Landmark Status Considered For David Brower’s House

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 07, 2008 - 11:56:00 AM

The Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission will decide whether to designate the childhood home of noted writer and environmentalist David Brower as a city landmark at a public meeting today (Thursday). 

Located at 2232-34 Haste St., the site contains two houses that were divided into multiple rental units in the early part of the 20th century. It was occupied by three generations of the Brower family through the early 1960s. 

Brower himself lived there from 1916—according to the landmark application—from the age of 4 into his late 20s. 

The commission will also consider landmarking a towering redwood on the front yard of the property, which—according to the application—Brower planted in 1941. 

The property is leased out as apartments by Lakireddy B. Reddy of Berkeley-based Reddy Realty. 

Historian and Planet contributor Steve Finacom and long-time Willard neighbor and retired planner John English spent many hours researching and drafting the landmark application. 

In an e-mail to the LeConte neighborhood, Finacom described the property as a “good example—perhaps one of the best—in Berkeley of a previously overlooked house directly associated with a nationally known person or issue.” 

Built in 1887 by A. H. Broad, the front house is a wooden two-story Queen Anne Victorian with a gabled roof. The main facade, which faces north toward Haste, is asymmetrically arranged, which is typical of houses built in this era, the application states. 

The rear house, built in 1904, is a two-story wood frame gabled roof structure with an attic. 

It is said that when Brower was growing up there, he played with his friends on Haste and also visited the UC Berkeley campus. 

Brower, a future mountaineer, wrote about making his first “mountain climb” on Founder’s Rock at Hearst and Gayley Road, and counted exploring the Strawberry Creek channels on the UC Berkeley campus among his first wilderness experiences. 

A graduate of Willard Junior High and Berkeley High School, Brower delivered papers for the Berkeley Daily Gazette and worked at Western Union for a summer as a teenager. In 1929, while working at a valve factory in Emeryville, Brower enrolled at the University of California, dropping out in 1931 after losing interest in “formal classwork.” 

He went on to work as a salesman for a candy company in San Francisco and did odd jobs at the Yosemite National Park and Curry Company. Brower joined the Sierra Club in 1933 and went on to become the first editor of the club’s newsletter, the Yodeler. 

After working for the University of California Press and fighting in World War II with the 10th Mountain Division, he became the first executive director of the Sierra Club in 1952. He was fired 17 years ago “at the climax of a struggle over the direction of the organization,” according to the application. 

The application states that the property’s significance arises from its association with A. H. Broad, one of Berkeley’s first elected government leaders and an active participant in the early structuring and governmental, cultural, social and economic development of the community, and from Brower, “arguably Berkeley’s best known ‘native son’ and a figure of international import in the political and environmental movements of the second half of the 20th century.” 

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst St.