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.

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