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Rose garden – a historic treasure

By Susan Cerney
Saturday September 01, 2001

The Berkeley Municipal Rose Garden was dedicated in September 1937 after four years of construction. The building of the garden was a Civil Works Administration project. It was among the many public parks projects sponsored by the federal government to provide employment during the Depression.  

The garden was designed by Vernon M. Dean and construction was supervised by Charles W. Cresswell of the Berkeley Parks and Recreation Department.  

The main section of the rose garden is designed like an amphitheater with wide stone terraces facing magnificent views of San Francisco Bay. A semicircular redwood pergola, which extends the full width of the amphitheater, provides not only visual definition to the site, but a structure for climbing roses and shaded benches. The planting of 2,500 rose bushes was planned by the East Bay Counties Rose Society under Charles V. Covell. The roses were arranged one color per terrace, from shades of red at the top through bronze and pink to yellow and white at the bottom.  

The location of the Rose Garden is in a deep canyon named El Valle de Los Codornices (Valley of the Quails) by Don Jose Domingo Peralta in the 1840s. Early entrepreneurs of Codornices Canyon and its creeks were Henry Berryman and Felix Chappellet, who began selling water from the creeks in 1877. 

As residential development moved farther north into the upper hills, the Cragmont Improvement Club extended streetcar service into the Cragmont subdivision by building a streetcar trestle across the canyon. The trestle was removed and a land bridge built in the 1920s.  

On the east side of the land bridge, the neighborhood Codornices Club had built a park and club house in 1913. The west side of the land bridge however, remained unimproved until the Rose Garden was built.  


Susan Cerney writes “Berkeley Observed” in conjunction with the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.