Berkeley Landmarks :: 2017 Designations

Berkeley Landmarks designated in 2017

Captain Slater House c. 1906–10 (Slater family collection)

Captain John Slater House
Thomas J. Welsh (1894)
1335 Shattuck Avenue
Designated: 2 February 2017

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2016

The Captain John 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.

The landmark application is accessible online.

Broad House, 2032 Bancroft Way

Broad Apartments, 2030 Bancroft Way (photos: Daniella Thompson, 2007)

A.H. & Julia Broad House and Broad Apartment Building
Alphonso Herman Broad (1887; 1915)
2030–2032 Bancroft Way
Designated: 6 April 2017

Almost thirty years separate the two structures that Berkeley pioneer builder, civic leader, and amateur artist A.H. Broad designed and built on this parcel, which he owned for many years. The 1887 Eastlake-style Victorian house, now located at the rear of the lot, was moved from its original position at the front to make way for its younger neighbor, a flat-roofed, six-unit apartment building with Colonial Revival details in the portico and eaves. Members of the Broad family resided in both buildings, and the property remained in the family’s possession until the death of Broad’s daughter, Julia Graham, in 1942.

Broad Apartments with original windows (Google Street View, 2009)

Along with two neighboring Victorian buildings—the landmark Boone’s University School (c. 1877–78) at 2029 Durant Avenue and the Joseph Davis House (c. 1890) at 2028 Bancroft Way—the Broad House and Broad Apartments are rare survivors from a time when the downtown streets crossing Shattuck Avenue were primarily residential.

Broad Apartments with replacement windows (Google Street View, 2016)

This is the seventh City of Berkeley–designated landmark designed and built by the widely esteemed and versatile Broad, who adapted his building styles to changing times and evolving tastes.

The landmark application is accessible online.

California Japantowns, courtesy Uchida family

University Laundry
2526–2530 Shattuck Avenue
Designated: 4 May 2017

Photo: Steven Finacom, 2017

This building, a “pioneer” Victorian with simple detailing, was constructed for the property owner, Olive J. Stewart, with residential rooms upstairs and two storefronts on the ground floor. It soon housed a succession of commercial laundries, the earliest operated by French immigrants, followed by the University Laundry, initially operated by five Japanese American families who lived on the property. The University Laundry, which was in business here from c. 1914 to early 1942, makes the building an important physical reminder of Berkeley’s thriving Nihonmachi, the pre-World War II Japanese American community that was abruptly removed in April 1942 to guarded American concentration camps.

Part of the Dwight Way Station commercial district that once vied to become the center of Berkeley’s Downtown, the building anchors the southern end of a rare block of 19th- and early 20th century commercial buildings on Shattuck Avenue. In the mid-20th century, the ground floor housed a car dealership (today, Berkeley Toyota), as the avenue south of Downtown developed into Berkeley’s auto row. The building later returned to laundry use as a coin-operated laundromat.

Although much of the Victorian detailing has long since been removed, the storefronts remodeled, and the exterior wood siding covered with stucco, the overall early architectural character of the building can still be easily discerned, including the unusual flat-topped hip roof.

The landmark application is accessible online.

Spear House, 1970 (Donogh files, BAHA archives)

Charles H. Spear House
Robert Greig, builder (1904)
1905 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way
Designated: 6 July 2017

The Charles H. Spear House is one of the most notable and elegant Colonial Revival residences in Berkeley. Constructed in 1904, the building is remarkably intact, retaining a very high degree of its historic fabric and detail.

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2017

Among the building’s significant features are a symmetrical façade; a cornice decorated with molded corbels and egg-and-dart molding; a central dormer with arched window; a pair of oval portholes set in wide, molded casings and ornamented with medallions and elaborate scrollwork; a central portico with a circular canopy decorated with dentils and egg-and-dart molding, supported by two round columns with Ionic capitals and flanked by two pilasters, also with Ionic capitals; and two large triple-window bays set in wide, molded casings and surmounted by arch pediments ornamented with dentils and scrollwork.

Charles Henry Spear (1862–1928) was a well-known political figure in the State of California. He began his political career in 1884 as Assistant Postmaster of West Berkeley, rising to Postmaster in 1885. He served as Berkeley’s City Clerk from 1886 to 1893 and was elected Alameda County Recorder in 1894. In 1900, he was appointed Port Warden in San Francisco. In 1902, Spear acted as chairman of the state’s Republican Campaign Committee, and in 1903, Governor George C. Pardee made him president of the State Board of Harbor Commissioners. His term coincided with the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, and Spear received high praise from Commander Charles J. Badger, U.S. Navy, for restoring “normal business conditions in the shipping district in the shortest possible time.”

In 1923, Spear was reappointed president of the State Board of Harbor Commissioners, this time by Governor Friend W. Richardson. Resigning from that position in 1925, Spear became general manager of Los Angeles Harbor, remaining in that office until 1927, when ill health forced him to retire and return to Berkeley, where he passed away the following year.

The architect of the Spear House has not been identified, but the builder was well known in both building and political circles. As a contractor, Robert Greig (1861–1931) was Berkeley’s premier practitioner, constructing some of the city’s most prominent buildings, including City Hall (1908); the first public library (1904, demolished); Berkeley High School’s main building (1901, demolished); the Masonic Temple (2105 Bancroft Way, 1905); and the Barker Block (2486 Shattuck Avenue, 1905).

Like Charles Spear, Robert Greig was prominent in the Republican Party. In 1915, he was appointed as Berkeley’s Building Inspector, and in 1924 he became Director of Housing for the State of California. “He was a recognized authority on building codes, and many of his suggestions were incorporated in the State Building Law and in housing regulations,” stated his obituary.

When the Charles H. Spear House was built, the neighborhood north of Berkeley Way was purely residential, composed of Victorians and Colonial Revival houses. The area’s character persisted largely unaltered until the 1950s, when large, boxy apartment buildings began to replace many historic houses.

In the 1960s, BART acquired and removed the houses along five and a half blocks on the north side of Hearst Avenue between Milvia Street and Sacramento Street. Concurrently, commercial establishments began replacing some of the houses along Grove Street. These days, the east side of the 1800 block and the west side of the 1900 block of M.L. King, Jr. Way are composed entirely of commercial buildings, making the Spear House a rare and noteworthy reminder of the street as it used to be a century ago.

The landmark application is accessible online.


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