Certain buildings on Shattuck Avenue define the historic character of downtown Berkeley and have changed little over the last 50 years. Old postcards are a wonderful source of historic images and downtown was a favorite subject of postcard publishers.
The Shattuck Hotel, which occupies an entire block, has dominated Shattuck Avenue since it was completed in 1913. Designed by Benjamin G. McDougall, the block long, five-story building is Mediterranean Revival in style and has square corner towers, plaster siding and a tile roof.
In the late 1930s postcard, pictured above, the hotel has balconies on its fourth floor, but they have since been removed. J. F. Hink and Son, a family owned department store, occupied the south half of the building from 1915-1985. This is the area now occupied by the Shattuck Cinemas.
At the time this postcard was published, the Shattuck Hotel was called the Hotel Whitecotten, after the man who owned the hotel at that time. It was renamed Hotel Shattuck in 1942.
In the distance is Berkeley's first skyscraper, the Chamber of Commerce Building, now Wells Fargo Bank. It was designed by one of Berkeley's most prolific architects, Walter Ratcliff, Jr. It is 11 stories tall and was the tallest building in Berkeley until the 13-story Great Western Building was constructed in the 1969.
Shattuck Avenue has been the center for public transportation in Berkeley since 1876, the year Francis Kittredge Shattuck brought a Central Pacific spur line into Berkeley – the reason Shattuck Avenue is so wide.
The two “islands” in the middle of the street, between Center Street and University Avenue, and Berkeley Place and Shattuck Square were the location of the early train stations and switching yards.
In 1991, downtown Berkeley was awarded a Main Street Grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to encourage the revitalization of downtown and to enhance its historic early 20th-century character.
Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny is the author of the book “Berkeley Landmarks” and writes this column in conjunction with the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.