, is part of a group of all-glass houses built at mid-century. The design employs specific aspects of the Modern movement which make the house an important example of Modern design. Its illusion of weightlessness was made possible by the use of a unique type of construction, the moment frame. The design of this house was based on the plan of a house that Donald Olsen had designed for Greenwood Common the previous year, making the Greenwood Common house a sort of prototype. The landmark application is available online.

The Obata Studio in 1939 (Ormsby Donogh files, BAHA archive )

Needham-Obata Building (The Arcade)
William G. Needham, developer (1907)
2525 Telegraph Avenue/2512–2516 Regent Street
Designated: 4 June 2009

Stretching from Telegraph Avenue to Regent Street, this unusual building, originally named The Arcade, was constructed as Berkeley’s first market hall, incorporating eight specialty stores selling groceries, produce, meat, poultry, butter & eggs, tea & coffee, and baked goods (the bakery’s oven remains on site). The upper floor originally comprised six apartments, and some members of the Needham family lived there.

Already in the 1910s, the building acquired connections with Berkeley’s growing Japanese American community, housing a barber shop, a bathhouse, and later a grocery store owned by Japanese. The well-known artist Chiura Obata operated the Obata Studio and Art Goods Store here from 1939 to 1941. Even after Obata’s departure, the building has had a continued role in Berkeley’s cultural life, with a pattern of occupancy by artists and cultural establishments. In the 1940s, the building accommodated photographer Grant Oliver’s studio, which exhibited photos and other visual arts. In the 1960s and 1970s, and perhaps later, various artists, photographers, or writers lived here. The landmark application is available online.

Mobilized Women of Berkeley Building (photo: Susan Cerny, 2009)

Mobilized Women of Berkeley Building
Philip L. Coats (1949)
1007 University Avenue
Designated: 20 July 2009

In May 1917, at the height of World War I, many Berkeley women’s groups got together to mobilize for the war effort. They named their new body the Mobilized Women’s Organizations of Berkeley, conducting many successful drives for food conservation, liberty bonds, and the Red Cross, and developing a program to reclaim discarded items that could be made useful again, selling them through their thrift stores. Renamed Mobilized Women of Berkeley (Moby) after WWI, the organization continued its activities during the Depression and WWII. In 1949, Moby established a community center in this building, providing adult and youth activities that included recreation and camping programs, a literacy school, family rehabilitation and relief work. Through the 1950s and 1960s, they continued with their welfare and community service work in West Berkeley. Upon retirement in 1969, they gave the building to the Alameda County Association of Retarded Citizens.

The Mobilized Women building is an excellent example of a uniquely Berkeleyan architectural construction technique, utilizing the cast-in-place concrete wall form embedded with translucent glass blocks. Philip L. Coats, who often worked as Bernard Maybeck’s contractor, based the design on Maybeck’s earlier (1938) building for the same organization, located at 1001 University Avenue (demolished in 1980). [Designation appealed to City Council and remanded to the LPC. Redesignated on 4 March 2010.] The landmark application is available online.

The Koerber Building under construction in 1923 (photo: McCullagh, courtesy of Peggy Thomas)

The Koerber Building today (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2008)

Koerber Building
Berkeley Building Company (1923)
2054 University Avenue
Designated: 3 September 2009

The Koerber Building was the first high-rise building on University Avenue, and when completed in 1924, it was the tallest in town. It was the first example in Berkeley of the architectural style known as Commercial or Chicago School style, introduced c. 1890 by one of America’s most influential architects, Louis H. Sullivan. Distinguished by the extensive use of glazed terra cotta on the street fašade, the building was constructed for Fred C. Koerber, a prominent Berkeley merchant, capitalist, and politician, whose first Berkeley building, dating from 1907, still stands on the northwest corner of College and Ashby Avenues.

The Koerber Building has played a significant role in Berkeley’s cultural history, having been the original home of Pacifica Foundation-KPFA FM, the nation’s first listener-sponsored radio, and having also housed the Center for Independent Living, Ramparts magazine, New Age magazine, Yoga Journal, Heyday Press, and numerous other organizations closely associated with Berkeley’s unique culture. The landmark application is available online.

Capitol Market Building (BAHA archives)

The building today (photo: Robert Johnson, 2009)

Capitol Market Building
A.H. Broad (1891)
1500 Shattuck Avenue at Vine Street
Designated: 3 September 2009

This turreted Victorian is the oldest and least altered 19th-century commercial building in the North Shattuck Avenue commercial district, as well as one of the least altered two-story commercial buildings of its age in the city. It was built for butcher Thomas Hann, an early member of Berkeley’s Town Board of Trustees and Town Treasurer. Hann’s Pioneer Meat Market was located on Shattuck Ave. between University and Addison. The builder was another well-known local personage, the prominent contractor, pioneer civic figure, and amateur artist Alphonso Herman Broad.

Throughout its long history, the building has housed a market on the ground floor and apartments upstairs. It’s been under its current ownership since the early 1920s. Since 1975 it’s been home to the Cheese Board Collective. The landmark application is available online.


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