Berkeley, unlike newer cities, was designed during the heyday of the electric streetcar, before going places meant driving a car. Berkeley's hilly residential subdivisions were designed during the first decade of the 20th century when the convenience of nearby streetcar service was an important amenity. In these hillside locations the standard grid pattern of blocks and streets was abandoned for winding roads that complimented and enhanced the undulating hillsides. To make a trip to the streetcar lines more direct, a network of pedestrian pathways, some with stairs, was created.
The pathways remain today although many are almost hidden from view by overhanging foliage or lack of signage, and some remain unimproved and overgrown. A group of Berkeley residents interested in maintaining and improving the pathways created the Berkeley Path Wanders Association several years ago. The association has just published a map of Berkeley's 136 paths, steps and walkways and it is available in stores for $3.95. The association also sponsors walking tours and they have a web site (www.berkeleypaths.org) where this information is available.
A favorite walk for a late summer afternoon, especially as the sun begins to set, starts at Rose Walk and ends at the Rose Garden. Take the # 65 bus from downtown out Euclid Avenue to the bus stop at Rose Walk.
Rose Walk is Berkeley's most beautiful pedestrian pathway. Although there are other classically designed walkways in Berkeley (Bancroft Steps and Orchard Lane, for example) no other walk achieves the great aesthetic success of Rose Walk. It is the only pedestrian pathway where the buildings were designed to create an ensemble, which integrates the walk with a planned development.
Rose Walk was designed by Bernard Maybeck and completed in 1913 by donations from the neighbors. After the 1923 fire the property bordering the walk was purchased and developed by Dr. and Mrs. Frank Gray, who hired architect Henry Gutterson to design houses, duplexes, and cottages on lots adjacent to, and bordering on, Rose Walk. The complex was built between 1924 and 1936. The walk and cottages are Berkeley Landmarks.
Beginning at Euclid and Rose Walk climb the steps and walkway connecting Euclid with Le Roy Avenue. At Le Roy turn left and continue around the corner to the intersections of LeRoy, Rose Street and Tamalpais. Continue north on Tamalpais Road about 1/4 mile until it makes a sharp turn up hill. This is an area that did not burn in the 1923 fire and there are many brown shingle houses. On the left are Tamalpais Steps, indicated by a sign, which will take you steeply downhill where you will come out at Codornices Park. On the west side of the park is the only pedestrian tunnel in Berkeley. After going through the tunnel you will come out at the Berkeley Rose Garden where views of the setting sun are spectacular.
Susan Cerny is author of Berkeley Landmarks and writes this in conjunction with the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.