The Shattuck Hotel: Berkeley’s Once and Future Jewel?

Daniella Thompson

Can the Shattuck Hotel regain its former glory? (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

17 October 2007

If Berkeley has a heart, it must be located on the 2200 block of Shattuck Avenue between Kittredge Street and Allston Way. This is the site that Berkeley’s founder, Francis Kittredge Shattuck, chose as his homestead.

Although the Gold Rush lured him to California, Shattuck (1824–1898) made his fortune by other means. In 1852, he teamed up with George Blake, William Hillegass, and James Leonard to file a claim on a square mile in what is now central Berkeley.

Since the land was part of Jos� Domingo Peralta’s Rancho San Antonio, and Domingo defended his property rights vigorously in the courts, nothing came of the claim. Shattuck ended up buying his 160-acre tract in 1860 from French-born banker Fran�ois Louis Alfred Pioche. Known as Plot 68, the tract was bounded by the current Addison Street to the north, Russell Street to the south, Shattuck Avenue to the east, and Grove Street to the west. The streets did not yet exist.

Living in Oakland, Shattuck—with Hillegass as his partner—opened a livery stable and entered politics. Beginning in 1853 as clerk of the Board of Trustees and proceeding through the city council, he became mayor in 1859, later serving on the County Board of Supervisors. In the 1860 census, Shattuck stated the value of his real estate at $14,000 and his personal estate at $6,000. Ten years later, his real estate was worth $75,000 and his personal estate $50,000. By then he had also branched into farming, real estate, and coal mining in the Black Diamond area.

The first Shattuck home, built in 1868. It was later occupied by the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. (BAHA archives)

In 1868, Shattuck built his first Berkeley house on Shattuck Avenue between Allston and Bancroft ways. Mansard roofed and set back from the street, the house was surrounded by spacious gardens. Two blocks to the north, at the Shattuck-Addison intersection, Shattuck built the town’s first major commercial center and helped it grow by talking the Central Pacific Railroad into extending a branch line into Berkeley. Later he founded the Commercial Bank, which would become the First National Bank of Berkeley.

The second Shattuck home, built in 1891 (BAHA archives)

In 1891, the old Shattuck home was joined by a new Queen Anne mansion, designed by W.H. Weilbye of Oakland. The childless Francis and Rosa Shattuck shared it with his nephew, John W. Havens, and her niece, Rosa M. Livingstone, future heirs of the Shattuck fortune.

On 21 September 1907, the San Francisco Call announced that Berkeley capitalists had formed a company to erect a million-dollar hotel on Mrs. Shattuck’s estate. The directors were A.W. Naylor, who succeeded Shattuck as president of the First National Bank; William E. Woolsey, who had married Rosa Livingstone and managed the Shattuck estate; Judge William H. Waste; John W. Havens; and B.F. Brooks. The Call further informed:

Many years ago Francis K. Shattuck, a pioneer, planned to erect a magnificent hotel in the heart of Berkeley. His death stopped the project. His plans will now be carried out by others, the consent of Mrs. Rosa Shattuck to back the enterprise having been obtained. The Shattuck grounds are spacious and covered with shrubbery and trees, making an excellent setting for a great caravansary. The new hostelry will be known as the Hotel Berkeley.

The building was expected to cost $500,000, with the grounds valued at the same amount. The capital stock was to be divided into 10,000 shares of $100 each. The term of the corporation’s life was to be 50 years.

The Shattuck home property in 1903

and in 1911 (Sanborn maps)

An architectural competition was held, and five designs were submitted to the directors. Judge William Waste announced that the winning architect “will be given six months or longer to make the plans and will be allowed to travel to secure ideas to be incorporated in the structure.” The architect chosen was Benjamin G. McDougall, who had designed many public buildings in the San Joaquin Valley. He opted for Mission Revival style, featuring square corner turrets and arched windows.

Rosa Shattuck died on 12 September 1908, the wealthiest woman in Alameda County, leaving an estate of $2 million. The homestead property, bounded by Shattuck Avenue, Allston Way, Milvia and Kittredge streets, was deeded to Rosa Livingstone Woolsey as part of her inheritance. In April 1909, the hotel plans resurfaced, with construction slated to begin at once on an initial $125,000 building, to be followed later by a grander edifice. The five-story, reinforced concrete building would extend 80 feet along Shattuck Avenue and 150 feet on Allston Way.

The Shattuck Hotel depicted on a postcard c. 1910 (courtesy of Anthony Bruce)

Construction began in early July 1909, and the Oakland Tribune announced that “those interested in the project state that the hotel will be a reality by Christmas time.” As it turned out, the hotel did not open until December 1910. Money for completing the project may have been short, judging by a Tribune item of 3 September, 1910, disclosing that “W.E. Woolsey, owner of the new Shattuck Hotel [...] has announced that he will proceed without any further delay to furnish the hotel and will assume all responsibility for running it [...] Noah W. Gray, at present manager of the Hotel Jefferson in San Francisco, will be in charge of the new hotel.” The tony W. & J. Sloane Co. of San Francisco supplied the furnishings and carpets.

The hotel opened with much pomp to a full week of festivities. A society reception on 13 December 1910 was followed by a sold-out Chamber of Commerce banquet two evenings later. The banquet’s 12-course menu fittingly concluded with “Grant’s Hygienic Crackers—Made in Berkeley.”

Oakland Tribune, 13 Dec. 1910

Joaquin Miller, the Poet of the Sierras, was one of several celebrated speakers at the banquet. He prophesied that the cities around the bay would some day be one. He also managed to shock every real estate dealer present by describing his Oakland hilltop property, The Hights [sic], as being “of no great value, for there is a stone or rock of some sort for every foot of earth and there is a gopher or squirrel for every stone, and each gopher or squirrel seems to have a large and prosperous family.” The realtors “gasped with amazement,” for “they had never heard anybody make so derogatory a statement concerning a bit of land in Alameda County.”


Oakland Tribune, 16 Dec. 1910

Cover of an early publicity brochure (courtesy of Jerry Sulliger)

The hotel was a success from its first day, and soon the directors were deliberating whether to expand. They were encouraged to do so by a dry-goods merchant named John Frederick Hink, whose store was located in the Wanger Block, on the southeast corner of Shattuck Avenue and Kittredge Street. In Berkeley since 1904, Hink was ready to cross the street and become the anchor tenant in a block-long Shattuck Hotel.

The expanded Shattuck Hotel c. 1915 (courtesy of Anthony Bruce)

The 120-room hotel addition was built in 1913 and opened the following year in anticipation of the Panama-Pacific Exposition. A newspaper ad published in January 1915 promised direct electric transportation from the hotel to the exposition grounds every ten minutes. “The Hotel Shattuck is recognized as the social and civic center,” boasted the ad.

Shattuck Hotel lobby c. 1915

Detail from the hotel menu, 1917 (courtesy of Jerry Sulliger)

The J.F. Hink & Son department store occupied the ground floor of the addition for seven decades. Its standard entry in early city directories listed “Dry Goods, Notions, Fancy Goods, Draperies, Domestics, Etc.” Many Hink family members worked in the store, chief among them the founder’s son, Lester William Hink, who served as president of the company until 1976. The store was sold in 1978, a year after Lester’s death, and closed during the 1980s.

Hink’s arcade at the Shattuck Hotel (BAHA archives)

Ad in the Berkeley Courier, late 1910s (courtesy of Jerry Sulliger)

Shortly after the hotel’s new wing was completed, Noah Gray left to manage the Claremont Hotel. His position at the Shattuck was eventually assumed by the former night clerk, William W. Whitecotton (1886–1933), who purchased the hotel in 1918, eventually naming it after himself. Having also bought the Hotel Lankershim in Los Angeles, Whitecotton moved there in 1919. In 1926, he leased the Berkeley hotel to the newly formed Whitecotton Realty Company. Several months after his death in 1933, in the depth of the Great Depression, the company went into foreclosure.

The bondholders reorganized a year later under the name Shattuck Properties Corporation, and in 1941 sold the hotel to Levi Strauss Realty Co., which in turn leased it to Wallace and Joan Miller of the Durant Hotel. The Millers renamed it the Shattuck Hotel and moved the entrance from Shattuck Avenue to Allston Way.

Shattuck Avenue in the 1940s, before the hotel lost its balconies (courtesy of the Berkeley Historical Society)

Since then, the hotel changed hands a number of times, undergoing periodic facelifts yet steadily shedding its former glory. The current owner, BPR Properties of Palo Alto, is the latest operator promising to turn the faded dowager into a four-star hotel, but the promise comes with a price—a proposed 16- or 19-story tower in the rear.

Berkeley watches and waits.

This article was published in the Berkeley Daily Planet on 19 October 2007.

The refurbished hotel (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2009)

Since the publication of this article, BPR Properties renovated the hotel, renaming it Shattuck Plaza. No tower addition was built. As of this writing (July 2011), the Shattuck Plaza is ranked as Berkeley’s top hotel by TripAdvisor.


Copyright © 2007–2020 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.