Berkeley's Historic Landmarks Walking Tour, Berkeley

Berkeley's Historic Landmarks Walking Tour (Self Guided), Berkeley

Berkeley, California, boasts a fair amount of landmarks distinguished for their historical value and representative of the city’s architectural beauty.

One such gem is the Thorsen House, an iconic residence designed by the renowned architectural firm Greene and Green, showcasing the American Craftsman style.

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, is another notable sight. Its mixed design (a cocktail of American Craftsman, Byzantine Revival, Romanesque Revival, and Gothic Revival elements) is widely considered to be one of the true masterpieces by the renowned local architect Bernard Maybeck. Maybeck was once a mentor for a number of other important California architects, including Julia Morgan and William Wurster.

The Berkeley City Club, designed by Julia Morgan, exudes Mediterranean charm. Originally a women's social club, this building showcases an intricate interpretation of Moorish and Gothic details and today serves as a cultural hub open to all genders.

The Corder Building, Masonic Temple, Tupper and Reed Building, and Chamber of Commerce Building each contribute to the city's historic fabric with their distinct architectural styles, representing various eras of Berkeley's growth.

The Berkeley Public Library, an architectural marvel, offers a wealth of knowledge and community engagement. Meanwhile, the Studio Building is an artistic haven, promoting local creativity.

Thornburg Village, also known as Normandy Village, is a charming residential complex with a unique European flair. Similarly, the Cloyne Court Hotel adds a touch of the Old World historic grandeur to the cityscape.

Founders' Rock symbolizes the birthplace of the University of California, Berkeley, and embodies the city's educational legacy.

In many ways, exploring these locations will reveal to you the heart and soul of Berkeley as a community. We therefore encourage you to visit them, appreciate their beauty, and learn about the history they hold.
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Berkeley's Historic Landmarks Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Berkeley's Historic Landmarks Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Berkeley (See other walking tours in Berkeley)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.5 Km or 2.8 Miles
Author: AudreyB
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Thorsen House
  • First Church of Christ, Scientist
  • Berkeley City Club
  • Corder Building
  • Masonic Temple
  • Tupper and Reed Building
  • Berkeley Public Library
  • Chamber of Commerce Building
  • Studio Building
  • Thornburg Village (Normandy Village)
  • Cloyne Court Hotel
  • Founders' Rock
Thorsen House

1) Thorsen House

Greene and Greene was an architectural firm that held lofty influence over design styles of the early 20th century. One of their unique styles was that of the "ultimate bungalow." These homes use tropical woods, leaded art glass, mother of pearl and metal accents in an arts and crafts style. There are only four of these ultimate bungalows still standing. One is the Thorsen House.

The home was built in 1909 for lumber baron William Thorsen and his wife Caroline. Both of the Thorsens died in 1942. After that time, the home came under ownership of the Sigma Phi Society. The fraternity is tasked with keeping the house updated and continuously restored. The brothers are also required to know the history of the home and its architecture so that they can provide guided tours when needed.

Thorsen House is located near Memorial Stadium on Bancroft Way and Piedmont Avenue. Visitors are welcome, though the Sigma Phi Society does request that tours be scheduled in advance.
First Church of Christ, Scientist

2) First Church of Christ, Scientist (must see)

The First Church of Scientist is located near People's Park in downtown Berkeley. The church building was constructed in 1910 using elements from multiple architectural styles. The building displays influences from Byzantine Revival, Romanesque Revival and Gothic Revival architecture.

The church was designed by Bernard Maybeck who was an architect and instructor at UC Berkeley. This church is considered one of his great masterpieces alongside the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

The plan of the church is that of a Greek Cross. Two pairs of crossed trusses with gilt inlays span the interior. There are also a number of Roman arches, unique tiles and industrial steel sashes over the windows. Visitors are welcome to tour the church interior. They may also attend worship services, which take place every Sunday.

Due to its location on the corner of Bowditch Street and Dwight Way, it is very easy for visitors to admire the building's architecture. From street level, tourists can see the hammered Belgian glass of the windows and the carved reliefs that top the exterior columns. They will also be able to pinpoint the Japanese influences that are apparent in the courtyard rooftops and the portal to the Sunday School wing.

The First Church of Christ, Scientist is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977. Preservation and restoration of the church is managed by the Friends of First Church.

Why You Should Visit:
- To see what many consider to be Bernard Maybeck's greatest masterpiece.
- To appreciate the blending of various architectural styles in one place.

Free tours of the First Church of Christ, Scientist are available the first Sunday of every month.
Berkeley City Club

3) Berkeley City Club

The Berkeley City Club was commissioned as the club house of the Berkeley Women's City Club organized in Berkeley, California in 1927 to contribute to social, civic, and cultural progress. This private club is no longer restricted to women, and the club house building is available to the public at large for overnight stays, weddings and other occasions. On the second floor, the Club also houses Julia's Restaurant and Morgan's Bar & Lounge.

The building, constructed in 1929 and officially opened in 1930, is one of the outstanding works of noted California architect Julia Morgan. The San Francisco-born Morgan was the first woman to gain admission and earn a certificate from the Ecole de Beaux-Arts in Paris (1902) and the first licensed female architect in California. She designed nearly 100 women's-organization buildings throughout her career.

Her interpretation of Moorish and Gothic elements in the Berkeley Women's City Club created a landmark of California design. It is registered as California Historical Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places . Today the building is administered by the Berkeley City Club Conservancy.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Corder Building

4) Corder Building

The Corder Building was built in the Classical Revival style in 1921. Designed by the well known Berkeley architect James W. Plachek, this warm sand colored structure with white columns and balconies is notable for its fine white adornments. The building's sheer size and elegance lend the neighborhood a heightened degree of urban dignity. Its presence filled in a previously empty block in the downtown area and was a major step forward in the development of the city's burgeoning business district.

Architect James Plachek played an important role in the development of downtown Berkeley in the late 1910s and 1920s. His work include the central branch of Berkeley Public Library, UC Theatre, and Alameda Courthouse. The Corder Building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Masonic Temple

5) Masonic Temple

The Masonic Temple in Downtown Berkeley is a historic building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located at 2105 Bancroft Way at the corner of Shattuck Avenue, just one block west of the University of California, Berkeley. The Classical Revival style building, designed by William H. Wharff, was built in 1905.

The building was built for Berkeley's Masons, who started a local lodge in 1882 and formed the Berkeley Masonic Temple Association to build the temple. In 1944, the building was converted to a bank. The ground floor of the building is now unoccupied and the remaining floors are used by University staff, including the California Center for Innovative Transportation and the National Writing Project.

The building was added to the National Register on July 15, 1982.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Tupper and Reed Building

6) Tupper and Reed Building

The Tupper and Reed Building was erected in 1925 in a storybook house style designed by architect William Yellend. The building was built for music store owners John C. Tupper and Lawrence Reed. The Tupper and Reed Music Store was a mainstay in Berkeley for nearly a century; finally closing its doors in 2005.

Though the music store is now gone, the building does not remain vacant. It is now known as the Tupper & Reed Cocktail Bar. Visitors can stop in and have a drink, listen to music or simply enjoy the unique design of this now urban hotspot.

The original music store also included a performance space and a restaurant on the top floor. That restaurant was called the Sign of the Piper. A remnant of that restaurant can be seen through the image of the Pied Piper that located atop the chimney.

The Tupper and Reed Building is located on historic Shattuck Avenue near the University of California Berkeley campus.
Berkeley Public Library

7) Berkeley Public Library

The Berkeley Public Library is the public library system for Berkeley. It consists of the Central Branch, the North Branch, Claremont Branch, South Branch, and West Branch.

Berkeley Public Library opened in 1893 on Shattuck Avenue with 264 books. In 1905, the library moved to a new brick building on Shattuck Avenue at 2090 Kittredge Street. The new library was funded by Andrew Carnegie and built on land donated by Rosa M. Shattuck, the widow of Francis K. Shattuck. Immediately following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the resulting population surge from across the Bay, the library opened four other branches around Berkeley.

In 1930, the library was demolished and a new design from architect James W. Plachek was approved. Construction of the new building began in 1931. The new central library opened in 1934, where it remains.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Chamber of Commerce Building

8) Chamber of Commerce Building

The Chamber of Commerce Building was notable as Berkeley's first high rise. The 12-story brick and terra cotta building was designed by architect Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr., who was Berkeley's first City Architect.

The building, completed in 1927, was named after the Chamber of Commerce due to the fact that the Chamber occupied the top floor. For many years, the building housed the American Trust Company. Today, it is home to Wells Fargo Bank.

The Central Berkeley Building Company funded the construction of the Chamber of Commerce Building in part to influence the state government to move the capital from Sacramento to Berkeley. The ploy was partially successful. The legislature placed the motion on a ballot in 1908. The voters chose against the move.

The Chamber of Commerce Building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Despite restorations over the years, the building is almost entirely original. The only significant changes were to the roof sign, which was removed in 1962, and the wood storefront that was replaced with bronze anodized aluminum in 1978.
Studio Building

9) Studio Building

The Studio Building is a historic building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It dates back to 1905, and at the time of its building was the tallest building in downtown Berkeley. It was built by Frederick H. Dakin, for use by his real estate investment company. The architect is not recorded.

The building is five stories tall and built of masonry with a tiled mansard roof and rounded upper floor window bays. The first-floor bays, used as shop fronts, were originally built in the form of a series of alternating rounded and pointed arches, although some of these have since been covered. The building's name is set into the tile floor at the entrance, and derives from the fact that the top floor of the building was designed as artists’ studios.

The building was restored in the late 1970s, and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Thornburg Village (Normandy Village)

10) Thornburg Village (Normandy Village)

Thornberg Village, also known as Normandy Village, is a residential neighborhood at Spruce Street and Hearst Avenue. The village was the brainchild of Jack Wood Thornburg. The 25-year old had already constructed a number of buildings in the area in storybook style. His next venture was to create a self-contained neighborhood using French-Norman, Scandinavian and Mediterranean influences.

The goal was to build an area that consisted of homes, shops and restaurants, all with the old-world style of brick and stone facades, steep gables, tower rooms and turrets. Unfortunately for Thornburg, zoning prevented him from achieving the commercial goals he desired. Instead, each of the units became residential spots where locals have continuously owned and rented room since the area was completed in 1927.

Tourists can walk through Thornburg Village to see homes that appear as though they have transported themselves directly from the pages of a European storybook. The interiors cannot be viewed by the public as they are private homes, but it is easy to imagine the stone walls, oak floors and beamed ceilings that are held within.

Not all of Thornburg Village is original. The area was expanded once in 1928 and again in 1955. There are now parking structures for the residents, but these are hidden from street view so as not to distract from the overall appearance.

Thornburg Village was declared a Berkeley Historical Landmark in 1983.

Why You Should Visit:
- To take a step into old-world Europe without leaving the United States
- To admire residential areas that are nearly a century old

These private homes are currently occupied. Therefore, visitors should make sure they are respectful of the property during their visit.
Cloyne Court Hotel

11) Cloyne Court Hotel

The Cloyne Court Hotel built in 1904, often referred to simply as Cloyne, is one of the houses of the Berkeley Student Cooperative (BSC), a student housing cooperative in Berkeley, California. It is located at the north side of the University of California, Berkeley campus on Ridge Road.

Cloyne is the largest non-apartment style property in the BSC, itself the largest housing co-op organization in North America, housing 140 UC Berkeley students (119 during summer), mostly undergraduates[citation needed]. Despite its size the house is student-run and student-governed. Members contribute 5 hours of workshift per week each for various tasks needed for the operation of the house: cooking, cleaning, house maintenance, gardening, etc. House's council, house's governing body where all members democratically make decisions pertaining the house, meets every Sunday.

In the past, Cloyne has played a notable role in the Bay Area music scene. The bands No Doubt, Operation Ivy, The Offspring, Rancid, Green Day, Primus, Elliott Smith, 24-7 Spyz, Save Ferris, Skankin' Pickle, The Mr. T Experience, Two Gallants, Blüchunks and Rilo Kiley played at Cloyne before becoming well known.

Cloyne is also known for its murals covering many of its internal walls. Murals have been made through years by members residing in the house. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as well as a City of Berkeley Landmark.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Founders' Rock

12) Founders' Rock (must see)

Founders' Rock is thought to be the spot where the founders of the University, originally the College of California, stood when they dedicated the property on April 16, 1860. It also thought to be the place where Frederick Billings stood when he chose the name Berkeley for the town.

Founders' Rock is a natural outcropping of rock that is thought to have been created by activity on the Hayward Fault. It was one of the most notable features in the area prior to the growth of the city. Now, its location at Hearst Avenue and Gayley Road is partially obscured by Cory Hall, which is home to the Berkeley school of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences.

Visitors can pinpoint Founders' Rock by looking for the plaque on the tallest point of the outcropping. The plaque was placed by the graduating class of 1896. It reads, "Founders' Rock, College of California, April 16 1860."
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Berkeley, California

Create Your Own Walk in Berkeley

Create Your Own Walk in Berkeley

Creating your own self-guided walk in Berkeley is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Telegraph Avenue Shopping

Telegraph Avenue Shopping

In addition to other attractions, the colorful and joyful city of Berkeley, California offers a wide variety of places to shop. Perhaps the most notable among them is Telegraph Avenue, a vibrant and eclectic thoroughfare, featuring a unique blend of cultural diversity and youthful energy.

One of the standout landmarks on Telegraph Avenue is the Berkeley Hat Company. Here, you'll find an...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.6 Km or 0.4 Miles
University of California in Berkeley Walking Tour

University of California in Berkeley Walking Tour

The University of California, Berkeley, often referred to as UC Berkeley or simply Berkeley, is a part of the larger University of California system, known for its distinguished academics and vibrant campus life. The UC Berkeley campus is the core of Berkeley's attractions. Its design resulted from an 1898 architectural competition, with each building having its own story to tell.

Start...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Berkeley Introduction Walking Tour

Berkeley Introduction Walking Tour

The Ohlone people were the original inhabitants of the area that is now known as Berkeley, California. Many of them were casualties of the presence of the first settlers of European descent who arrived with the De Anza Expedition of 1776.

Among the soldiers in this expedition was Luis Peralta, who was gifted the land that would become Berkeley by the King of Spain. Peralta gifted the land to...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles