Golden Sheaf Bakery

2071 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA

Susan Cerny & Daniella Thompson


Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004

27 October 2001 & 24 July 2009

In 1877, Jonathan Garrard Wright (1837–1924), an Englishman, opened Berkeley’s first wholesale-retail bakery in the Alpha Block, 2026 Shattuck Ave., just north of where the Kress building stands today. The original bakery was a two-story wood-frame building that featured tall storefront windows and a covered wood veranda in front. The owners, their bakery workers, and boarders lived on the second floor.


The bakery at 2026 Shattuck Avenue (Veteran Volunteer Fire Association)


Sale receipt signed by J.G. Wright, 1880s

The bakery produced 26 varieties of bread and twelve types of cakes and pies. It also had a catering service, a dining room, and a retail sales shop. By 1905, the business had grown so large that it had a fleet of 40 horse-drawn trucks and motor cars.


Golden Sheaf wagon in front of Phoebe Apperson Hearst’s residence, 2368 Le Conte Ave. (photo: BAHA archives)

Jonathan Wright was secretary of the Master Bakers’ Association of Alameda County, and in 1903 communicated with the Journeyman Bakers’ union to avert a strike. In 1905, he was a leader in the local movement to oppose the enforcement of a new law compelling the vaccination of school children, offering his Golden Sheaf Hall, then the largest in Berkeley, for mass meetings. In 1907, the Wrights sold their business to a syndicate of local businessmen headed by Christian Mikkelsen and John Berry, who greatly expanded operations. A new plant was constructed in 1915 at 2029 Addison Street. Before long, Golden Sheaf merged with the Remar Baking Company of Oakland. The old Alpha Block was torn down.

Pre-restoration (photo: BAHA archives)

Around the corner, at 2071 Addison Street, stands a remnant of the Golden Sheaf Bakery. The brick-sided building was constructed in 1905 as a storage building and loading area for the bakery. Despite its rather humble use, the building was designed by noted architect Clinton Day.

The Golden Sheaf building is a Classic-inspired, two-story red brick and terra-cotta structure with a three-part composition. Four pilasters frame three vertical bays, which contain three sets of paired arched windows on the second story. Above the central bay there is a sign molded in brick-colored terra-cotta depicting a sheaf of wheat, with the bakery’s name below. Molded terra cotta was also used for the bases and capitals of the pilasters and for the cornice. The terra cotta was made by the Gladding McBean Company.


Terra cotta pediment (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

After the bakery was sold, the building served as offices and shops until 1927, when it was converted into a garage. On 20 July 2000, a dedication ceremony was held for the Nevo Educational Center of the Berkeley Repertory Theater. The remodeled bakery-warehouse building will provide space for the theater’s education program.

An earlier version of this article was published in the Berkeley Daily Planet.

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The Golden Sheaf Bakery was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark on 17 October 1977. It is #78000644 on the National Register of Historic Places (added in 1978). The building currently houses the the Aurora Theatre Company.

See also The Carpenter, the Baker, and the Classics Professor, about the two Wright houses at Francisco and Milvia Streets.


Ad in the Oakland Tribune, 31 May 1915

 

  

Copyright © 2004–2014 Daniella Thompson. Text © 2001–2014 Susan Cerny. All rights reserved.