Berkeley Landmarks :: Municipal Rose Garden


Municipal Rose Garden

Euclid Avenue between Bay View Place &
Eunice Street, Berkeley, CA

Susan Cerny

Municipal Rose Garden (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

1 September 2001

The Berkeley Municipal Rose Garden was dedicated in September 1937 after four years of construction. The building of the garden was a Civil Works Administration project. It was among the many public parks projects sponsored by the federal government to provide employment during the Depression.

The garden was designed by Vernon M. Dean, and construction was supervised by Charles W. Cresswell of the Berkeley Parks and Recreation Department.

The main section of the rose garden is designed like an amphitheater, with wide stone terraces facing magnificent views of San Francisco Bay. A semicircular redwood pergola, which extends the full width of the amphitheater, provides not only visual definition to the site but a structure for climbing roses and shaded benches. The planting of 2,500 rose bushes was planned by the East Bay Counties Rose Society under the supervision of Charles V. Covell. The roses were arranged one color per terrace, from shades of red at the top through bronze and pink to yellow and white at the bottom.

Photo: BAHA archives

The location of the Rose Garden is in a deep canyon named El Valle de Los Codornices (Valley of the Quails) by Don Jose Domingo Peralta in the 1840s. Early entrepreneurs of Codornices Canyon and its creeks were Henry Berryman and Felix Chappellet, who began selling water from the creeks in 1877.

As residential development moved farther north into the upper hills, the Cragmont Improvement Club extended streetcar service into the Cragmont subdivision by building a streetcar trestle across the canyon. The trestle was removed and a land bridge built in the 1920s.

On the east side of the land bridge, the neighborhood Codornices Club had built a park and club house in 1913. However, the west side of the land bridge remained unimproved until the Rose Garden was built.

This article was originally published in the Berkeley Daily Planet.


Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004

The City of Berkeley’s website informs:

Besides row upon row of gorgeous fragrant roses, the Berkeley Rose Garden has a redwood pergola, four tennis courts, a picnic area, scenic hiking trails, foot bridges, a semicircular terraced amphitheater, a breathtaking view of the sunset behind the Golden Gate Bridge, and an ornamental pool fed by Codornices creek, which runs through the garden. The garden is a wonderful place to hold events, weddings and celebrations. The Berkeley Rose Garden is considered by many, to be the finest rose garden in Northern California with its 3,000 rose bushes and 250 varieties of roses. The roses are pruned in January in preparation for Mother’s Day when the garden is in its most spectacular state.

The Rose Garden was one of the first Civil Works Progress Projects under the Works Project Administration (WPA), the Rose Garden was conceived in 1933 and completed and dedicated for public use in September 1937. East Bay rose societies and community members donated hundreds of hours of volunteer time. The terraced amphitheatre and 220-foot long redwood pergola were suggested by architect Bernard Maybeck; the final design and execution were the work of landscape architect Vernon M. Dean and rose specialist C. V. Covell. For many years, the parks department held Rose Week activities there each May, with a Rose Day Celebration on Mother’s Day. Traditionally, the annual winners in the All-American Rose Society were planted at the Garden; others were supplied by growers from all over the world.


The Municipal Rose Garden was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark on 3 March 1995. In 2002, the entrance to the garden was reconstructed. More recently, the sign was replaced with a replica. The original sign now reposes at BAHA’s headquarters, McCreary-Greer House. In 2014, the pergola was declared a hazard and cordoned off. Berkeley voters approved Measure T1 in 2016, earmarking funds for a wide range of municipal improvements, included the Rose Garden pergola’s reconstruction. A small central portion was reconstructed in 2017, with the rest being completed in the spring of 2021.

See also:
John Hinkel Park
Friends of the Rose Garden

Gray Brechin: “Built by FDR: How the WPA
Changed the Lay of the Land



Copyright © 2004–2021 Daniella Thompson & BAHA.
Text © 2001–2016 Susan Cerny. All rights reserved.