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.

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