Press Releases

BAHA Features LeConte Cottage Lecture By STEVEN FINACOM Special to the Planet

Tuesday May 10, 2005

The story of one of Berkeley’s most important early families, and the history of a National Landmark building in Yosemite built to honor one of the Sierra Club’s patriarchs, will be featured this Thursday evening, May 12, in the fourth lecture in the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association’s monthly series, “Hidden Lodges of Berkeley and Beyond.” 

Bonnie Johanna Gisel, naturalist, historian, author, and curator of the LeConte Memorial Lodge is making a special trip to Berkeley to give the slide-illustrated talk. She will speak at 7:30 p.m. in the rustic Senior Hall on the UC campus, adjacent to the Faculty Club.  

Constructed just over a century ago by the Sierra Club to honor one of their most distinguished early leaders, UC Professor Joseph LeConte, LeConte Lodge on the floor of Yosemite Valley is a small but dramatic peak-roofed stone and timber building designed by Berkeleyan John White, brother-in-law of Bernard Maybeck. 

The lodge is operated by the Sierra Club as a public education center under Gisel’s curatorship. 

LeConte and John Muir came to know each other in part through mutual friendship with Jeanne Carr, wife the first professor of agriculture at the University of California and an avid naturalist and Sierra lover herself.  

Gisel has published a book on the correspondence between Muir and Carr, and has also recently researched the LeConte family origins in Georgia, taking their story back before their California days.  

The LeConte brothers, John and Joseph, came to Berkeley to join the faculty of the University of California soon after it was founded. Distinguished scientists in their native Georgia, they could not find academic employment in the Reconstruction South after the Civil War.  

California offered a fresh start. John LeConte, trained as a physician but primarily remembered as a physicist, became UC’s first faculty member and third president, while Joseph LeConte lent additional eminence to the faculty in geology and related disciplines. 

Several sites in Berkeley—including a street, a public school, an academic hall at the University—are named in honor of one or both of the LeConte brothers. 

In 1870 Joseph LeConte met John Muir in Yosemite. The two quickly became friends and LeConte was later to lend his scientific prestige in support of Muir’s theory that Yosemite had been formed in part by glacial action. Many geologists of LeConte’s time regarded the dramatic cliffs and canyons of that part of the Sierra as the product of sudden cataclysm, not slow moving natural forces. 

Seats are still available for the lecture, and are expected to be available at the door. Tickets are $10 per person ($6 for full-time students). To reserve your seat in advance, call BAHA at (841-2242) or visit the BAHA website at Click on the photo of the log-cabin-like Senior Hall. 

The full “Hidden Lodges” lecture series was described in the Daily Planet’s Feb.4 edition.