Arts & Events

Historic and Garden Events In and Around Berkeley Are Here

By Steven Finacom
Thursday April 26, 2012 - 05:23:00 PM

Over the next several days there are a number of historical or local garden tour events in town. Here’s a brief rundown, in chronological order. Some are free, and all offer interesting insights into the present, past, and future of our local community. 

With our recent warm spell, then renewed rain to freshen things up, it looks like local gardens will be in great form and well worth visiting. 

Berkeley History and Dance 

This Sunday, April 29, the Berkeley Historical Society opens its new exhibit “Early Days of Dance in the East Bay”. Berkeley is known for its association with Isadora Duncan and the famed Temple of the Wings—designed in part as an outdoor dance space—and those topics will be covered, but there’s much else, including early dance studies associated with Mills College and the Partheneia at Cal, an annual early 20th century pageant produced and performed by women students. 

The exhibit opening includes a performance by Joanna Gewertz Harris, a Bay Area dancer and dance historian. There will be a brief introductory program, a short annual meeting for the Berkeley Historical Society, and refreshments. 

The event is free. Sunday, April 29, 3-5 p.m. at the Berkeley History Center, 1931 Center Street. 

Bay Friendly Gardens 

The same day—this coming Sunday—is also the annual “Bay Friendly Garden Tour”, which emphasizes landscape practices that minimize water use and environmental pollution, especially those things can get into ground water and the Bay.  

Interesting and innovative gardens throughout the East Bay are featured. As the publicity says, “you will find urban homesteads with orchards, chickens and bees, greywater installations…and drought tolerant replacements for water thirsty lawns.” This year there’s only one garden in Berkeley, but several reasonably nearby in Oakland. 

Tour goers get a booklet--$10-- that describes the gardens, provides maps to them, and includes 36 tear out tickets. You turn in one ticket for each house you visit, and go at your own pace. The houses are far enough apart that realistically it’s a driving (or bicycling) tour. And if you don’t use up all your tickets, there are days in May when you can use them in Marin and Napa County gardens for extensions of the tour. 

The tour runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Organizers estimate (and I can attest from past attendance) that you can reasonably expect to get to about six gardens during that time, including travel time. And when you find a favorite garden along the way, it’s fine to slow down and linger. 

It’s too late to order a tour brochure by mail or online, but you can pick one up in person, through Friday, at the StopWaste offices in Downtown Oakland (9 – 5 p.m.) or on the day of the tour only, at Garden #39, 3932 Coolidge Avenue in Oakland. 

Oakland Preservation Conference 

Thursday, May 3 through Saturday, May 5, the statewide California Preservation Foundation (CPF) is having its annual conference in Downtown Oakland. There are workshops, tours of local historic sites, some of which aren’t regularly open to the public, and expert speakers on a wide range of historical and practical preservation topics and issues. Local sites in Oakland are highlighted, and there are partial registration opportunities. See the link below for more details. 

BAHA House Tour 

Sunday, May 6, the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) stages its annual spring House Tour. This year the featured neighborhood is “The Knoll”, the small hill along Garber Street and Forest Avenue in southeast Berkeley, where the brown shingles of the Elmwood neighborhood rise to meet the mansions of the Claremont along a network of quiet streets lined with gracious homes designed by many of Berkeley’s best early architects. 

Tickets are $40 for the general public, $30 for BAHA members. See the website for more details. You can buy tickets online, or on the day of the tour, which runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The tour is self-guided, visiting several houses and gardens in the compact neighborhood. There’s also a reception space with light refreshments, and a book sale area. 

Natives Garden Tour 

That same Sunday, May 6, is also the day of the annual “Bringing Back the Natives” garden tour. It runs 10 to 5 p.m. and, like the others, is self-guided, with a booklet describing the gardens and how to get to them. It’s also free; you just register in advance to get the brochure, but you must register by Monday April 29.  

As with the other Bay Friendly Garden tour, your tour booklet has tear out tickets—twenty of them—that you can apportion among your group of attendees. One ticket, per person, is turned in at each garden. There are also places where native plants can be purchased. 

Four of the tour gardens are in Berkeley, another six in Oakland, and several in El Cerrito, Albany, and other nearby communities. The tour also extends over the hills into east Contra Costa and Alameda counties where the gardens tend to be larger and warmer. 

For more information, 

If you go…you may have noticed that the garden tours fall on the same days as the house tour and heritage events. However, since the garden tours start earlier, 10 a.m., you can indeed get to a number of gardens in the morning and through mid-day, then go on to the BAHA house tour or Historical Society opening if you like in the afternoon. It makes for a long day, but it’s doable. 

(Steven Finacom is the President of the Berkeley Historical Society, and Vice President of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, two of the organizations offering events in the list above.)