Looking back, seeing ahead
Originally designed to be an automobile garage, “The Berkeley Free Market” at 2567 Shattuck Ave. was built in 1906 by a Mr. Shuman.
The ground floor was used as retail space according to an advertisement in the Berkeley Daily Gazette.
One would surmise from a photograph with the signage “The Berkeley Fee Market,” that the space must have had an early use as a sort of indoors Farmers’ Market, when horses and wagons were still being used to haul goods.
The bold design of the second floor window surrounds is a distinctive feature. The building was designed by the McDougall Brothers, a local family of architects which included three brothers. Their father had also been an architect.
One brother, Benjamin McDougall opened his own office in 1906 and designed the Shattuck Hotel (1909), the YMCA (1910), and many elegant houses in the Claremont District where he lived.
In the 1920s the building was occupied by The Piano Shop which built piano benches and music cabinets and rebuilt and repaired pianos and other musical instruments.
It claimed to be the largest shop of its kind west of Chicago, according to a 1921 ad in the Oakland Tribune.
In 1952 the building was modernized with an aluminum facade completely covering the entire two-story facade.
This remodel was done for the Joe Davis Studebaker and British Motor Car Distributors, Ltd. On one side of the building Mr. Davis sold Studebakers and on the other side he sold Rolls Royces.
For many years there were various retail shops on the ground floor, but on the second floor were artists’ studios. Painters who once had studios here included Elmer Bishoff of the UC Berkeley Art Department.
The metal facade remained on the building until 1999 when new owners took it off and exposed the underlying brick. Architect Jim Novasel used this photograph to guide his restoration work.
Susan Cerny writes
‘Berkeley Observed’ in conjunction with the Berkeley Historical