Home & Garden Columns

East Bay: Then and Now—Will the Real William Heywood Stand Up?

By Daniella Thompson
Thursday October 02, 2008 - 09:51:00 AM
Built in 1917, the Heywood Building at 2014 Shattuck Ave. included offices for its architect, James Plachek, and its owner, William H. Heywood.
Daniella Thompson
Built in 1917, the Heywood Building at 2014 Shattuck Ave. included offices for its architect, James Plachek, and its owner, William H. Heywood.
The Heywood Apartments at 2119 Addison St. were built in 1906 for William B. Heywood.
Daniella Thompson
The Heywood Apartments at 2119 Addison St. were built in 1906 for William B. Heywood.
James Plachek designed 1900 University Ave. in 1915 for William H. Heywood.
Plachek collection, BAHA archives
James Plachek designed 1900 University Ave. in 1915 for William H. Heywood.
Prolific builder George L. Mohr constructed 1921 Walnut St. in 1909 for William B. Heywood.
Daniella Thompson
Prolific builder George L. Mohr constructed 1921 Walnut St. in 1909 for William B. Heywood.
William B. Heywood’s home at 1500 Arch St. was built in 1888 and sold to Captain William Marston four or five years later.
photo courtesy of the Berkeley Historical Society
William B. Heywood’s home at 1500 Arch St. was built in 1888 and sold to Captain William Marston four or five years later.

Lumber magnate Zimri Brewer Heywood was found dead in his bed on July 31, 1879. He was 76 years old and had spent the last two years of his life in Berkeley, presumably at 709 Delaware St. He was buried at Lone Mountain Cemetery in San Francisco, and his death and burial were duly inscribed in the ledger of the Church of the Good Shepherd, of which he was a founding member. 

The previous year, Heywood had contributed $500—the highest cash donation—to the church building fund, which erected the landmark still standing at Ninth St. and Hearst Avenue. The grateful congregation held a commemorative sermon in his honor on Sept. 6, 1879. 

The extent of Zimri’s estate hasn’t been fully documented, but his West Berkeley real-estate holdings alone were substantial, comprising several blocks, including the one occupied by the West Berkeley Lumber Yard (the latter owned by Heywood’s Mendocino Lumber Company), a wharf, and a portion of the Berkeley tidelands. 

Heywood’s second-born and oldest surviving son, William Brewer Heywood (1830-1915), was appointed trustee and collector of the estate, assisted by the eleventh-born, Walter Minturn Heywood (1854-1924). Walter, a realtor, would be occupied with the trusteeship for the rest of his life. 

In 1877, William had formed the Berkeley Land and Building Company with prominent businessmen James L. Barker, George D. Dornin, Alfred Bartlett, and Charles K. Clarke. “They intend to do a Real Estate business in conjunction with building and improvements that will contribute to the growth and prosperity of the town,” announced the Berkeley Advocate. 

William had little time to devote to this business. Managing the Gualala Mill Company and living in Arena Township, Mendocino County, he was away from Berkeley almost continuously during the quarter century following his father’s death. William’s first wife, Salome, drowned in the Oakland Ferry Disaster of July 4, 1868, leaving the widower with two little sons: William Hezekiah and Zimri Brewer. William subsequently married Vienna Thompson, a New Yorker who was recorded as his wife in the 1880 census of Arena. 

In 1888, William, Vienna, and Zimri came to the Bay Area, William taking charge of the Gualala Mill Company’s San Francisco office. Their new home was a Queen Anne Victorian on a triple lot at the southwest corner of Arch and Vine Streets. Zimri (born c. 1866) is said to have been attending the university and to have died about 1892, which prompted his father to sell the house to Captain William H. Marston and return to Gualala. The house would remain in the Marston family until 1937, when it was demolished. 

Vienna Heywood died in Berkeley on Sept. 11, 1898. Her funeral was held at the First Baptist Church, which stood on Allston Way near Oxford Street. William continued to live in Arena, presiding over a large household that included eleven mill employees, a schoolteacher (the local school had been built by the Heywoods), and three Chinese cooks. Living nearby was his surviving son, William Hezekiah (1864-1920), who had married c. 1889, fathered a son, and was the mill’s mechanical engineer. 

In 1903, William’s half-brother, Franklin Heywood (b. 1837), president of the Gualala Mill Company and the Gualala River Railway, committed suicide in his San Francisco bathroom by placing in his mouth a rubber tube attached to an open gas jet. His fortune, valued at $200,000, was left in trust to his estranged wife. It was to be divided after her death, half going to their adopted daughter, the other half shared equally among seven blood relatives. 

As would often happen, the adopted daughter initiated a lawsuit to hasten the distribution of the estate. She also asserted that her rights had been inexcusably neglected by William B. and Walter M. Heywood, executors of the will. The widow weighed in on the opposite side, airing some of the family’s dirty laundry. The tawdry suit dragged on until 1910, when the California Supreme Court upheld Franklin Heywood’s will. 

Possibly as a result of Franklin’s death, the Gualala mill and its railroad were sold to the Empire Redwood Company. William and Hezekiah returned to Berkeley, where the 1904 directory listed them at 1429 Walnut St. They lived here for a year while building a new house at 1401 Walnut, on the corner of Rose Street. Both died in this house. 

In the 1870s, when a ferry pier was first proposed for Berkeley, the Heywoods’ wharf at the foot of Bristol St. (now Hearst Ave.) was passed over in favor of a new one at the foot of University Avenue. Thirty years later, the town trustees wanted a new municipal pier built, and this time the Heywoods were taking no chances. Charles D. Heywood, who ran the West Berkeley Lumber Company, moved his lumber yard and planing mill from Bristol St. to the foot of University Ave., where he built a new lumber wharf next to the old ferry pier. His uncle William emerged as the owner of the old ferry pier and much of the land around it. 

In early 1907, after a bond measure raised $100,000 for a new municipal pier, William Heywood offered to deed his pier to the town for $22,000, reserving for himself the right to access his sheds at the north spur of the pier—the only place where vessels could then tie up—and charge tolls. On Sept. 23, the trustees voted to pay his asking price.  

The Oakland Tribune reported the following day that there was “considerable opposition among prominent business men on the ground that valuable concessions were being granted” to Heywood, but the trustees were persuaded by the opinion of Town Attorney Redmond C. Staats, who determined that the city would have the right to collect fees on wharfage, dockage, and tolls. 

Within a month, the Piper-Aden-Goodall Company, which had been operating freight steamers between San Francisco and West Berkeley for 20 years, alleged that William Heywood was levying the exorbitant charge of 10 cents a ton, double the rate charged elsewhere in the state. “We might as well go out of business,” said the company’s claims agent. Heywood replied that he charged the higher toll just once, when the steamer docked at the West Berkeley Lumber Company’s private wharf. He had given notice that he wanted the use of his warehouses but was willing to allow Piper-Aden-Goodall to build a warehouse of its own at the end of the wharf. The city responded by taking control of the wharf and announcing its intention to appoint a toll collector. 

As Berkeley’s population exploded after the 1906 earthquake, William resumed his real-estate activities. His first venture was the Heywood Apartments at 2119 Addison Street. This three-story red brick building was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark in 2003. 

In July 1908, the Daily Pacific Builder published a contract notice for flats to be built on the southeast corner of University and Grove. The owner was W.B. Heywood, the contractor George L. Mohr, and the projected cost $11,000. Nothing was built on that corner at the time, but in June 1909 construction began on another Heywood apartment house—this one on the southwest corner of the same intersection. The San Francisco Call reported that this building would cost $20,000, contain 40 apartments, and cover a lot of 75 by 150 feet. The Oakland Tribune, on the other hand, tallied the cost at $12,000 and gave floor space dimensions of 37 by 137 feet. 

As shown in the Sanborn fire insurance map of 1911, the actual building constructed at 1846 University Ave. was a long and narrow block with no setbacks, occupying the full length of the lot along Grove Street. It rose to three stories and contained 12 apartments and 24 bay windows. William’s nephew, Charles, moved in right away and was still living there in 1913, after being elected mayor of Berkeley. 

On Aug. 22, 1909, as Berkeley’s new City Hall was about to be dedicated, the Tribune announced that William Heywood was preparing to duplicate his new building on another corner of the University-Grove intersection. “These various contemplated and assured improvements are all due directly to the new city hall and may result in making a new business center of the region bounded by Shattuck, University, Allston Way and Grove Street. In a short time it is probable that this will be thickly built and that the real center of the city will be comprised in these boundaries,” concluded the Tribune. 

The predictions—for the district and for the stalled building on the southeast corner—didn’t come to pass. Berkeley Gazette columnist Hal Johnson would write in 1942 that William “had the lumber on the ground and the foundation started when the City Council decided that the setback line, which then stopped at Allston Way and Grove St., should be extended [to the blocks north of Allston]. The lumber was moved to the southeast corner of Berkeley Way and Home St., now Walnut St. He erected the large building which is now an apartment hotel.” 

Did it really happen as Hal told it? A full month before the Tribune’s announcement of the second building, a building permit had been issued for the final location (no permit has been found for the purported original location), and the Call reported that “C.D. Heywood [sic] is erecting an apartment house at Home Street and Berkeley Way, of four stories.” Since the building on the southeast corner of University and Grove appears to have been planned before its companion across the street, why didn’t Heywood simply move the lumber there instead of five blocks uphill? 

All we know with certainty is that George L. Mohr constructed the clapboard building still standing at 1921 Walnut St., at a cost of $7,000. It was leased to Elizabeth Andruss, a widow whose daughter was studying at U.C. The neighborhood was then a hotbed for new technology. Directly across the street, engineering student William E. de Berry was building a Farman biplane in his back yard and had already received orders for two additional planes. He was planning to establish a factory in South Berkeley and perhaps go into business as an airplane manufacturer after graduation (he ended up as the proprietor of a radio store in San Francisco). 

The building on the southeast corner of University and Grove was eventually built at a cost of $25,000, but not until late 1915, several months after William B. Heywood had been consigned to his grave. The owner was his son, William Hezekiah, who had engaged the architect James W. Plachek for the project. Curiously, this building, delayed seven years, has no setbacks. 

Two years later, Plachek designed for the same client a small, terra cotta-clad jewel at 2014 Shattuck Ave. Designated a City of Berkeley Landmark in 1993, this is the second building that has been erroneously ascribed to William B. Heywood (the first is 1809 Fourth St.). 

William H. Heywood survived his father by only five years. In 1916, he sold 45 acres of waterfront land between Second St. and the tidelands to Hawaiian sugar interests for $75,000. He left a large estate, willing the income from it to his second wife. $5,000 was set aside for his son Leslie, fruit of the first marriage, who had moved to Spokane with his mother over a dozen years earlier. Believed to have fallen in action in France, Leslie Heywood resurfaced two weeks after his father’s death-too late to claim a larger share of the estate. 

This is the third in a series of articles on the Heywood family. 

Daniella Thompson publishes berkeleyheritage.com for the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA).