Organizations and individuals dedicated to fellowship, the appreciation of nature, and other high ideals flourished in Berkeley in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, when locals provided much of the energy behind causes such as the Sierra Club.
On and off the UC campus, social clubs, organizations, and individuals were also busy building unique clubhouses, lodges, resorts, and other places to gather and socialize.
Many of the remarkable community buildings Berkeleyans created then still survive, o ften in their original ownership and use. Those buildings will be the focus of an evening lecture series “Hidden Lodges of Berkeley and Beyond…,” organized by the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA), starting on Feb. 10.
Often built in w o od and stone to embody the era’s rustic “building with nature” philosophy, these buildings arose not only in Berkeley but also in places Berkeleyans liked to visit and vacation, including Lake Tahoe and Yosemite Valley.
Each structure represents not on ly an architectural legacy but also the living cultural history of Berkeley institutions, organizations, and people.
The five illustrated talks, held every second Thursday evening of the month, February through June, from 7:30 to 9 p.m., will not only i ntroduce the history, architecture, and heritage of several buildings but also allow a look inside a special few that are not typically or fully open to the public.
Featured building include: Senior Hall, a rustic “log cabin” built nearly a century ago o n the UC Berkeley campus; the adjacent Faculty Club designed by Bernard Maybeck and expanded by other noted architects; Yosemite’s Le Conte Memorial Lodge, a granite walled Sierra Club education center; and Glen Alpine Springs, a little known Lake Tahoe a re a resort with several buildings planned and designed by Maybeck.
The series kicks off Feb. 10, with a lecture by Jim Thompson, who has worked to document and preserve Glen Alpine Springs. He will orate dressed in 19th century costume backed up by a Po wer Point presentation with numerous historic photographs.
Glen Alpine Springs—which sits above Fallen Leaf Lake, near South Lake Tahoe—drew attention as early as the 1870s when a newspaper called it “the best tasting springs in the entire state.”
Late r that decade an “all purpose resort” was developed there for Californians drawn to the healthful water, mountain air, and magnificent alpine scenery at the edge of what is today’s Desolation Wilderness.
Visitors, including early Berkeley residents, floc ked to Glen Alpine for summer visits, traveling by train to Truckee, steamboating across Lake Tahoe, and taking horse drawn stages or wagons to the upland resort.
John Muir called Glen Alpine Springs “one of the most delightful places in all the famous Tahoe region.”
In the early 20th century the Maybeck family vacationed at Glen Alpine and, following a fire that destroyed many of the original buildings, Bernard Maybeck took on a commission not only to design new structures but master plan the resort.
He carefully plotted trees and topography and inserted fire-resistant stone, metal, and glass buildings, many of them remarkably modern in form, into the boulder strewn landscape. The resort no longer functions as an overnight destination, but the curren t owner, and supporters like Thompson, are working to preserve it.
The setting for Thompson’s talk is also an attraction of the lecture series. Senior Hall was completed in 1906 as a UC campus meeting hall for the elite men of the Senior Class at Cal (la ter it was opened to other classes and, much later, to women students).
The Order of the Golden Bear, a student, faculty, staff and alumni service organization founded in 1900, built Senior Hall and gave it to the University. The order is still active, r emai ns the custodian organization for the building, and is co-sponsoring the lecture series.
Awaiting a full renovation, Senior Hall is not in frequent use. Most people on campus and most Berkeley residents have never seen the interior, which is one of earl y Berkeley’s rustic marvels.
Built almost entirely of redwood (including walls of logs with the bark still on them), with a massive clinker brick double fireplace and exposed roof trusses, the hall was designed by University Supervising Architect John G alen Howard, better known for his neo-classical structures including Sather Gate, the Campanile, and Doe Library.
The history of Senior Hall’s design and use will be outlined in the second lecture in the series, presented on March 10, by retired Campus P lanner Harvey Helfand.
Helfand, a noted photographer and author of the definitive architectural guidebook to the Berkeley campus, will also speak about the nearby Senior Women’s Hall designed by Julia Morgan and now a campus childcare facility.
The Marc h lecture is also likely to include a rare opportunity to see the Hall’s “secret” room designed for discussion of the Order of the Golden Bear.
The third series lecture, on April 14, will explore the story of the early residents of Berkeley’s Pa noramic H ill, the steep heights above Memorial Stadium where many early professors and conservationists, including Sierra Club founders, built homes.
Panoramic Hill will also be the site of BAHA’s annual May 1 Spring House Tour.
Attention turns from th e green hi lls of Berkeley to the loftier heights of the Sierra on May 12 when Bonnie Johanna Gisel, author, historian, naturalist, and curator of the Le Conte Memorial Lodge in Yosemite, visits Berkeley to speak about the history of that historic edifice in the fou rth lecture in the series.
Le Conte Lodge, designed by Maybeck’s brother-in-law, John White, just over a century ago, was built by the Sierra Club to honor UC Professor Joseph Le Conte, and has been a Yosemite gathering place and education ce nter ever si nce.
The architecture and the history of the Faculty Club, adjacent to Senior Hall, will be the featured attraction at the end of the lecture series, June 9.
On that occasion, the club, which is co-sponsoring the lecture series, will host a special dinner in Maybeck’s marvelous Great Hall for lecture attendees and club members.
Attendees at some of the earlier lectures may also purchase dinner at the Faculty Club before the other lectures, space permitting (see the BAHA website for more details).
Local historian Steven Finacom is one of the organizers of the “Hidden Lodges” lecture series.
Senior Hall lies in the southeast portion of the university campus; the closest street parking is along Bancroft Way near College Avenue. The cl osest campus parking lots, about five minutes walk from Senior Hall, are along Gayley Road below Memorial Stadium or under tennis courts across Bancroft Way from the Berkeley Art Museum.
To find Senior Hall, head for the Faculty Club, which is located o n the south b ank of Strawberry Creek, near the Music Department buildings and Hertz Hall. Senior Hall is immediately behind—to the east and upstream—of the club, and downhill from the large Haas School of Business complex. Senior Hall and the Faculty Clu b are wheelcha ir accessible.
Tickets: $10 ($6 for full-time students). A discounted “season ticket” for the five lecture series costs $40 ($25 for full-time students). For details call BAHA at 841-2242 or see www.berkeleyheritage.com.›