The Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate the Hezlett’s Silk Store building at 2277 Shattuck Ave. as a City of Berkeley landmark Thursday.
Designed by architects Masten and Hurd in 1925, Hezlett’s Silk Store is a Mediterranean Revival style commercial building with some elements of the Mission Revival style thrown in.
The nomination notes that the building was a dry goods store (owned by John Hezlett) and that part of the upper floor was leased to a beauty parlor.
Hezlett’s stayed in the location for 35 years and the store was later listed as a beauty shop, dress shop and silk store. The building eventually became the home of the Tupper & Reed Music Store in 1960 which owned the site until 2005.
It is currently owned by Edith Malnick and functions as a used computer store and Internet cafe.
The building’s most distinctive feature is its shop windows with a central walk-around case.
According to Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) board member Steve Finacom, Hezlett’s is the only surviving building in downtown Berkeley with this particular kind of storefront, which was once common in American commercial architecture.
“The Hink's Department store once had a similar design, but all of it was removed when Hinks was remodeled into the Shattuck Cinemas,” Finacom told the commission.
“Professor Paul Groth of the Department of Geography at UC Berkeley—a nationally known figure in architectural history in the United States—specifically talks in his lectures about this type of storefront—deeply recessed, with prominent display windows—as one stage in the evolution of commercial architecture.”
Finacom also read aloud from a March 2, 1933, Berkeley Daily Gazette article which said that Mr. Hezlett had optimistically “increased his stock in preparation for increased business” during the worst winter of the Great Depression.
Living models—wearing the latest spring and summer creations—also appeared in the display windows three times each day, showcasing the season’s frocks and sheer fabrics.
“How can Berkeley not landmark the store of a businessman who was right in tune with the spirit of today in terms of the future of downtown?” Finacom asked.
The board decided to send a letter to the current owners asking them to be good stewards of the landmarked building.
2398 Bancroft Way
The commission also voted unanimously to not designate the Wesley Student Center building at 2398 Bancroft Way as a city landmark.
The Wesley Foundation proposes to demolish an existing student-oriented religious assembly building and construct a four-story mixed-use building housing religious assembly and residential space.
The city’s Municipal Code requires that the Landmarks Commission review any proposal to demolish a non-residential building which is more than 40 years old.
Located directly across from the UC Berkeley campus, the student center is in close proximity to buildings owned by the Trinity United Methodist Church and Stiles Hall, a community service organization for university students.
According to a staff report, the building proposed to be demolished was constructed in 1955 as a “youth center” for the Methodist church and is not a designated historic resource.
Finacom told the commission that while the building was an architecturally non-descript structure, historic evidence suggested that the site was, by the mid-1960’s a social and cultural gathering space for the emerging gay and lesbian student community on campus.
“This is a huge missing piece of Berkeley’s heritage—much of it now over 40 years old—that deserves increasing and respectful attention from this commission and from the city in years to come,” he said.
Finacom said that while he was not advocating the retention of the building, its role in community history should be researched, remembered and commemorated.