Sunday, December 25, 2011

New Web Site!

Towards the beginning of the New Year I will be taking ownership of a new domain,, and the blog and related materials will be moving over there.  The site is still under construction but will be operable with new content sometime in January.  Until then, this blog remains the go-to site for all your cycling and history based needs.

I am taking possession of this domain through the hard work of my brother, James, and his partner, Zoe.  Huge thanks for getting me started and doing some amazing preliminary design work.

Cycling Through History 

Companions in History

I've recently learned that there is another site on the East Coast that shares some of the same goals and interests as mine.  Cycling Trough History, Massachusetts, addresses the exploration of local history with an emphasis on African-American and related topics.  Their goal is to design a network of bicycle routes that will allow people to explore themes in local African American history on their own terms.

I'm excited to learn that there are people in other communities working towards similar goals and sharing the same interest in the historical and cultural background that makes their locale unique and important.  It would be incredibly interesting to see a network of sites, each exploring a different city and a different local perspective.

Please take a minute and take a look at their site, Cycling Through History, Massachusetts, and learn more about their project.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's so long for the holidays!

The blog will be on hold until the new year, while I immerse myself in the joy and chaos of the holiday season.  The plan is to come back into 2012 with a whole slew of new material and generally continue riding my bike around for no good reason other than that I like to do it. 

Thanks to everyone who reads the blog, and I look forward to sharing more local history with you in 2012!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Bike Hut

First things first, this week marks a small change in format for this blog.  My intention was always to publish twice a week, but that kind off writing and riding schedule is not sustainable when I take into account my work/non-blog related bicycle riding/spousal relationship maintaining schedule.  So from now on I'll be publishing once a week on Tuesday.  Thanks for continuing to read.

The Bike Hut is located at 1045 Tunitas Creek Rd., 13km south of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1 and 1.6km inland.

The Bike Hut is a free rest stop operated by Potrero Nuevo Farms on Tunitas Creek Road.  It's impossible to miss, since it's the only building in site that's bright red with white stripes and a giant sign on the front that says "The Bike Hut".  They have a picnic area, they sell snacks ($1-2) and water bottle refills ($.25) with an honor system cash box, it's free and open to all cyclists, and it is available to all those in need 24/7, 365 days a year.

To be fair, the Bike Hut has little to nothing to do with history, but it has everything to do with cycling.  This is an incredibly generous resource shared by the owners/managers with the cycling community at large.  If you do swing by the bike hut, and I suggest you do if you're in the neighborhood, please write a thank you note in the book, be generous with your donations, and be courteous to the people operating the farm.  Tunitas Creek Road is a great way to spend an afternoon on a bike, and the presence of the Bike Hut just makes me all the more eager to head back to that neck of the woods.

Getting There By Bike...
It's easy to get to the Bike Hut by bike, provided you're traveling either on Highway 1, up Tunitas Creek Road to get back to the Bay, or down Tunitas Creek to get to Highway 1.  Basically, there are a very small number of reasons you would be riding in this area, but if you are you should go to the bike hut.  The hut is right on the side of the road, very close to the Tunitas Creek/Highway 1 junction.  Just head inland and you can't miss it.  If you have some extra time the First Unitarian Church of Pescadero is just down the road.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The San Francisco Ferry Building

The San Francisco Ferry Terminal is located on the Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco, at the terminus of Market Street.

The current Ferry Building was designed by A. Page Brown and was built in 1898 to replace an earlier wooden building.  The clock tower on top of the Ferry Building is modeled after the 12th century Giralda tower in Seville Spain.  The original clock mechanism, a Special No. 4 built in 1898 by E. Howard of Boston, is still intact and functional, though the operation of the clock has been taken over by a more accurate electronic mechanism that doesn't require winding.  It is the largest wind-up, dialed, mechanical clock in the world.  The Ferry Building survived both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes with only minor damage and has remained largely unchanged, at least architecturally, for most of its life.

For the first half of the 20th century the San Francisco Ferry Building was the main transit hub for the Bay Area, seeing so much daily traffic that it was the second busiest mass transit center in the world, only falling behind Charing Cross Station in London.  The ferry Building was the embarkation point for ships bound for the East Bay and vice versa.  There was also a loop track for local street car service in front of the building so commuters could board local transit once their ferries had arrived in the city.

The building fell into disuse in the second half of the 20th century, following the opening of the Bay Bridge and the extension of Key Route rail car service between San Francisco and Oakland.  The construction of the Embarcadero Freeway in the 1950s effectively severed the Embarcadero waterfront form the rest of the city and the Ferry Building saw an accompanying drop in service and use.  However, following the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, the Embarcadero Freeway was demolished and, with the creation of the current Embarcadero and its surrounding park spaces, the city gained back a significant cultural and historical resource.  The building currently houses a gourmet market and hosts San Francisco's best known farmer's market.  Also, Blue Bottle coffee has a stand there which makes the building worth a trip almost every time I go to the city.

I like the Ferry Buildding a lot.  I moved to the area after the Embarcadero Freeway was demolished so the thought of not being able to climb out of the Embarcadero BART station and orient myself by looking for the Ferry Building clock tower is very odd to me.  It remains one of my favorite sights in the city and I never feel bad taking the time to walk through it.  The inside of the building is great too, following a very extensive renovation in 2003.  The farmer's market and the shops inside are worth a trip, but don't go on the weeekendd because the crowds will be out of control.

Getting There By Bike...
The Ferry Building is easy to find...
  • Ride BART to the city and get off at the Embarcadero station.
  • Walk out to street level.
  • Turn around and see the Ferry Building at the end of Market St.
If you live in the city it's even easier...
  • Get on Market Street.
  • Ride your bike east (into downtown) until you fall in the water.
  • Take a couple steps backwards and look up.  You're at the Ferry Building!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

First Congregational Church of Pescadero

The church is located at 363 Stage Road in Pescadero, California.  California state historical marker number 949 is located directly in front of the building.

The First Congregational Church of Pescadero was built in May of 1867.  There are older church sites within San Mateo County, but this structure is the oldest surviving Protestant church building still on its original site and foundation.  The architectural style, more suited to Protestant communities found on the East Coast, reflects the social and religious profile of the settlers who were moving to this area in the mid-19th century.

The city of Pescadero dates back to the Spanish settlement of California when the area was a part of the Rancho Pescadero, given to Juan Jose Gonzales in 1833.  The Rancho fell into the area controlled by the Mission Santa Cruz.  The first American settler to move into the area, Alexander Moore, built his home in the Pescadero Valley in 1853.  Since the area offered fertile soil and easy access to the coast, Pescadero was a significant local community by the 1860s.

A quirky local fact of note is that the preponderance of white homes and buildings in Pescadero dates back to either the 1853 wreck of the clipper ship Pigeon, or the 1896 wreck of the steamer Columbia.  Whichever ship it was, and sources vary, the residents of Pescadero salvaged a staggeringly large quantity of white paint from the wreckage, which was then used liberally on any building that was in need of paint.  The tradition of painting homes and buildings in Pescadero white is still continued within the community.

I visited Pescadero for the first time recently and I liked it.  It's a great little community near the coast and it's worth a day trip out to see it and the area that surrounds it.

Getting There By Bike...
This one might be tough.  There are a few ways to get here, but almost all of them require a commitment of time and energy.  You'll be paid back by an absolutely great ride through some beautiful scenery, but it'll mean spending most of the day on a bike. 
The long way is to ride in from Woodside, up Old La Honda Road and then down into the Pescadero Valley.  This is the hardest way and involves lots of climbing.
Pescadero is only 14 miles south of Half Moon Bay.  You could make a day trip of it and ride your bike south to Pescadero, see the city, visit the beach, and then head back up to Half Moon Bay.
I would classify this ride as "advanced", if only for the amount of climbing that you have to do.  The Bike Hut is just a ways up Highway 1 and is worth a trip if you have it in your legs. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm taking the day off from blog related activities to spend the holiday with my family and friends.  I have much to be thankful for, and I wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Golden Sheaf Bakery

The Golden Sheaf Bakery is located at 2071 Addison Street in downtown Berkeley.  It is designated Berkeley Historical Landmark number 20.

The Golden Sheaf Bakery was opened in 1877 by Jonathan Garrard Wright, an English immigrant.  His bakery was the first wholesale-retail bakery in the immediate area and was a huge success.  By the turn of the century the bakery had a delivery fleet of nearly forty horse drawn carts.  Wright was also active in local labor concerns, as a member and officer of the Master Baker's Association of Alameda County, and a mediator for the Journeyman Baker's Union.  He averted a strike in 1903, and by 1905 had expanded his involvement with local affairs into public health, advocating for mass immunization of young children in Berkeley and using his Golden Sheaf Hall, at the time the largest public hall in Berkeley, for mass meetings to debate the measure.

By 1907 the Wright family had sold the business to a local syndicate and manufacturing was moved to a new location in Berkeley.  The old Golden Sheaf Hall was torn down and Golden Sheaf Baking was merged with the Remar Baking Company.

The building that still stands on Addison Street is a remnant of the Golden Sheaf Baking complex.  It was originally a storage area and a loading dock for baking supplies, but has been re-purposed throughout the years to meet the needs of a variety of tenants. It served as offices and shops until 1927 when it was converted into a garage.  In July of 2000 the building was re-dedicated as the Nevo Educational Center of the Berkeley Repertory Theater.

Getting There By Bike...
This one is pretty easy.  The building is right in the middle of downtown Berkeley and is only a block or so off of Shattuck.  Head west from the intersection of Addison and Shattuck  and the building will be on the right hand side.  During the day there can be a fair amount of traffic through this part of town so be wary.  While you're in the vicinity, Berkeley Civic Center Park and the old city hall building are just around the block, as are the downtown Berkeley post office and the historic buildings of the Civic Center District.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Old St. Mary's Cathedral

Old Saint Mary's Cathedral is a parish of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Francisco and is located on the corner of California Street and Grant Avenue in the China Town neighborhood.  It is designated as San Francisco Historical Landmark number 2, and as California State Historical Landmark number 810.

Old Saint Mary's was created in 1854, in the decade immediately following the California Gold Rush, and the subsequent boom in San Francisco's population. It has the distinction of being the first cathedral in California to be designed and built for use as a cathedral, though other church buildings had been used for this purpose prior to the creation of Old Saint Mary's.  Old Saint Mary's was used as a Catholic cathedral until 1891 when the growth of the religious community dictated a larger building.  A new cathedral, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, was built and Old Saint Mary's became a parish church.  Throughout its history, Old Saint Mary's has remained an active parish of the Catholic church and currently serves the China Town and Nob Hill communities.

Old Saint Mary's survived the 1906 earthquake relatively undamaged, but was totally gutted by fire a day later.  Only the walls and the clock tower remained after the fire was extinguished.  The church was completely restored by 1909 and had resumed its duties as an active parish.  Beginning in 1901 the church has been served by the Paulist Father's, an American Catholic organization, and members of this organization still serve the parish community today.

Fun Facts:
-The clock on the tower of Old Saint Mary's bears the inscription, "Son, observe the time and fly from evil" (Ecclesiasticus 4:23).  This statement was targeted at the men who frequented the brothels that surrounded the church in the first part of the 20th century.
-Emperor Norton, self-proclaimed Imperial Majesty, "Emperor of these United States", and celebrated San Francisco eccentric, collapsed on the steps of Old Saint Mary's in 1880.  He died before he could be given medical treatment, but he was so well known and loved within the community that the next day nearly 30,000 people filled the streets of San Francisco to publicly mourn his passing.

Getting There By Bike...
You can do it, but you have to climb some hills first.  Old Saint Mary's is located in the middle of China Town and, truth be told, I was window shopping and walking my bike up Grant when I found the church.  Grant is steep, California is even steeper, and if you have the legs to get up to the church then by all means do it.  I took the easy way out by people watching in China Town and pushing my bike up hill.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mission Dolores

The Mission Dolores is located at the intersection of Dolores and 16th Street in San Francisco's Mission District.  There are a number of historic markers associated with this site.  The Mission Dolores is San Francisco Historical Landmark number 1, as determined by the City and County of San Francisco.  The original site of the Mission Dolores is California State Historical Landmark number 327, and the current site is designated California Historical Landmark number 784, the northernmost point of the Camino Real, the Spanish "Royal Road" that was maintained throughout California, and the northernmost point visited by Father Junipero Serra, the founder of the California Mission system.

The Mission Dolores was the sixth religious settlement established as part of a chain of Catholic missions created by the Spanish crown and the Catholic Church.  The mission was founded on June 29th, 1776 by Lieutenant Jose Joaquin Moraga and Father Francisco Palou.  The founding of this mission was an extension of the goals of the de Anza Expedition, which intended to bring Spanish settlers to northern California and evangelize the Native American population.

The original site of the mission was actually closer to the intersection of Camp and Albion Streets.  A log structure was constructed there after the necessary church documents had arrived at the settlement.  The mission experienced a great deal of growth and success during the ffirst part of the 19th century, but the Mexican-American War and the Mexican War of Independence put a great deal of strain on the religious community.  Following the Mexican governments secularization of church property in 1934, the mission lost the vast majority of its land, money, and resources, retaining only the church buildings, their immediate surroundings, and enough land to garden and provide food for the religious community.  Most of the property and possessions of the mission were sold off to private owners.

The Mission Dolores experienced new growth during the California Gold Rush when a flood of immigrants began moving into the Mission neighborhood and it became a popular destination for entertainment and cheap lodgings.  A new church building was created to address the religious needs of the growing church community, though this building was later destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.  By contrast, the original adobe building suffered almost no damage, though the fires that swept through San Francisco following the earthquake reached almost to the church's doorstep.

Gettin There By Bike...
It couldn't be easier to get to the Mission Dolores by bike.  The simplest way to get there is to take the BART to the 16th and Mission stop.  When you leave the BART station, follow 16th St. west for three blocks.  The mission is on the corner of 16th and Dolores Street.  Be careful of the ridiculous quantities of brokeen glas that can sometimes cover the streets of the Mission.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Sentinel Building

The Sentinel Building is located at the corners of Columbus Avenue, Kearny Street, and Jackson Street in San Francisco.  It sits on the borders of North Beach, China Town, and the Financial District.  It is designated City of San Francisco Historic Landmark number 33.

The building dates back to the early 20th century, with construction beginning in 1906.  However, completion of the building was substantially delayed following the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 and significant damage to the unfinished building.  The Sentinel Building is considered a Flatiron-style office building, since it occupies a narrow, triangular plot of land at the intersection of three streets.  The exterior of t Sentinel Building is clad in copper plating which has weathered over time, giving the building its current color and aesthetic.

The Sentinel Building has always been mixed use, housing offices and restaurants over the last century.  One of the first occupants of the building was a local San Francisco politician named Abe Ruef, who kept his offices on the top floor.  Ruef was the political boss behind former San Francisco Mayor Eugene Schmitz, who served from 1902 to 1907.  Ruef was a powerful figure in local politics in the years surrounding the San Francisco Earthquake.  He is known in particular for heading the Subcommittee on Relocating the Chinese, an unsuccessful bid to push the Chinese population of San Francisco out of the China Town neighborhood following the earthquake.  Ruef occupied the Sentinel Building after his political star had begun to fall.  During the years he was a tenant of the Sentinel Building he was under indictment by the City and County of San Francisco for corruption and bribery of city officials.  During the court proceedings it became known that he was deeply connected with a web of government corruption that involved local gas rates, prize fight fixing, overhead trolley line placement, and home telephone regulation.  He was eventually convicted on 65 counts of bribery and was sentenced to 14 years in San Quentin.

The building also housed Caesar's a popular Prohibition-era restaurant that is credited with the creation off the original Caesar Salad.  The restaurant was shut down under the auspices of the Eighteenth Amendment during a crackdown on illegal drinking establishments.

The Sentinel Building was later owned by the Kingston Trio and was used by them as their corporate headquarters.  However, by the 1970s the building was starting to fall into disrepair.  Film director Francis Ford Coppola purchased the building and extensively renovated and remodeled it, and continues to use the building to house his offices.  The corporate offices of American Zoetrope Studios, Coppola's film company, occupy most of the building, while the ground level is taken up by the Cafe Zoetrope.

Getting There By Bike...
The Sentinel Building is located at a busy intersection on the border of the North Beach neighborhood.  The building itself is quite easy to find  and is a quick ride from the Financial District.  Be aware that the streets in this neighborhood tend not to have large shoulders or bike lanes and that traffic can be heavy around this part of town.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mt. Diablo

Mount Diablo is located in Contra Costa County in Northern California, just outside of Walnut Creek.  It is one of the more significant geographic landmarks in the region and is visible from most of the immediate Bay Area.  It is also the second highest peak in the Bay Area with an elevation of 3,864 feet.  Only Mount Hamilton is taller at 4,367 feet.  California State historical marker number 905 is located at the visitor's center at the top of Mount Diablo.

Mount Diablo has been a significant geographical marker throughout early Californian history.  Since it is so visible from such great distance, sue largely to its relatively isolated nature as a single peak, it was an important landmark for settlers, prospectors during the Gold Rush, and navigators during the early phases of statehood.

The origins of Mount Diablo's name can be traced back to 1824 when the phrase "El Monte del Diablo" appears on a Spanish map of local Native American settlements.  This name was originally applied to a nearby ranch, Rancho Monte del Diablo, that was situated on the current site of the city of Concord, but was misinterpreted by English-speaking settlers as referring to the mountain itself.

Mount Diablo has been used for geographic reference since European settlers first moved to the area.  The south peak of Mount Diablo was used as the starting reference point for many of the large-scale land surveys of California, Nevada, and Oregon.  Standard Oil also built an aerial navigation beacon on the top of the mountain in 1928, enabling pilots to plot safe courses around the summit.

Getting There By Bike...
This is most likely an achievable ride for most people, but it might take a while.  The basic route up Mount Diablo follows South Gate Road to the saddle where there is a ranger station, a water fountain and restrooms.  The route then follows the summit road up to the peak and the information center, where more bathrooms and a snack bar await.  Don't be fooled, this is a moderately tough climb and involves approximately eleven miles of consistent climbing.  But the view from the top is worth it, and the ride down is certainly worth the time.  A couple of pieces of advice would be to try and ride to the top in the fall or the spring, since the temperature during the summer is very hot and there is little shade on the way up.  Be sure to bring water and food along with you.  Weekends can be hectic with lots of other cyclists and cars full of tourists trying to get to the top, so be careful.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Berkeley Grab Bag

There's a bunch of minor sites in Berkeley proper that are hard to devote a whole post to. Here are a few of them...

Berkeley Post Office
This is a neat old post office!  It's located right in the middle of downtown Berkeley.  I wasn't able to get too close to it because of a bunch of road construction, but it's worth a quick spin by the front of the building.  The post office was built in 1914 and still looks great.  The building is located at 2000 Allston Way.

Berkeley Municipal Incinerator
The city of Berkeley had its own incinerator for a long time, and the building that contained it still stands on the Berkeley/El Cerrito border.  Prior to the creation of a municipal incinerator, the cities of the East Bay simply put their trash on boats, sailed out into the ocean, and then dumped everything overboard.  The creation of an incinerator was considered the best "modern" way to get rid of trash and the city began the practice of partially burning its garbage and then dumping it into the marsh next to the incinerator.  As the land filled in it became an airstrip for a brief time, and then the current highway was built across it.  The incinerator was closed in 1930 and the building is now owned by a self-storage company.  The building became a Berkeley historical landmark in 1985.

Howard Automobile Co. 
This beautiful Art-Deco car showroom was built in 1930.  The original owner, Charles Howard, made a part of his fortune by owning and operating a bicycle repair shop that also serviced cars.  By 1905 Howard had the Buick franchise for the Bay Area, and built this dealership to showcase his cars.  Howard was also known as the owner of the championship horse Seabiscuit.  The building became associated with another sporting legend when Reggie Jackson opened a Chevy dealership in the building in the 1980s.  The building currently houses a Buddhist book store.  The architecture on this building is great, and really captures the feel of the first couple of generations of car culture, where owning a car was still something glamorous and exciting, as opposed to the necessity or burden that it is today. The building is located at 2140 Durant Ave., directly across the street from the G. Paul Bishop Studio.

Park Congregational Church
Park Congregational Church, now South Berkeley Community Church, is an Arts and Crafts style building that was erected in 1912.  This church was built during a period of great ecclesiastical architecture in the East Bay.  There were a number of churches that went up in this period and many of them are considered historical landmarks of architectural importance.  This building is noteworthy because of the way that the architect, Hugo Storch, inserted it into the surrounding neighborhood without overwhelming it.  The church also has a sanctuary that is finished entirely in raw California redwood and is quite beautiful.  The church is located at 1802 Fairview St. at Ellis in Berkeley.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

West Berkeley Macaroni Factory

It's not generally known, but this unassuming building on Fifth St. in Berkeley once housed the premier macaroni factory in the greater Bay Area.  The history of the factory, and it's founder, Simone Marengo, read like an exaggerated recounting of the American Dream.  Marengo was a poor Italian immigrant who arrived in the Bay Area in 1888, twenty years old and the head of an extended family.   Within four years he was the owner of a large home in West Berkeley, and within twenty he is shown as having owned numerous properties, both residential and commercial, was considered the unofficial "mayor" of West Berkeley, and was generally a man about town.

The macaroni factory rose out of the destruction following the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.  In the years immediately following the disaster the East Bay saw an enormous boom as families and businesses relocated away from the destruction in the city.  West Berkeley in particular saw a sharp spike in Italian residents and it was this demographic trend that inspired Marengo to open a macaroni factory in the East Bay.  Though it opened in 1907, the advertising copy for the West Berkeley Macaroni Factory touted its fifteen year history and the expertise of its highly trained staff (in reality, recent immigrants from Italy).  The West Berkeley Macaroni Factory remained in business until 1920, when the building was sold, but Marengo had long since left the partnership.  Always on the look out for a new money-making opportunity, he had stepped back from the day-to-day management of the macaroni factory as early as 1908 and concentrated on his investments and properties in Redding, CA.  The building on Fifth St. changed hands several times throughout the first half of the 20th century and was designated a Berkeley historical landmark in 1991

Getting There By Bike...
West Berkeley is easy to ride through.  There are a number of bicycle boulevards that criss-cross the area and I've never had a problem getting around. If you approach from inland, the best way to get to this site is to follow Channing towards the water.  Turn right at Fifth St. and ride north for two blocks.  The building in on the block between Bancroft and Allston.  The Church of the Good Shepherd, Episcopal is a few blocks away at Hearst and 9th.  The prow of the U.S.S. Indiana is located very close near the 4th street shopping district.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Don Pedro Fages Expedition

Don Pedro Fages was the military governor of Alta California from 1770-74, and 1782-91.  He is primarily known for leading various land expeditions throughout the Bay Area and exploring much of what would become the East Bay.   He is credited with having explored the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, the Carquinez Strait, Monterey Bay, and the San Joaquin River.  He was also known for his passion for hunting bear in the mountains of California, and his military ability, which shone particularly brightly when he was asked to put down various Native American revolts throughout his career.

The expedition in question, and the particular marker that is placed on the UC Berkeley campus, was intended to explore the East Bay and get a sighting of the Golden Gate from the shore.  The party took two sightings, neither of which are near the current marker.  The first sighting was taken at the sight of Mills College, roughly six miles away, and the second sighting was taken at the current site of the College of Arts and Crafts, two miles south.  The marker is hidden in a stand of trees at the edge of the Berkeley campus.  It's near the shore of Strawberry Creek and is fairly straightforward to find.

Getting There By Bike...
 This one is very easy to find, tough the area it's in is fairly heavily trafficked, both by cars and pedestrians.  The marker is located very close to the intersection of Center and Oxford streets, right at the western border of the Berkeley campus.  There is a large bronze sculpture of an orb near the sidewalk, and the historical marker is directly behind it, back in the eucalyptus grove.  The Golden Sheaf Bakery is fairly close by on Allston in downtown Berkeley.  The Berkeley Post Office and the Howard Automobile Company Showroom are also close by.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

H.J. Heinz Co. Factory

The former H.J. Heinz manufacturing plant is located on the corner of San Pablo and Ashby in Berkeley, CA.

H.J. Heinz is an American food company based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Best known for their ketchup, they are a global company and manufacture over 5,700 food products in six different countries. Their corporate website claims that they control more than 50% of the market in ketchup in the United States, and, through their subsidiary company Ore-Ida, more than 50% of the market share in frozen potatoes.

Their logo with the trademark "57" is based off of the original slogan for the company, "57 Varieties",which was intended to showcase the wide array of products that the company offered. It's interesting to note that, by the time the company was using this slogan, they were already manufacturing more than 57 products, but the numbers 5 and 7 were considered lucky by the company's founder, Henry John Heinz, who also felt that they would lend themselves to an easy advertising slogan that people would remember.

The building that stands on the corner of San Pablo was used as a manufacturing plant from the date it opened in 1927 up until the H.J. Heinz Company moved its manufacturing facilities to Tracy in 1956. The building was designed by the Austin Company, and incorporates a great deal of detailed tiling and ornate steel scrollwork. The front of the building looks like a very nicely maintained office building, but that was an intentional design choice, aiming at softening the appearance of what was, in reality, a high-volume food manufacturing and shipping facility. In its heyday, this site was responsible for producing 28 of the Heinz Company's "57 Varieties".

I've ridden by this building so many times, and I always thought that it was a school. If you make the turn off of San Pablo onto Heinz Rd., on the west side of the street, just a block north of Alcatraz, you can get a real taste of how big this facility was, and how well the architects hid the bulk of the manufacturing plant behind the facade. The building is still very nicely maintained and the brickwork, tiling, and steel ornamentation look great. The grounds are also very nicely maintained.

Getting There By Bike...
This one is pretty easy. The building is on the corner of two busy streets, San Pablo Ave., and Alcatraz in Berkeley. Coming from the north or south, I would recommend taking San Pablo. It's a busy street, but traffic is forgiving and I've never felt out of place or threatened while on a bike on San Pablo. If you're coming from inland, Alcatraz is probably the most straight forward path, but it's not a super fun street to ride on. If you're looking for a mellower ride, ride down Channing, which is a great bike boulevard, until you get to San Pablo. Take a left and follow San Pablo down to Alcatraz.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

St. John's Presbyterian Church

St. John's Presbyterian Church, now called the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, is located at 2640 College Ave. in Berkeley, CA.

This church dates back to 1907, and had its genesis in the events following the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Following the destruction of the earthquake, many people moved to the East Bay from San Francisco to start their lives over. Many of these people had lost their homes in the earthquake or the ensuing fires, and there was a strong desire to create a new community in the East Bay. Presbyterian San Franciscans, after moving to Berkeley, joined with a portion of the congregation at the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley and formed a new church community in 1907. The community, most of whom hailed from St. John's Church in San Francisco, had a sentimental attachment to their former parish and enticed their pastor, Dr. George G. Eldridge, to relocate from San Francisco. He agreed to the move with the stipulation that, out of sentimental attachment, the new church be called St. John's.

The new building was designed by noted Bay Area architect Julia Morgan, who designed the Berkeley City Club and the King's Daughter's Home in Oakland. The initial design for the church was created under the requirement from the church community that it be built for the lowest possible price. The resulting design, which was built for an estimated cost of $1.60 per square foot, is unlike almost any other church building that I've seen. Dark stained Douglas Fir, broad windows and gables, and with exposed trusses and support beams within the walls, the church is very understated, but also very beautiful.

The church community purchased another property across the street in 1955 and began building new structures on it, finishing and occupying classrooms and a fellowship hall in 1965. The built a new sanctuary and occupied it in 1975. The original building was then vacant and in some danger of being destroyed until it was occupied by the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts. The building currently serves as a theatrical home to a number of Berkeley performance groups, including the Berkeley Opera and the Berkeley Ballet Theater.

Getting There By Bike...
I found this church by riding straight up College Ave. from Rockridge BART. You'll pass it on your left as your heading towards the UC Berkeley campus. College isn't an awful street to ride a bike on, but there isn't much of a shoulder so watch out for car doors and people passing by too closely on your left. Remember, you have rights as a vehicle too, so take that lane! It's much safer to be out in traffic than it is to ride in the gutter or hover close to parked cars and rapidly opening car doors!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Berkeley City Hall and Peace Park

Berkeley City Hall is located on Martin Luther King Blvd., between Allston Way and Center St. It sits opposite Peace Park in downtown Berkeley.

The building that you can see today is actually the second city hall that was built for Berkeley. The first building, designed by San Francisco architects Samuel and Joseph Cather Newsom (designers of the Carson Mansion in Eureka) and built in 1884, burned to the ground in 1904 due to an electrical fault in the attic. This first city hall was a source of considerable controversy in the political community of early Berkeley, with different neighborhoods holding frequent meetings accusing each other of trying to seize control of city hall, and local politics, by erecting the building in their own neighborhoods. With all the different community groups up in arms about the location of the new city hall, a decision was finally reached that was equally unpalatable to all parties, and the building was placed on a plot of bare land in the middle of all the competing neighborhoods.

The current building was erected in late 1907, nearly four years after the original building burned down. The history of Berkeley City Hall shows numerous gaps where, after the passing of a bond or a decision being made, there would be anywhere from one to four years of inactivity while the community argued and fought over the plans. In fact, nearly every step of the process in getting the first city hall built, buying land for it, passing a bond to collect money to build a second city hall, and getting an acceptable design for the second city hall, was fought by some portion off the Berkeley community. And even after a design for the new city hall, designed by John Bakewell, Jr. and Arthur M Brown, Jr., was accepted there were continual arguments about the design, even to the point of the clock tower being added and then removed from the plans twice at the community's behest. The original plans did not include a tower on the building, but after much debate the city voted for an additional bond to cover the costs of building it. However, there was no money to include a large clock in the medallion at the top of the tower, and the building remains without a clock to this day.

This building was the center of Berkeley city government until 1977, when it became the administrative headquarters for Berkeley Unified School District. The building is in some slight danger, as all of the offices that currently use it are planning on vacating it within the next year. The building also requires a seismic retrofit and substantial remodeling which would cost the city an estimated $30 to 40 million.

This is a very pretty building located in a quiet park in downtown Berkeley. Prior to exploring Berkeley on this round of history-themed bicycle riding, I hadn't really taken the time to check out all the streets and parks in downtown Berkeley. I was really surprised to find this park tucked less than a block behind Shattuck Ave., and I really like the giant redwood trees that they have bordering the Peace Plaza.

Getting There By Bike....
The easiest way to get to city hall is to ride up Shattuck and turn west on Allston Way. Alternatively, you could ride north on Martin Luther King Blvd., through Oakland and into Berkeley, and you will pass between city hall on your left and Peace Park on your right. Both streets are fairly busy, so be aware of traffic and clueless drivers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Church of the Good Shepherd, Episcopal

The Church of the Good Shepherd, Episcopal, is located on the corner of 8th and Hearst in Berkely, CA.

The Church of the Good Shepherd, Episcopal, is the oldest church building in Berkeley, and the oldest church in continual use by its congregation in the East Bay. The building dates to 1878 and had it's beginnings in a women's sewing circle that began collecting funds from the neighborhood so that a church could be built. The church was designed by Charles L. Bugbee, one of the sons in the S.C. Bugbee & Sons architectural firm. This groups was responsible for a large number of notable Bay Area buildings, including the California Theater in San Francisco (state historical landmark no. 86), Mills Hall at Mills Seminary, the Baldwin Theater in San Francisco, and a number of Nob Hill residences.

The church is in great shape, considering its age. There is still an active congregation and they have made an effort to respect the history of their church by maintaining and preserving it. The bell tower still contains a 1,000 pound bell manufactured by the Blymer Company. In the early days of the congregation this bell served both as a call to church and a fire alarm for the surrounding neighborhood.

It was neat finding this little church off in a corner of Berkeley that I had never been to. There are some amazing old homes in this neighborhood, and it's much quieter than the rest of Berkeley, probably because it's farther away from the hustle and bustle of the university. I also got the ride down 9th St., a bicycle boulevard and one of the best cross-town routes that I've found so far. Huge shoulders, wide bike lanes, and no stop signs in the direction of travel as you move up and down 9th street. It also parallels some busier streets, so a lot of car traffic is funneled off onto them, leaving you alone on the road.

Getting There By Bike...
This one is pretty easy to find. If you're coming from Oakland, or South Berkeley, hop onto 9th St. and take it up to Hearst. The church is right there on the corner. From downtown Berkeley or the university, ride down Hearst towards the water and avoid all of the traffic and craziness on Shattuck. This is a day laborer hiring zone, so don't be surprised by the crowds of jornaleros standing on the corners and trying to find work.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Barker Block

The Barker Block is one of the last monuments that can be traced to James Loring Barker, a community leader in the early days of Berkeley history, a leading citizen, and a booster for the development of the city of Berkeley.

Barker was a mover and a shaker within the Berkeley community when the city was still in its infancy. He is generally given credit for getting the Central Pacific Railroad Company to extend service to Berkeley, and it was through his efforts that the rail right of ways and the subscriptions necessary to cover development costs were made available. He also established the first newspaper in Berkeley (the Weekly Advocate) in 1877, led the community movement to incorporate the city of Berkeley in 1878, built the first public school in Berkeley in 1879, and donated money to the trustees of the newly founded UC Berkeley so that they could buy land to build the school on. He also led the community movement to bring electric lighting onto the Berkeley streets and helped establish Berkeley's first public library in 1893.

The building, which still stands at 2486 Shattuck Ave. in downtown Berkeley, is one of the many structures that Barker built throughout his career as a real estate developer. The Barker Block was built in 1905 and designed by A.W. Smith, a prolific local architect. Unfortunately for Barker, the building was not even completed when the 1906 earthquake struck, doing roughly $10,000 (at that time) in damage to the structure. Barker ended up profiting from the disaster though, since shortly after the earthquake a flood of refugees moved into Berkeley from San Francisco, and his repaired and restored building was swiftly filled with businesses and renters.

Getting There By Bike...
This building is really easy to find. It's on the corner of Shattuck and Dwight in downtown Berkeley, and is hard to miss if you keep your eyes open. Be aware that traffic on Shattuck is never great and that you should use caution if you plan to ride around in downtown Berkeley.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Berkeley City Club

The Berkeley City Club is registered as California Historical Landmark No. 908 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located at 2315 Durant Ave. in Berkeley, CA.

The Berkeley City Club was founded in 1927 by a group of Berkeley women in order to contribute to social, civic, and cultural progress. The building was intended as a shelter from the world, and a place where the members could nurture creative impulse and community spirit, serve as a meeting place for Berkeley's arts and culture community, and encourage conversation in its library and private sitting areas. The creation of the building reflects the expanding roles that the women of Berkeley were taking upon themselves in the 1920s. The Berkeley City Club was created out of a desire to form a unified group of women who were interested in social and philanthropic work and unite them at a single location, as opposed to having this same group spread throughout several clubs and locations within Berkeley. Initially conceived as a private club for women, they Berkeley City Club has been open to both genders since 1962, and the facility is available for special events.

The building was designed by noted Bay Area architect Julia Morgan and was finished in 1930. The building is typical of Morgan's style, fusing Moorish and Romanesque elements into a building that has been a landmark of Bay Area architecture for over seventy years.

Getting There By Bike...
If you're coming from Shattuck or downtown Berkeley, head east on Durant for two blocks. The Berkeley City Club is located on the block after Ellsworth, on the left hand side of the road. All the usual warning about traffic in downtown Berkeley, and the areas surrounding the campus still stand when you visit this site.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Pony Express In Oakland

The Pony Express, an express mail service operated by the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company. It ran a route from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, and had further extensions through Oakland in to San Francisco. The Pony Express operated from April 3, 1860 through October, 1861 and used relays of fast horses to carry messages across the western United States. During the eighteen months that it operated it was the fastest and most efficient means to get a message from coast to coast, reducing the travel time for the message to approximately ten days. Truth be told, only half of this distance was covered by couriers, with telegraph service offering communication through the more populous eastern states and riders being used west of Missouri.

Oakland was host to a Pony Express ferry when the couriers missed the steamship that generally carried them and the mail down the Sacramento River to San Francisco. In the rare instance that a courier was not able to board the steamer, then they made the trip overland from Sacramento to Oakland, roughly a ten hour trip on horseback, and boarded a steam ferry, the Oakland, that carried them across the bay.

Getting There By Bike...
The monument to the Pony Express and the ferry Oakland is located in Jack London Square at the foot of Broadway. Ride down Broadway until you hit the water, find the small staircase leading down into the estuary, and there's the memorial plaque.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

First Church of Christ, Scientist, Berkeley.

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, is located on the northeast corner of Dwight and Bowditch in Berkeley, on the edge of the UC Berkeley campus.

This is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful buildings that I have seen in California. I've included more pictures than usual because none of them captured the whole essence of the building. I strongly suggest a trip out to see this building since my pictures do not do it justice.

This church was designed by Bernard Maybeck and is considered by many to be his masterpiece. It was built in 1910 in the middle of an established residential neighborhood that has been demolished to make room for buildings owned by the university. This building regularly appears in architectural anthologies and on lists of architectural achievements in the Bay Area, as well as in the US. The design fuses local and common materials in a blend of Japanese, Gothic, and Romanesque architectural styles and uses plants and greenery to add another layer of depth to the overall presentation.

The congregation has met here since 1910 and, when the university began acquiring properties in the surrounding neighborhood to begin expanding the campus, the congregants joined with the local residents to gain National Landmark Status for the building so that it would not be destroyed. This is the only building in the city of Berkeley to have been designated a National Landmark.

This building is one of my all time favorites. It's hard to describe why I think it's so neat. It is so imaginative and unique that it feels out of place in the heart of Berkeley, with People's Park directly across Bowditch and students wandering all over the place. Once again, go check this building out.

Getting There By Bike...
Assuming that you're starting from the Shattuck/Downtown Berkeley area, simply ride east on Dwight Ave. towards the campus and you can't miss it. Keep in mind that there is a fair amount of traffic on the streets surrounding the campus, and that students, intent as they are on filling their heads with knowledge (which is what we all did in college I'm sure) are not the best at using crosswalks or paying attention to traffic. A bell might be helpful.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Prow of the U.S.S. Indiana (BB-58)

The prow off the U.S.S. Indiana is located at the edge of a parking lot along Fourth St. in Berkeley, just south of the Fourth Street Shopping District and across the street from Spenger's Grotto.

The U.S.S. Indiana is the third U.S. Navy ship to bear that name. The first ship (BB-1), was a battleship constructed in 1895 that participated in the Spanish-American War. The second Indiana (BB-50) was begun, but construction was cancelled in 1924 due to the Washington naval Treaty.

The third Indiana was launched on the 21st of November, 1941, at the height of World War II. Shortly after her launch, the Indiana was sent through the Panama Canal to support fleet activity in the Pacific. She was used primarily to guard aircraft carriers and screen them from direct attacks by Japanese forces. The Indiana participated in several key operations in the Pacific, including the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the invasion of Okinawa. Her duties and accomplishments are too many to list, but if you're interested Wikipedia has a very comprehensive page about this ship.

The Indiana was formally placed on reserve status in 1946 and formally decommissioned a year later. The ship saw no further active service and was eventually sold for scrap in 1963. However, a large number of pieces from the Indiana were removed and used as memorials or commemorative decorations. Her prow sits in Berkeley, but her anchor sits on the grounds of the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her main mast is erected at Memorial Stadium at Indiana University, and a large number of smaller relics were distributed through various schools and museums throughout the state of Indiana.

Getting There By Bike...
This site is really easy to get to. The prow is located directly across the street from Spenger's Grotto at the base of University Ave. in Berkeley. You can reach it either by riding down Fourth St. until you reach Spenger's Grotto, or you can ride straight down University until you reach the water. Hang a soft right around the base of the overpass and you should ride right up next to Spenger's Grotto.

The area is a pretty busy shopping district and traffic can be heavy during the weekend. Be sure to pay attention to the many stop signs in the area because, in my experience, the drivers down in this area usually don't.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Oakland Grab Bag, Redux

Another list of historical sites from around Oakland and Berkeley. These are all cool, and totally worth a visit, I just don't have enough to say about them to justify a full blog entry. Enjoy!

Founder's Rock, UC Berkeley
Founder's Rock is supposedly the spot where the twelve trustees of UC Berkeley first stood when they dedicated the university. It is also the spot where the city of Berkeley was named, taking its name from Bishop Berkeley, an 18th century philosopher best known for his theory of "immaterialism", which basically means that nothing exists unless it's being directly perceived by a reasoning being. Therefore, Founder's Rock, and the city that is named after him, don't exist if we don't perceive them every now and again. Do your part to maintain the physical existence of the city of Berkeley and go perceive Founder's Rock some time. It's located on the corner of Hearst and Gayley.

Ohlone Shell Mound
The Ohlone Shell Mound historical site is located in the Bay Street Shopping District in Emeryville. Once upon a time, this site was covered by a series of midden piles, basically kitchen trash, that had been accumulated over roughly 2,800 years by the local Ohlone tribes. It is estimated that the original hill stood nearly 60 feet tall, and some 350 feet in diameter. However, destruction of the site began almost as soon as Europeans started settling in the area. In the first part of the 20th century there was an amusement park and race track built on top of the site, then there was a variety of industrial facilities. In the late-'90s the city of Emeryville removed the industrial facilities and built the mall that stands there currently. The shell mounds are still there, under all of the construction, and any time there's construction or groundbreaking they call in archaeologists to check out whatever they dig up.

Union Pacific Depot

The old Union Pacific Depot is right in the middle of Jack London Square, on the corner of Third and Broadway. I rode by it many, many times without realizing it was a train station. The first time I went looking for it I thought to myself, "That's a train station. How on earth did I not notice that?" Oh well. It doesn't connect to any rails and has been converted to offices and commercial space.

The American Bag Company

The American bag company is known for having pioneered the re-using and re-selling of cleaned, repaired burlap bags, something that was shocking and new at the time. They primarily sold their products to rail and shipping companies and produced a wide array of bags and bag-like materials. The building is on the corner of Third and Jackson in Jack London Square.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Peralta Hacienda

The Peralta Hacienda was the site of the original adobe structure built by the Peralta family to stake their claim over the Rancho San Antonio after it had been given to them in 1820 by the last Spanish governor of California Pablo Vicente de Sola. The hacienda would serve as a base for the family's control over their lands and the people on them. At its height the hacienda contained two large adobe structures as well as twenty guest houses and was an established stop on the what was the only camino real, or royally sanctioned highway, in the East Bay.

The hacienda site consists of a public park maintained by the City of Oakland, one of the two remaining Peralta Homes, and a historical site detailing the events that took place on the property through the years. There is also a Peralta Creek Nature Area containing native plants and intended to show what the landscape was like before the creation of the city surrounding the site.

Getting There By Bike...

There isn't really a great way to get to this site by bike that doesn't involve riding through a good sized stretch of East Oakland and a few traffic heavy streets. If you can make the trip, your reward is a nice park, some neat local history, and a well-maintained historical home where they offer tours.

My two suggestions are either ride BART to Fruitvale and ride your bike from there, or ride from downtown Oakland. If you take BART, head up Fruitvale Ave. until you can make a right onto Farnam, just after International. Take your first left onto 33rd, and follow that up to Foothill Blvd, cross Foothill and make a slight jog to the right to continue on Coolidge. Coolidge will take you right to the park. If you're coming from downtown Oakland, take Foothill down to Coolidge, make a left, and head up to the park.

Pack a spare tube and know how to fix a flat if you're planning on riding to this site. There was glass everywhere when I was down there.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Alameda and the Alaska Packers Association

The Alaska Packers Association was one of the largest producers of canned salmon in the world during the first part of the 20th century. For the purposes of this blog we are only concerned with their presence in the San Francisco Bay Area, but for a complete corporate history you can see their Wikipedia page.

The Alaska Packers Association maintained a fleet of fishing ships and floating cannery ships that docked in the San Francisco Bay, in Alaska Basin off of the shore of Alameda to be precise. While the salmon packing industry was booming, the company exerted considerable political and economic influence within the communities of the Bay Area. The Alaska Packer's Associations mooring spot in Alameda, and their processing facility, was used as leverage within Alameda proper in order to attain their corporate goals. The most egregious example of this is when the company decided to build a new packing and processing plant in Alameda, but only if a bridge that they felt interfered with their shipping traffic was removed. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the money was found to destroy the bridge and build the Posey Tube, and the packing facility was announced the following day. Alaska Basin was where the Alaska Packers Association moored what is generally considered their greatest contribution to history, the Star Fleet, the last large fleet of sailing ships that was used and maintained for commercial purposes in the U.S.

The Star Fleet was actually built up and maintained because, as opposed to maintaining a fleet of steam ships, relying on the wind to push the sails was cheaper. The Alaska Packer's Association bought a large fleet of iron-hulled sailing ships and renamed them after various countries. The first was the Star of Russia, but the Star of India, now moored in San Diego, is perhaps the most famous. The other ship of note, the Star of Alaska was rechristened with its original name, the Balclutha, and is moored in San Francisco at the Maritime National Historic Park.

Getting There By Bike...
Unfortunately, there's not a lot left to see. Alaska Basin is simply a large pier in Alameda, and the packing facility has been torn down. I would recommend that, to get the feel of the ships, you go visit the Balcllutha at the Maritime National Historic Park. It's near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, so put on your bike helmet, pack extra patience for the crowds of tourists that you're going to encounter, aand get out there and tour that ship. The docents and guides that work for the Park Service also work on the ships and maintain them, so they have a great working knowledge of the history of this vessel.