Berkeley Landmarks :: Church of the Good Shepherd

Church of the Good Shepherd, Episcopal

1823 Ninth Street, Berkeley, CA

Daniella Thompson

Church of the Good Shepherd (drawing by Henrik Bull, 1981)

The Church of the Good Shepherd, situated on the corner of Ninth Street and Hearst Avenue, was the second landmark designated by the City of Berkeley. It is the oldest church building standing in Berkeley, as well as the oldest in continuous use by its founding congregation in the entire East Bay. In its earlier years, the congregation included such prominent figures as Anna Head (1857–1932), founder of the famous preparatory school for girls; H.N. Marquand, publisher and proprietor of the Berkeley Advocate; and Zimri Brewer Heywood (1803–1879), Berkeley pioneer and owner of the Heywood lumber yard.

The building originated with a women’s sewing society, which began collecting funds in 1877 to build an Episcopal church in West Berkeley. It was constructed in 1878, the year in which the City of Berkeley was incorporated. The architect, Charles L. Bugbee, modeled it after the Gothic Revival Mendocino Presbyterian Church designed a decade earlier by his father’s firm, S.C. Bugbee & Sons of San Francisco.

Church of the Good Shepherd (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2007)

Mendocino Presbyterian Church (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2008)

In 1869, S.C. Bugbee & Sons was responsible for designing the California Theatre�at 430 Bush Street between Kearny and Grant Streets in San Francisco (California State Historic Landmark 86). It cost $150,000 and was for many years the city’s leading theatre. Also in 1869, the firm designed Mills Hall for Mills Seminary (now Mills College) in Oakland. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. An earlier version of Oakland City Hall reputedly was one of their commissions. In 1875, Sumner Bugbee was the architect of record for Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin’s Baldwin Theatre at the corner of Market and Powell streets, to which a hotel was added in 1877 or ’78. Among the palatial Nob Hill residences designed by the firm was David Colton’s neoclassical mansion (1871–72) at the top of California Street, which later passed into the hands of Collis P. Huntington, and which architect Willis Polk in the 1890s would call “the most artistic [...] dwelling in the [...] city.” Next came Leland Stanford’s mansion (1875–76), which the San Francisco Chronicle described at the time as “the largest private residence in the state.” These extravaganzas were followed by Charles Crocker’s rococo mansion (1885), situated next door to the Colton residence. All three mansions burned in the great 1906 fire. The Crocker and Colton palaces have been replaced with Grace Cathedral and Huntington Park, respectively, while the Stanford Court Hotel now stands on the site of Leland Stanford’s mansion.

Crocker (left) and Colton mansions, circa 1885–90 (photo: I.W. Taber; Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley)

Sumner Bugbee’s own house at 146 Lake Street in Oakland was far more modest. In its Victorian Stick style one can detect some of the same elements that appear on the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Sumner Bugbee house (photo: I.W. Taber; Bancroft Library)

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005

Photo: Gustavo Caldarelli

Photo: Gustavo Caldarelli

Reflecting its Episcopalian denomination, the Church of the Good Shepherd is considerably more ornate and playful than its severe Presbyterian model, with Victorian ornamentation on the fa�ade walls and decorative shingle patterns on the spire roof. The building appears more earth-bound and less vertical than the Mendocino church, owing not only to the wider tower but also to the shape of the windows and the treatment of the belfry.

This small church boasts no fewer than ten stained-glass windows—two large and eight small ones. The pseudo-Gothic buttresses “supporting” the tower and the chapel are hollow wooden boxes. The eighty-foot tower contains a thousand-pound Blymer bell. Until 1894, the latter fulfilled the double function of church bell and fire alarm.

Ninth St. fa�ade (photo: Gustavo Caldarelli)

The Church of the Good Shepherd was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark on 15 December 1975. It is #86003361 in the National Register of Historic Places (added in 1986).

The building was renovated in 1978 with a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. While the exterior remains virtually unchanged, a few minor alterations were made to the interior. A Guild Hall was built in 1917, and a pastor’s house shortly thereafter. These were consolidated into a Parish Hall in 1959.

Photo: Gustavo Caldarelli

On 10 August 2003, the Church of the Good Shepherd celebrated its 125th anniversary. On that occasion the building was renovated again, with $70,000 raised by means of a capital campaign. In addition to receiving a structural upgrade, the church was painted in a handsome color scheme that emphasizes its Victorian style.

On 20 October 2012, an electrical fire devastated the church, destroying the sacristy and gutting the sanctuary. In 2013, the church undertook a phased restoration project.

Before & after the fire (courtesy of Good Shepherd Church)

The church reopened on Sunday, 21 September 2014.

A slightly different version of this article appeared in the Berkeley Daily Planet, 17 November 2006, under the title “This West Berkeley Landmark Is a Proud Survivor.”



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