A new season of five Berkeley Historical Society walking tours starting April 2 and running through early June delves into the local history of tennis, art, the UC Berkeley campus, and two north Berkeley neighborhoods.
All the walks take place on Saturday mornings from 10 – 12 and are led by knowledgeable volunteer guides from the Berkeley community. Proceeds benefit the non-profit Berkeley Historical Society.
Tours cost $8 each for BHS members, $10 for non-members. Membership costs $20 per individual, $25 per family. For this tour season there’s a special offer for new members only, of a $40 package that includes membership and tickets for all five walks, for $40.
The first, on Saturday, April 2, is led by early leader and good friend of the Historical Society, Burl Willes. Author of three books—two of them about Berkeley, particularly his own Elmwood neighborhood—Willes will lead a tour of the historic Berkeley Tennis Club where he was a junior member in the 1950s, followed by a walk through the nearby neighborhood where artists including Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff and David Park all lived. Willes will relate stories about their life in Berkeley.
Two weeks later, on Saturday April 16, the author will lead a tour he’s entitled “A Century of UC Student Life.” The early University of California did not provide special non-academic facilities so the students made do with their own innovations, including separate social halls for men and women and, finally, full-fledged student union structures in 1923, then again in the late 1950s.
1911 is the centennial of the construction of one of those facilities, Senior Women’s Hall, the only building Julia Morgan fully designed on the campus. We’ll pass it and Senior Men’s Hall, the 1923 Stephens Union, two buildings (including the whimsical Pelican Building) built just for student publications, and finish up at the California Student Center, a five building complex that is presently slated for a major series of renovations.
Saturday, April 30, the walks go to the North Cragmont neighborhood where long-time Berkeley expert and BHS docent John Underhill will lead a wander through public parks, private gardens, and neighborhood history, including tales of spying.
Saturday, May 21, the KALA Art Institute, founded in 1974 and now located in West Berkeley, will be the featured tour destination. Executive Director Archana Horsting, a KALA co-founder, will guide the tour through the extensive facility where printmaking, printing, and photography are practiced and taught. There’s also an art gallery at KALA.
The walkseason winds up Saturday, June 4, with a tour of Selby Trail / Summit Road Loop in the North Berkeley Hills, led by Paul Grunland. He’ll take in a Tilden Park trail and some of Berkeley’s lesser-known pathways, and well as the early history of subdivisions around the Shasta Road firehouse. The tour will reach the highest point in the Berkeley City limits, with 360-degree views.
The first two walks are wheelchair accessible; the Cragmont and Selby Trail walks are not, and the KALA Institute tour includes two interior staircases.
If you are interested in going on the tours, send a note to BHS, PO Box 1190, Berkeley California, 94701, or call 510-848-0181.
Include your name, address, the tours you’d like to go on, the number in your party, and payment (checks to Berkeley Historical Society), as well as your phone number and e-mail, if available. You’ll be notified of the starting point.
You can also drop by the Berkeley History Center, 1931 Center Street, on Thursdays through Saturdays, 1-4 pm, to sign up.
There’s a limit on the number of attendees per walk, so make your reservation soon. Many of the tours do sell out.
The Berkeley Historical Society also has a new website at the address below, where the tour flyer, with further descriptive details, is posted.
(The author is the First Vice President of the Berkeley Historical Society and will be leading the April 16, 2011 walk.)