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The ‘Studio Building’ has a long history of craft and commerce

By Susan Cerny
Saturday October 05, 2002

The Studio Building, located at the corner of Shattuck and Allston Way was built in 1905, and was the tallest building in downtown until the Shattuck Hotel was completed in 1909. Both are five stories tall, while the majority of downtown’s early 20th Century masonry buildings are between three and four stories. In 1925 the Chamber of Commerce Building (now Wells Fargo Bank) was constructed at 11 stories and became Berkeley’s only “skyscraper” until 1970 when the Great Western Building was completed. The Chamber of Commerce had its offices on the top floor of the building, a perfect place to tout the charms of Berkeley’s location directly opposite the Golden Gate.  

The Studio Building is one of the early group of masonry buildings constructed to replace downtown’s pioneer, wood-frame commercial buildings. The building is distinctive because it is the only one with a tile mansard roof and rounded window bays. The first-floor storefront bays were built as a series of alternating rounded and pointed arches, some of which have been covered. Set into the tile floor at the entrance is a mosaic picture of a palette and paint brushes and the name “Studio Building.” 

The building was constructed by Frederick H. Dakin and built for his company which handled investments in gold mines and real estate. His son, Clarence Casebolt Dakin, and niece, Edna Deakin (one side of the family changed the spelling of their name), were practicing architects in Berkeley at the time of construction, but there is no record of who designed the building. Bricks used for the foundation were manufactured by Dakin in Stege, Calif. 

The Mason McDuffie Real Estate Company occupied the ground floor from 1905 until they built the building across the street in 1928. Many older pictures show the building with Mason McDuffie signs on it. 

The studio part of the building was the fifth floor designed as artist studios and included a gallery. In December 1906, the first art exhibit was held; it was sponsored by Frederick Dakin, Mrs. John Galen Howard, and Mrs. William Keith. Exhibitors were Frederick Dakin’s brother, Edwin Deakin, William Keith, and Raymond Yelland. Building tenants included architect John Hudson Thomas and photographer Oscar Maurer. After the 1906 earthquake and fire Frederick H. Meyer moved his design studio from San Francisco to the Studio Building, where he founded the College of Arts and Crafts. Although the College moved after one year, the earliest instructors taught in this building and included Meyers, Perham W. Nahl, Isabelle Percy West, and Xavier Martinez. 

For many years the building was a hotel; it was restored in the late 1970s.  

Susan Cerny is author of Berkeley Landmarks and writes this in conjunction with the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.