Berkeley Landmarks :: Charles Keeler on Berkeley


The Eastern Shore

from San Francisco and Thereabout (1902)

Charles Keeler

Charles Keeler at home (photo: Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley)

One may be forgiven for an undue partiality to his own home town, which is my only excuse for enlarging on the charms of Berkeley. I know it and love it from many years’ residence. It is an unfinished place with much about it that might be bettered, particularly in the provincial architecture of its business section, yet I have never known anyone, however widely he may have traveled, in New England or in Old, who has once lived under the spell of the Berkeley oaks without wishing to make it a home for life.

Berkeley lies upon the hills opposite the Golden Gate. Its homes command the whole glorious sweep of bay and shore. Tamalpais rears its finely chiseled profile to the right of the Gate, and San Francisco on its many hills lies to the left. The selection of this site for a State University was an inspiration on the part of its founders. Just where a beautiful ca´┐Żon in the Berkeley hills descends to the plain, with classic laurels fringing its upper slopes, and the patriarch live-oaks sanctifying its lower levels with their gnarled gray trunks and dark canopies of verdure, upon the gently rising slope which leads up from the bay shore some two miles distant, a tract of two hundred and eighty-five acres has been set apart for the University of California. The Berkeley Hills rise abruptly back of it to the crest of Grizzly Peak, some fifteen hundred feet high, and upon the three lower sides of the grounds extends the town.

“Artistic homes”: a cluster of Maybeck-designed houses on Ridge Road and Highland Place. Keeler’s house is in the center, behind the pole.
(photo: Dimitri Shipounoff collection, BAHA archives

Wherein lies the charm of Berkeley? It is in the vine-covered cottages and profusion of flowers which at the height of the season make the town seem decked for a carnival? Is it in the glorious prospect of rolling mountains and far-spread sky? Or is it the people, drawn away from near and far by that great magnet, the University? We old timers complain that the town is getting crowded and no longer has the rural tone of a few years ago. But what matter? Ceaselessly the houses go up, new ones springing into existence on every hand, and the only consolation is that on the whole the architecture is steadily becoming simpler and better. There is probably no other spot in California where so many really artistic homes are assembled. For those who like the sort of people attracted by a great institution of learning, no society could be more delightful than is to be found here. People are flocking to Berkeley not only from various parts of California but from many sections of the East. They hear of its wonderful climate, softer than San Francisco but favorable for work all year round, the most truly temperate climate imaginable. They hear of its homes, its people and its accessibility to the great city. They come to educate their children at the University and once here never leave save by compulsion.

The growth of the University of California in recent years is one of the most significant facts in the development of the State. Throngs of students crowd class-rooms and laboratories to the utmost limit, despite the many temporary buildings recently erected. The University has grown six fold in the past twelve years. Harvard alone among American universities outnumbers it in undergraduates. Well may California boast of the fact that in proportion to population more students are receiving a college education within her confines than in any other State in the union! Plans are now being made for a magnificent group of permanent university buildings, and the first of the series, the Hearst Mining Building, is in course of erection.

Hearst Memorial Mining Building (John Galen Howard, 1902) on an early postcard

Mere numbers count for little save as an index of the desire for highter education. It is the high standard, the progressive spirit, the ideals of scholarship that are in evidence which means so much for the future of San Francisco and of California. It is the Greek scholar and writer of wide reputation before he became so forceful a power in Berkeley as president of the University, of George Holmes Howison, one of the deepest philosophic minds of the age as the students of the older centers of learning attest, and of the memory of the illustrious dead—John and Joseph Le Conte and Edward Rowland Sill—these men and their co-workers are indeed the crowning glory of Berkeley! The college town has also for many years been the home of William Keith who has drawn the chief inspiration for his matchless pictures from the oaks, the hills, and the bay of this well loved region.


San Francisco and Thereabout was published in 1902 by the California Promotion Committee of San Francisco. The Eastern Shore comprises pages 82 through 88 of this tome. The entire text is available on the San Francisco Genealogy website.

See also:
Charles Keeler House & Studio

Recommended reading:

Bernard Maybeck: Hillside Building
(Illustrated booklet for the Berkeley Hillside Club, 1906)

Charles Keeler: The Simple Home
(San Francisco: Paul Elder, 1904)



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