Page One

West Berkeley origins on grazing land

By Susan Cerny
Saturday February 24, 2001

Berkeley Observed 

Looking back, seeing ahead 


West Berkeley originated as the unincorporated community of Ocean View. 

It sat on grazing land that was part of Luis Maria Peralta’s Mexican land grant, Rancho San Antonio.  

Captain James Jacobs, who arrived from the gold fields in 1853, was the first to settle there and establish a wharf at the foot of Delaware Street. A year later Captain William Bowen built an inn on Contra Costa Road (now San Pablo Avenue) east of Jacobs’ Landing.  

In 1854 a regular stagecoach line began operation along Contra Costa Road and Bowen’s Inn became a stage stop.  

The road between the wharf and the inn was named Delaware Street and the stage stop at the inn became known as Ocean View. 

Based on comparisons with old photographs, and because of its size, style, and method of construction, the building at 834 Delaware St. is believed to be the original Bowen’s Inn.  

It was built in 1854 on San Pablo Avenue where the stagecoach stopped on its way to Sacramento and the gold fields. County records show that Captain J. S. Higgins purchased the inn from Captain William J. Bowen in 1870 and opened a grocery store in the building. The first Ocean View Post Office was established in the grocery in 1877. It was moved twice: the first time, in 1890, from San Pablo Avenue to Fifth and Delaware streets; and the second time, in 1985, to this location at 834 Delaware St.  

The building has not been substantially altered and if the date of 1854 is correct, may be Berkeley’s oldest standing structure.  

Susan Cerny, author of Berkeley Landmarks, prepares this column in conjunction with the Berkeley Architectural  

Heritage Association.