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.