Berkeley’s landmarks are everywhere
you look

A quick visitor’s guide to our architectural heritage

Daniella Thompson

Berkeley Municipal Rose Garden (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

25 August 2005 & 8 March 2007

If you’ve driven around California, you’ll no doubt have seen the ubiquitous signs that grace the entrance to various cities, directing you to the historic district or what’s left of it. Berkeley has no such sign—probably because it’s preserved more of its historic heritage than most cities, and because our landmarks aren’t confined to one area but can be found all over town.

The Campanile towers over the campus classic Beaux Arts core. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)
  At the heart of Berkeley is the University of California campus, whose classic Beaux Arts core was designed by John Galen Howard between 1902 and 1924. The campus plan was created as a result of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst International Architectural Competition of 1898–99. Although Howard did not win the competition, he was appointed Supervising Architect and determined the look of the campus, designing two dozen structures, including its most famous sites: Sather Tower (the Campanile), Sather Gate, Doe Library, Hearst Greek Theatre, California Memorial Stadium, Wheeler Hall, California Hall, and Hearst Memorial Mining Building. Many of the buildings are clad in granite (or stucco when the budget was tight) and surmounted by red tile roofs; a few are Brown Shingles in the Arts & Crafts style. As an ensemble, they constitute California Historic Landmark No. 946 and are also individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Just south of the U.C. campus, at 2315 Durant Avenue, stands the Berkeley City Club, designed in 1929 by Julia Morgan. Like Morgan’s Hearst Castle, the six-story clubhouse combines Moorish and Gothic elements that earned it the moniker “The Little Castle.” Originally the Berkeley Women’s City Club, it was entirely financed by subscriptions from 4,000 women. The fabulous interiors include an indoor swimming pool, a ballroom, various reception halls, dining rooms, courtyards, and a terrace. California Historic Landmark No. 908, the building is now run as a hotel, and the restaurant is open to the public.

Berkeley City Club (photos: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

Shattuck Hotel (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

A few blocks to the west, Downtown Berkeley boasts an eclectic mix of architectural styles from different periods. Occupying an entire block of Shattuck Avenue between Kittredge St. and Allston Way is the venerable Shattuck Hotel, designed in the Mission style by Benjamin G. McDougall and inaugurated in 1910. The hotel was built on the former estate of Francis K. Shattuck, one of Berkeley’s founders. Next door, also on former Shattuck land, is the Berkeley Public Library, a fine example of Zigzag Moderne designed by James W. Plachek in 1930.

Berkeley Public Library

(photos: Daniella Thompson, 2007)

Just across Shattuck Ave. from the library you can delight in one of the Bay Area’s best Storybook-style structures, the enchanting Tupper & Reed Building (William Raymond Yelland, 1925), originally a music store and now a restaurant. On the corner of Shattuck and Addison St. stands the former S. H. Kress & Co. five-and-dime store. Built in 1933, this striking Art Deco edifice now serves as the gatepost to the Arts District, housing a bookstore, Berkeley’s famous Jazz School, and the acclaimed Aurora Theatre Company.

S. H. Kress & Co. Building (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2007)

Tupper & Reed Building (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2007)

The 800 block of Delaware Street in West Berkeley preserves Ocean View’s 19th-century ambiance. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

Edward F. Niehaus residence, 839 Channing Way (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)


Berkeley’s earliest founding community was Ocean View, on the shore of San Francisco Bay. The former town, now West Berkeley, is home to a large collection of 19th-century architecture. Strolling along the 800 block of Delaware Street with its boardwalks, water towers, picket fences, and beautifully restored Victorians, the visitor can taste the rural character that once characterized this neighborhood. At 834 Delaware St., you’ll see the charming yellow building that served as Captain Higgins’ Temperance Grocery Store since 1875. Preserved Italianate and Queen Anne houses, as well as 19th-century workmen’s cottages are scattered on surrounding streets, just steps away from the elegant shops and restaurants of Fourth Street.

The 800 block of Delaware Street (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

About a mile north of the U.C. campus, the Berkeley Municipal Rose Garden is a favorite venue for June weddings, tennis games, picnics, hiking, or daydreaming. A Depression-era Civil Works Progress Project, the garden was opened in September 1937. Arranged in an amphitheater, wide stone terraces planted with fragrant rose bushes face west toward the Golden Gate. A semicircular redwood pergola draped with climbing roses crowns the terraces. Boasting 3,000 rose bushes and 250 varieties of roses, the garden is considered by many to be the finest rose garden in Northern California. A block to the south on Euclid Avenue, the famous Rose Walk, laid out by Bernard Maybeck and lined with cottages by Henry H. Gutterson, is worth a look as well.

Rose Walk (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

A previous verion of this article was published in the Berkeley Daily Planet on 26 August 2005.


Copyright © 2005–2019 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.