Berkeley Landmarks :: Suendermann Plumbing Co.


Suendermann Plumbing Co.

921 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA

Susan Cerny

Photo: BAHA archives

25 August 2001

Only three 19th century commercial buildings are still standing on busy University Avenue. 844 and 982 University Avenue are physically intact examples of what was, in the 1880s, a common commercial style. Tall display windows for lighting the interior of the business reflected a technical advance of pane-glass making in the mid-nineteenth century. Surrounding these large windows were carved wood moldings and brackets typical of the Victorian era.

The Suendermann Plumbing Company building is located at the corner of Eighth Street and University Avenue at 921 University Avenue and was built in the early 1880s or late 1870s. The ground floor retail space has been modernized several times and today incorporates additions to the west and north sides of the building. But despite these extensive ground floor alterations, the building still displays its Victorian origins and its Italianate style on the second floor.

The Suendermann building today (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

The building’s rectangular shape, gabled roof, partial false front pediment, shallow overhanging closed eaves with carved brackets below, and tall windows (now aluminum), paired on the front and single on the side, with molded drip hoods and carved brackets, are evidence of its early construction.

These three remaining 19th-century commercial buildings were part of a larger 19th-century commercial district on lower University Avenue that served Berkeley’s early settlement of Ocean View.

This article was originally published in the Berkeley Daily Planet.


The Suendermann building in 1902 (photo courtesy of Alice Saunders)

The Suendermann building underwent several renovations over the years. The photo above depicts the original building as it looked in 1902. The Suendermann family lived above the shop. Otto Suendermann (1900–1976), who would eventually assume ownership of the business, grew up there. In 1906, he observed the post-earthquake fires of San Francisco from the apartment window.

It is not clear when the store interior below was photographed, but the console radio or gramophone on the right and the bobbed hair and dress style of the young lady in the cardboard display point to the early 1920s. According to Alice Saunders, granddaughter of Otto Suendermann, the young man in the dark jacket standing at the rear is Otto’s brother Walter.

The Suendermann store (photo courtesy of Alice Saunders)

Initially, Suendermann Co. used to sell lighting fixtures and various home appliances in addition to plumbing supplies. In later years,�all merchandise except plumbing fixtures�was phased out. Toward the end of the company’s existence, the plumbers were also phased out, as most of the business was coming from do-it-yourself customers.

The Suendermann Plumbing Co. building was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark on 18 November 1985.



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