Berkeley Landmarks :: Heywood Building


Heywood Building

2014–2018 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA

Susan Cerny

Heywood Building (BAHA archives)

27 July 2002

A visually pleasing aspect of old Downtown buildings is often their elaborate decoration. The modern movement stripped the “unnecessary” decoration from buildings in order to emphasize the essence of a structure, but the older Downtown Berkeley buildings are embellished with examples of architectural decoration that break the monotony of modernism.

A good example is the Heywood Building at 2014–2018 Shattuck Avenue.

Built in 1917, the Heywood Building is a small, two-story commercial building that is only one retail-space wide, but it is the only building in Berkeley where terra cotta is used in such a lush and decorative manner. The fa�ade is a composition of a ground-floor storefront with a wide transom above and a set of three arched windows on the second floor. These are all surrounded by elaborately carved terra cotta glazed creamy white and accented with pale blue and green. A heavy Classic-styled cornice is also made of terra cotta.

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2008

The building was featured in the February 1919 issue of Architect and Engineer. It was designed by James Plachek—who also designed the Berkeley Main Library—for William Heywood, [grand]son of Berkeley pioneer Zimri Brewer Heywood.

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004

Terra cotta simply means fired clay, and the use of unfired (adobe) or fired clay (usually brick) as a building material has been widespread since ancient times. In Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar built the Ishtar Gate in the 6th century B.C. and lined the walls with bas-relief panels of animals made from carved bricks glazed with bright colors.

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004

In more modern times, architectural terra cotta became a popular building material as a substitute for carved stone. Its colorful decorative possibilities made its use very popular during the 1920s and ’30s, when fabulous Art Deco buildings, such as the Flower Depot in Oakland, were constructed.

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004

The type of terra cotta used on the Heywood Building was made in hollow block-like sections. The clay was hand-pressed into plaster molds made from hand-carved clay pieces. The sections could be glazed in any color and some were glazed to look like stone. The hollow block-like sections were then attached to the under-structure of a building with rods and wire. A fa�ade made of architectural terra cotta was truly hand-made.

Koerber Building (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2008)

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004

In Downtown Berkeley, other buildings that feature terra cotta are the Koerber Building at 2054 University Avenue, the Wells Fargo Building, the U.S. Post Office, the Kress Building, the Masonic Temple, the Roos Brothers Building, and the signage on the Acheson Building.

The terra cotta on the Heywood Building was produced by the largest producer of terra cotta on the West Coast—the Gladding, McBean Company in Lincoln, CA. The company is still in business and many of its master molds and drawings still exist. Occasionally, the company offers tours of its terra cotta factory.

This article was originally published in the Berkeley Daily Planet. under the title “Architectural decoration was often elaborate in the first decades of the 20th century.”


The Heywood Building was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark on 12 April 1993. It is listed in the California State Historic Resources Inventory.



Copyright © 2004–2019 Daniella Thompson & BAHA. Text © 2002–2016 Susan Cerny. All rights reserved.